Sexual and Gender Diversity
Whether you identify as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, or heterosexual student—or are exploring and discovering—it is important to be aware of the cultural, legal and social issues regarding sexual and gender identity abroad, and how they could affect interactions with people in your host country.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) people are part of communities throughout the world. Just as in the U.S., views of sexual and gender diversity vary by region. Every culture has its own gender norms, dating/courting traditions, and understandings of sexuality, and these influence attitudes, beliefs, and the laws regarding gender and p abroad.
Tips when choosing a program
Do research. In order to have a rewarding and safe experience, investigate international attitudes and laws that impact sexuality and gender orientation, and norms for friendship and dating.
Be aware of the laws. Even if you do not plan to have a sexual relationship while away, educate yourself about specific laws pertaining to sexual behavior and gender expression, especially the age of consent and the legality of same-sex sexual behavior.
Use online resources. Explore LGBTQIA+ travel guides and online resources to get a better idea of social norms and customs in countries where you wish to travle.
Always put your safety first, but don't minimize your academic goals. If you are interested in studying in a location that may be historically unsafe for LGBTQIA+ populations, consider ways you can stay safe and have a rewarding academic experience.
Questions to Consider
- Will local cultural values and host-country laws affect my decision in where to study abroad?
- Does my LGBTQ+ identity conflict with religious or cultural values and traditions?
- What, if any, safety considerations should I be aware of? Is it safe for me to be out about my sexual identity in the countries I'm considering?
- What is the social perception of members of the LGBTQ+ community in the region where I would like to study?
- What programs offer LGBTQ+ friendly housing options?
- What countries offer trans-friendly housing and will be appropriate to support my transition and my new identity?
Questions to Consider Before You Depart
- What are cultural norms for dating and friendship in my host country?
- How do my personal values compare to my host country’s attitudes about sexuality and gender diversity?
- If desired, how can I find a community or friends that share my gender or sexuality abroad?
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation/gender identity with my peers, teachers, friends, host family/roommates, and others?
- In what situations. if any, would I not disclose my identity?
- The LGBTQIA+ community is often misunderstood by others. To what degree am I comfortable educating others and dispelling myths?
- When creating an airline reservation, use the same name and gender that is on your government-issued ID. If your government-issued ID does not reflect your identified gender, you may be able to change it. For more information see: travel.state.gov
- If you need specific medications, supplies, or services to properly care for your needs, including those related to physical transition, speak to your program coordinator about availability abroad.
- If you have medical equipment or prostheses in your carry-on, you may want to ask TSA to screen your bag in private.
- Air Travel Tips for Transgender Students Studying Abroad
Ask your program coordinator to provide country-specific information (like cultural attitudes regarding same-sex marriage) and program-specific information (options for gender-neutral restrooms and housing). Find a support network while you are abroad. If you experience difficulties, you should contact your program staff immediately.
- KU Peer Advisor Presentation on LGBTQIA+ Students Abroad
- Rainbow Europe provides an overview of the social climate for LGBTQ+ people in each country in Europe based on an annual review
- The ILGA offers updates on LGBTQ+ issues and resources regarding global attitudes and sexual orientation laws around the world
- The National Center for Transgender Equality provides information on obtaining a passport that reflects a person's current gender
- GlobalGayz has information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender life across the world
- Check out information on Finding an LGBTQ+ Community Abroad from an interview with an IES alumni - they give insight into what was the most difficult part for them about being queer while studying abroad and advice for queer students who are thinking of studying or interning abroad
- The NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group has resources and scholarships for students studying abroad who identify as LGBTQ+
- Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students like Me provides stories written by students about being LGBTQ+ and studying abroad