There are many different factors for students to think about when choosing a study abroad program, and LGBTQ+ students may have unique questions and concerns. Living abroad will open up opportunities to think about LGBTQ+ identity in a whole new context. It is helpful to think about what kind of support may be available to you in your new environment.
LGBTQ+ Issues and Concerns
Countries view gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in many different ways. Some host cultures may be more welcoming and tolerant of LGBTQ+ identities than in the US, but others may have laws that criminalize nonbinary identities or homosexuality. It is important to do research on those prior to departure. Learn the laws of your host country regarding LGBTQ+ issues, same-sex sexual behavior and expressions of LGBTQ+ identity and community. It is important to remember that you will no longer be protected by US laws once you leave to go abroad. If same-sex acts are illegal in your host country and are reported for engaging in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country. (See a map of LGBTQ+ rights around the world). Regardless of the laws of your host country, it is always important to research whether an environment is affirming and welcoming.
Some things to consider:
- It is helpful to think carefully about your goals for study abroad.
- Are you only willing to go somewhere that is very tolerant and affirming of LGBTQ+ identity?
- What if the perfect program for you is in a place that openly discriminates against LGBTQ+ individuals?
- Get to know your destination before you leave. Explore LGBT travel guides and internet resources to get a better idea of social norms and customs of your host country.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, the Patricia A. Doyle Center for Gender and Sexuality, and/or your Study Abroad Advisor when choosing a study abroad program:
- What are the cultural and local attitudes towards Americans, tourists and sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country?
- What is the attitude of the police towards LGBTQ+ visitors?
- What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country?
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family and others?
- The LGBTQ+ population is often misunderstood by others. To what degree am I comfortable with educating others and dispelling myths?
- Are there situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation?
- How important is it to me to find other students and friends who share my identity while abroad? How will I make connections with other sexual minority students, local residents, or community organizations?
- Are there LGBTQ+ friendly establishments in my host country? How can I find them?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones? Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies? Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies?
NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Rainbow Special Interest Group- A website maintained by UIN and international educators who specialize in LGBTQ+ issues
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Intersex Association- A network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBTQ+ people everywhere
Global Gayz- An online journal documenting the travels of LGBT individuals around the world
GayGuide- A worldwide directory to help gay locals and tourists find places to stay and to go
National Center for Transgender Equality- Social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment
Spartacus World's Gay Travel Index- This website ranks all of the countries in the world in terms of LGBT travel friendliness.