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#Pride30: International Advocate Siri May Is Protecting LGBTQ Rights Globally

Australian native Siri May is working diligently to help LGBTQ people around the globe live free of violence and discrimination.
Photo courtesy of Siri May
Photo courtesy of Siri MayVlasta Pilot

"I've always been passionate about social justice," Siri May told NBC Out. "I came out at an early age, and I didn't really struggle. I feel like everyone should be able to realize their potential without being scared of who they are, without facing violence or discrimination."

May grew up in Australia, where she has given talks at high schools to raise LGBTQ awareness and has been an active member on numerous boards and committees such as the Anwernekenhe National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV/AIDS Alliance and the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

Siri May is the United Nations Programs Coordinator for OutRight Action InternationalVlasta Pilot

In 2015, May moved to New York City from Australia, where she works as the United Nations Programs Coordinator for OutRight Action International, the only LGBTQ-specific organization in the U.S. to be granted consultative status by the UN.

"I saw this growing and emboldened rightwing presence at the UN after November," May said of her work. "I became acutely aware that OutRight's role here in New York was suddenly more important as a defense strategy. A lot of progress has been achieved for LGBTI human rights in the UN system over the past decade. There is a lot to protect."

Shortly after starting in her role, May was instrumental in successfully defending the appointment of Vitit Muntarbhorn, the first Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender identity in the UN system.

"There’s never been an independent expert appointed specifically to look at these issues in the UN. In response we witnessed an unprecedented level of backlash from some member states at the UN," May said. She worked across multiple time zones over a period of six weeks, during which four separate votes were taken in the UN General Assembly, each one a cliffhanger.

"I worked with a brilliant team of LGBTI human rights defenders and allied countries from all over the world. Together we won those votes, and we worked right up to Christmas Eve," she added. "Now we have the first Independent Expert in the UN system whose job it is to surface human rights violations against LGBTI people and identify where there are still gaps in the application of international human rights law that can protect LGBTI people. It was an incredibly inspiring process to be a part of. I absolutely love my job."

Fun Fact: Siri is married to Casey Legler, a former French Olympic swimmer, visual artist and the first women to be signed as a male model to Ford. They married in New York on December 1, 2015.

Pride Means: "It is a way of marking our queer history, of writing ourselves into the script. It marks the potent and radical power of protest through celebration, and our collective refusal to sacrifice beauty in our struggles to survive and be acknowledged as equal. I love it."

Siri May was nominated for NBC Out's #Pride30 list by Tony Award-winning performer Alan Cumming, who said May "has dedicated her life to ensure the world is a better place for LGBT people and does so with such intelligence, grace, wit, and beauty that she is a treasure to behold and hero of mine."

Check out the full NBC Out #Pride30 list & follow NBC Out on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram