Just as in the US, attitudes and understanding of LGBTQ individuals and issues vary by region. Most LGBTQ travelers encounter no problems when overseas, but it helps to prepare before you go. Students who identify as LGBTQ should research their destination and talk with Study Abroad staff about the cultural norms and LGBTQ rights and issues in their location.
In some countries, LGBTQ individuals are protected and have equal rights in their society. There are other places where identifying as LGBTQ openly is punishable by law, or there may be no laws to protect an individual from hate crimes. While the University affirms those who identify as LGBTQ, the resources and tips below are intended to help navigate spaces that are outside of campus and the U.S. Remember, U.S citizens are subject to the laws of their host country. Therefore, it is extremely important to know the legal regulations and conditions of your location before you go.
You may find that you can be more open about your identity than in the U.S., or that you would need to hide your sexual or gender identity completely to avoid cultural ostracism or arrest. Understanding this will help you decide where you would, or would not, want to study.
Questions you should ask include:
- Are there laws regarding homosexuality/gender identity in my host country? How can I navigate these laws? Should I consider this country for study abroad?
- Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad?
- What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
- What kinds of LGBTQ resources are there in my host country?
- Is there a united, visible LGBTQ community in my host country/city? What are some ways members of these diverse communities represent themselves within the wider society?
Always put your safety first, and find a support network while you are abroad. If you experience difficulties, you should contact your program staff immediately.
Additional LGBTQ Resources:
- The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Life is the hub for all LGBTQ student life at the University of Chicago.
- The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ilga) maintains country specific information related to legal rights and social climate.
- The Department of State Students Abroad website has a section devoted to LGBT Student Travelers.
- The NAFSA Association of International Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group’s goals include counseling international students and study abroad students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
- Diversity Abroad offers tips, student profiles, and information about diversity and inclusion overseas. See especially their page on sexual orientation abroad.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality maintains information and resources for transgender travelers.
- TSA Information for Transgender Passengers