Gender and Sexual Orientation Abroad
Getting to know a country’s culture that is unlike your own, whether it’s political, economic, or social, is one of the most exciting parts of studying abroad. However, for some, it may cause more anxiety. If you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersexual, asexual, queer, or an ally planning on studying in a country that is more conservative, you may have concerns. Alternatively, going abroad may be an excellent opportunity to experience a more inclusive culture!
Attitudes towards members of the LGBTQ+ community vary by location. Each country and culture has different laws and norms that reflect their attitudes. In some countries, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is illegal and may be punishable by law, while other countries are much more accepting and supportive of LGBTQ+ members. Whether you’re engaging in hand-holding in public, sexual activities in private, expressing your gender through clothing, or simply speaking out as an ally, you need to be aware of the potential consequences.
In order to ensure a safe and rewarding study abroad experience, it is incredibly important to research the laws and customs towards the LGBTQ+ community of the country of your choice. The information you find may greatly impact where you decide to study abroad. Additionally, the Education Abroad office can assist you in finding the right program based on how you identify.
Questions to Consider
- Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad? Should I come out to my host family?
- What is the LGBTQ+ population like in my host country? How visible and large is it? How do they dress, behave, etc.?
- Does your right to be LGBTQ+ in the United States conflict with your host country’s religious or cultural values and traditions?
- How will you reconcile your human rights with the cultural values of your host society?
- What are gender relations in the host culture?
- What is considered typical male and female social behavior in the host culture?
- What is the social perception of members of the LGBTQ+ community?
- What kinds of LGBTQ+ resources are there in my host country?
- Does your study abroad program offer LGBTQ+ friendly housing?
- Does your study abroad program discuss LGBTQ+ considerations during their orientation?
- How will my gender affect my visa application and other required documentation that may not take into account non-binary genders? How will this affect me at the airport when going through security?
- Talk with your Education Abroad Advisor.
- Put your safety first.
- Before you leave, familiarize yourself with the customs and laws of your host country.
- Research whether or not talking about sexuality is taboo.
- Research the terms and definitions used in your host country to talk about LGBTQ+ issues.
- Find a support network abroad.