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DEIA in Action: Advancing LGBTQI+ Equity at Home and Abroad

May 4, 2022

Program Description:

Please join the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion for a conversation on State
Department efforts to advance LGBTQI+ equity within our institution and in our foreign policy.
Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the State Department’s first stand-alone Chief
Diversity and Inclusion Officer, will moderate the discussion. Panelists include historian and
author of The Lavender Scare, Dr. David Johnson, U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human
Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Jessica Stern, U.S. Consul General Liz Lee, and senior policy
advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Thomas Coleman.

Please follow the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion on social media at:


Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, U.S. Department of State

Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a 30-year diplomat, is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Department of State and was the longest serving U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta. Through a series of senior positions that included advising the Commander of U.S. cyber forces on our foreign policy priorities, expanding our counterterrorism partners and programs as Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and Coordinating the largest evacuation of American citizens from a war zone since WWII, her professional life has played out almost daily in international media.

She began her formal work in teaching and leadership development as Chairwoman for Middle East Area Studies at the prestigious Foreign Service Institute where U.S. diplomats are trained. Earlier in her career, she served in Baghdad, Jakarta, and Cairo before taking on the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for the Middle East and Africa. Her Middle East assignments include election monitoring in the Gaza Strip and an extraordinary assignment where she actively supported gender equality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the first woman to lead a diplomatic mission there. In addition to the State Department, she has held senior positions at the Defense Department and at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she was a fellow on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the then Ranking Member, Senator Joseph Biden. Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley is the recipient of the Maltese Order of Merit, Department of State Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, including “For acts of courage during an attack on the U.S. Consulate General, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 6, 2004 by al-Qa’ida terrorists.”

Over the years, Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley has been a keynote speaker for a variety of organizations including IESAbroad, The Cleveland City Club, TrueBlue Inclusion, Harvard University, The University of Denver, The University of Malta, and Johns Hopkins University. She is an in-demand panelist and moderator at some of the most respected international think tanks including The German Marshall Fund, CSIS, The Brookings Institution, The World Affairs Council, and The Council on Foreign Relations on issues ranging from U.S. Mid-East Policy, how diversity and inclusion improve U.S. foreign policy making, cyber security challenges, and counterterrorism. She is a strong proponent of excellence through inclusion across organizations and strives to break down barriers to the full participation of women and minorities. She was Ambassador-in-Residence at Oberlin College for 2020 and served as the Co-Chair of the Diversity in National Security working group for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley, a Cleveland native, has degrees from The George Washington University and The Johns Hopkins University and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has been an active Board member on several organizations committed to excellence in educating and leadership development including the Forum for Education Abroad, College Now Greater Cleveland, and the International Career Advancement Association. She also served on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art and the Middle East Policy Council. She sings with the Washington Performing Arts Society and has been published in the New York Times Opinion and The Foreign Service Journal. She is the co-author of two papers published in the New York Review of Science Fiction on “Diplomacy in Star Trek” and “The Representation of Disability in Star Trek.” In 2019, she was voted into the American Academy of Diplomacy.


Jessica Stern U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, U.S. Department of State

President Biden appointed Jessica Stern as the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons, and Special Envoy Stern will oversee the implementation of the February 4, 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World.

Prior to joining the State Department, Special Envoy Stern led OutRight Action International, a leading global LGBTQI+ human rights organization, as its Executive Director for ten years.

Special Envoy Stern has been a researcher at Human Rights Watch, a Ralph Bunche Fellow at Amnesty International, a program director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs.  Special Envoy Stern has been a member of numerous boards and advisory councils, including the LGBTI Reference Group of UNWomen and the Civil Society Advisory Group of the Generation Equality Forum.  Stern is the recipient of numerous honors including from Attitude Magazine, Crain’s New York Business, Gay City News, and the Metropolitan Community Church.

Special Envoy Stern has lived in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay.  Special Envoy Stern accepts all pronouns.




Elizabeth K. Lee
Consul General, U.S. Consulate Thessaloniki

Elizabeth K. Lee serves as Consul General for the U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki.  Ms. Lee is a career member of the Foreign Service with fourteen years’ experience as a foreign policy leader, manager, and negotiator on a diverse range of regions and issues, including the Middle East, East Asia, and the United Nations Security Council.  Previous assignments include the U.S. Embassies in Seoul and Baghdad, the former U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City, and the Israel and Palestinian Affairs Desk at the State Department in Washington D.C.

Ms. Lee holds an M.A. degree in Public Policy and International Affairs from Princeton University, a law degree (J.D.) from the University of Minnesota, and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Grinnell College.  She is proficient in Greek, Korean, and Hebrew, and has studied Arabic and Spanish.  She is from California and is accompanied by her Golden Retriever, Pumpkin, aka Kolokithoula.  She was the President of glifaa (LGBT+ Pride in Foreign Affairs Agencies) from 2018-2019.






Dr. David Johnson
Professor, University of South Florida

David K. Johnson is a historian and award-winning author of two books, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians (Chicago, 2004) and Buying Gay: How Physique Entrepreneurs Sparked a Movement (Columbia, 2019). A nationally recognized authority on LGBT history, he has appeared on CNN, PBS, and CBS Sunday Morning and his writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Foreign Policy. He has contributed to government reports and legal briefs which, by documenting a history of LGBT discrimination, helped to expand civil rights protections and ensure a more inclusive educational curriculum.

His first book was made into the award-winning documentary film “The Lavender Scare,” which aired nationwide on PBS. He has won both the John Boswell Prize from the Committee of LGBT History of the American Historical Association and the Randy Shilts Award in gay studies. He has enjoyed fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Social Science Research Council.

Johnson holds a B.A. from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, both in history. As Professor in the History Department at the University of South Florida, he teaches courses on the post-1945 U.S. and the history of gender and sexuality.




Thomas Coleman Senior Advisor, Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, U.S. Department of State

Thomas Coleman is a Foreign Service officer currently serving as a senior advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. His overseas postings include Brazil, Turkey, Israel and the Netherlands. In Washington, he has served in the State Department’s Operations Center, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Office of Regional and Multilateral Affairs, Bureau of South and Central Asia’s Office of Regional Affairs and the Bureau of Economic and Business’ Office of Transportation Policy. He also served as president of glifaa, a State Department employee organization supporting LGBTQI+ employees.

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