If you identify as an LGBTQ+ student, you want to research additional issues before departure. Having realistic expectations for a country can make the difference between an amazing experience abroad and an unpleasant one.
Get to know the location that you are visiting by exploring LGBTQ+ travel guides and online resources. Talk with other LGBTQ+ and allies about their experiences in specific countries or locations, you can attend our sessions with students that have participated in study abroad in recent terms to gather as much information upon which to make your choices and decisions. Once in your host country, find out what local newspapers, magazines, social media or online resources may be available.
International LGBTQ+ Organizations:
- Rainbow SIG: Provides resources for students studying abroad who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ+)
- OutRight Action International
- Amnesty International: LGBTQ Network
- International Lesbian and Gay Association
- Many of our affiliate providers also have LGBTQ+ resources on their website
Questions to ask:
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family, and others?
- How important is it to me to find other sexual minority students and friends while abroad? How will I make connections with other sexual minority students, residents, or community organizations and gathering places?
- What resources are available in my host country for sexual minority people?
- Are there any LGBTQ+ friendly establishments nearby? How can I find them?
- What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? Is the program able to make special accommodations for students who request single rooms, private baths, or certain roommates?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services due to my transgender status? Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with my medication or supplies?
You must research the social mores, customs, and attitudes in your host country. Common expressions or behaviors may have vastly different meanings in different places. In some locations, open expressions of your identity might be frowned upon.
In some other areas of the world, expressions of friendship (such as eye contact, a smile, touching, and physical proximity) may be quite different than those expressed among your U.S. peers and cause you to experience confusion or uncertainty about who may or may not be LGBTQ+. For example, in several Middle Eastern countries hand-holding among males is a custom of special friendship and respect and does not necessarily imply sexual orientation.
Questions to ask:
- What are the cultural and local attitudes toward Americans, tourists, and sexual orientation, and gender identity in my host country?
- What are police attitudes towards residents, tourists, LGBTQ+ visitors?
- What is considered typical male and female social behavior and customary gender relations and social patterns in the host country?
- What may make the coming-out process different in the host country compared to the U.S.?
- What are the norms and behavioral expectations within the LGBTQ+ communities in my host country?
- What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country? How are LGBTQ+ people socially defined? What roles do transgender people play in the host culture?
Learn the laws of your host country regarding LGBTQ+ issues, same-sex sexual behavior, and expressions of LGBTQ+ identity and community. You are required to follow the law in your host country.
Once outside the United States you are no longer protected by U.S. laws. If same-sex acts are illegal in your host country and you are caught engaging in them, or even presumed to have engaged in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country. In some countries, the penalties are very severe and can even include deportation, corporal punishments, and execution.
Know the local laws, rules, and regulations; along with local customs so you can make informed decisions on the choice of destinations for your travel abroad that best fits your needs.
Some questions to ask include:
- Are there public decency laws? Or public indecency laws?
- What is the age of consent? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples?
- Does the law require having proper documentation at all times?
- What is the police attitude towards the local LGBTQ+ community?
- Will laws and attitudes be the same for different social classes or geographic areas?
The UTSA Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement Center offers a scholarship to students involved in the LGBTQ+ club on campus.