Countries view gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in many different ways. Some host cultures may be more welcoming and tolerant of LGBT identities than in the US, but others may have laws that criminalize homosexuality. Gender norms vary from country to country as well, and it is important to do research on those prior to departure. Learn the laws of your host country regarding LGBT issues, same-sex sexual behavior and expressions of LGBT 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 you are reported for engaging in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country. Regardless of the laws of your host country, it is always important to research whether an environment is affirming to LGBT people.'
Things to Consider
Are you only willing to go somewhere that is very tolerant and affirming of LGBT identity?
What if the perfect program for you is in a place that openly discriminates against LGBT individuals?
Some LGBT students may find that their ideal program may be hosted in a place that is less than welcoming. While this could lead to a very eye-opening and valuable experience it may also present certain dangers. You should carefully research your destination and consider all aspects of your health, safety, and security before committing.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and/or your Program Manager or 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 LGBT 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 LGBT 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 LGBT friendly establishments nearby? 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?