Orientation and Identity
Tolerance and acceptance of sexual orientation and identity varies from nation to nation and culture to culture. In certain countries, attitudes and laws concerning interaction between same-sex individuals and gender stand on many different points of the spectrum. Cultures have their own definitions and understanding of gender identity sexual orientation. Some may be as or more accepting than the U.S., but coming out in other countries can also be inadvisable and potentially dangerous. In order to truly enjoy your study abroad experience to its fullest potential, it is important that you learn about the issues regarding sexual orientation and how they are handled by other countries.
Read, Research, Review
- Read up on the country before you leave. Thoroughly research the country’s culture, social customs, and identify support resources or groups in the area you will be visiting. Reviewing some of the laws and policies can prove to be beneficial as well. See Travel.State.Gov’s site link for Country Specific Information to find detailed information on individual countries. Learning all that you can about the host country will help to ensure that your experience will be safe, rewarding, and enjoyable. Also, if you are able to contact other LGBT students who have traveled to a particular country, they may be able to provide additional perspective and insight into the customs and reaction of the country based on their experiences.
Personal Questions to Consider
- To what extent do you intend to be open about your sexual orientation with friends, peers, teachers, local residents, etc. while abroad?
- If you select a destination where you must hide your orientation, how will this affect your experience?
- Do you intend participate in an LGBT community? Are there LGBT organizations within the host campus or the local community?
- Is it important to you to meet other LGBT students and friends while abroad? How will you connect with them as well as local residents?
- What types of housing options are offered? If you wish to, can you request a host family that supports LGBT students?
- What are your safety needs, and how can they be addressed?
- Do you require specific medications, supplies, or services? Are they accessible in the host country and, if not, will you require additional documentation to travel with the necessary medication or supplies?
Views of the Host Country
- What are the norms and behavioral expectations within the LGBT communities in my host country? What are the general laws, if any, concerning public decency/ modesty/indecency between people?
- What is the general societal understanding of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the host country?
- What are the police, cultural, and local attitudes toward the local LGBT community, as well as tourists and visitors?
- What are the cultural norms for male and female social behavior and typical gender relations in the host country?
- If you decide to come out while abroad, how will this affect your return to your friends and family?
- Will these relationships remain stable or will you need to find another supportive community/group?
Related Links & Resources
For LGBT Travelers: presented by Travel.State.Gov, this link includes travel tips and general information for traveling LGBT individuals.
LGBT Travel Information contains general information for all LGBT travelers, from pre-departure preparation, advice while overseas to immigration issues.
National Center for Transgender Equality provides air travel tips and federal policy changes for transgender people.
9 Major Life Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT is and article by Robin Goralka, a recent graduate of UC Berkeley who spent a semester studying abroad in Bordeaux, France.