Just as attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people vary regionally throughout the United States, you can expect to encounter a broad range of attitudes when travelling to other countries. The country you choose, or the location within a country, may have a significant impact on the quality of your experience.
Understanding how your expression of gender and sexual orientation may impact your experience is an important part of preparing for study away. When you travel, you carry your identities with you even if they may not be readily apparent to others. You may find yourself making calculated decisions about coming out or not, recognizing that doing so could affect your personal safety or quality of life in a new location.
Concerns for safety and well-being are something to consider when choosing your study away destination. In some countries, laws and social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people are more welcoming than they are in the US. Other countries may be less welcoming. It is important to identify the types of support you will find most helpful as you engage a new community.
The following information and resources are designed to help you consider how being an LGBTQ+ person might impact where you decide to study and help you prepare for your time away once you have made that decision. CSA staff are prepared to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about travelling as an LGBTQ+ individual. If we don’t have an immediate answer to your specific questions we will reach out to our networks to get you connected to a resource that can provide you the information you are looking for.
Questions to Ask—Selecting a Program
There are a number of personal priorities that may compete when you are selecting a study away destination that may or may not be supportive of your LGBTQ+ identity. The following questions are designed to help you clarify the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion and support in selecting a program?
- Do your disciplinary or personal interests lead you to consider locations which might be less hospitable to LGBTQ+ people?
- How important is it for you to study someplace where you are fully recognized and supported as an LGBTQ+ person?
- What kind of support will help you to thrive as an LGBTQ+ study away participant?
- What would it mean for you if you had to modify or monitor your personal behavior, edit your speech or personal expression, or be on guard regarding who knows what about you and your identity for an entire semester? Is that something you would be willing to do?
Questions to Ask—Preparing for Departure
You’ve settled on your destination. Now you can focus on specific information related to the community where you will be studying. The following are suggestions to help you prepare to make the most of your experience as an LGBTQ+ student abroad.
- What sources of support are available in your program location?
Every location is unique in what it has to offer, and will almost certainly be different from Saint Paul and Macalester. Utilize web sites, travel guidebooks, blogs, returned students, your program’s pre-departure materials and other sources of information to learn more about where you are going and to identify ways you might find support for your LGBTQ+ identity. You will also want to identify competent and compassionate health-care providers who are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ health needs and ensure a proper supply of any medications or supplements you may be taking.
- What laws might impact you as an LGBTQ+ person?
Regardless of your nationality, you will be expected to know and follow the laws of the country where you are studying. Some countries may have laws that limit or restrict your behavior as an LGBTQ+ person. We encourage you to know details about public (in)decency laws, age of consent, and how law enforcement interacts with the LGBTQ+ community where you are studying.
- What are local customs and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people?
Understanding the local context with regards to perceptions and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people will be key to your success in integrating into the local community. This includes understanding expectations for male & female behavior as well as gender relations and social patterns in your host country. Trans and non-binary students will want to know how these norms relate to expressing your gender identity as well. Learning about customs and norms for how LGBTQ+ people relate and interact with each other and what coming out looks like where you are studying will also be important. Finally, you will want to understand broader social expectations of LGBTQ+ individuals in the host culture, including how they are viewed and defined by the dominant local culture.
Resources for LGBTQ+ Students Studying Away
- Macalester Center for Study Away Staff
- Macalester Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Social Justice – Here you can get connected to student staff in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, Identity Collectives.
- Global Gayz – stories and news
- Go Abroad: An LGBT Student Guide to Studying Abroad
- Rainbow SIG: Resources for LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Students
- The Trevor Project – Trevor Support Center International
Health & Safety Resources
- AIG Travel: Infographic: Safety Travel Tips for LGBT Travelers
- Fit for Travel: General Travel Health Advice for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Travellers
- Matador Network: A trans* guide for staying safe while traveling
- Matador Network: LGBTQ Travel
- Refuge Restrooms: Gender Neutral Restrooms
- Traveling While Trans section from Man About World’s LGBTQ Guide to Travel Safety
- Transgender People and Airport Security
- U.S. Department of State: LGBTI Travel Information
Legal and Travel Resources for Trans Students
- Minnesota’s Trans Law & Health – Info on birth certificates, changing names, driver’s licenses, health care coverage, immigration documents, passports, restrooms, and social security.
- Transgender Law Center: ID Please: Quick Guide to Change Federal Identity Documents
- U.S. Department of State: U.S. Passports and Gender Designation Change
- TSA: Transgender/Non Binary/ Gender Non Conforming Passenger information
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Know Your Rights – Airport Security
- Physicians Preference Rx: How to Travel with your Hormones
Country Specific Information
- Chapman University’s LGBTQIA+ Country Guide
- Destination Pride – LGBTQ+ Laws, rights, and social sentiments
- Equaldex LGBT Laws and Rights by Country
- The Guardian: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights around the world
- ILGA: Maps – Sexual Orientation Laws
- ILGA: State Sponsored Homophobia Report
- OutRight Action International
- Pew Global Research: Attitudes towards Homosexuality
- SIT Information by Country
- Transrespect’s Legal and Social Mapping
- “Queer Tango: Being LGBTQ+ in Buenos Aires, Argentina”, by Ellis Davenport, ’18
- “9 Major Life Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT”, by Robin Goralka
- “Gilman Global Experience Blog – LGBT”, by Luca Azzara
- “IFSA & ME: Navigating Identity and Study Abroad-A Digital Story”, by Reece Sisto
- “LGBT Student Guide for Going Abroad”, by Kristen Shalosky
- “Traveling While Transgender: A Journey of Self-Love”, by Sketch Ree Mead
- “Why I Chose to Make Friends Outside Edinburgh’s Queer Community”, by Megan McClory
- “Ni él, ni ella: Being Nonbinary in Spain”, by Colvin Colvin
- LGBTQ People Exist in Japan?!, Fund for Education Abroad
International LGBTQ+ Organizations
- Amnesty International – Gender, Sexuality, & Identity
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans And Intersex Association
- Outright Action International
Scholarships for LGBTQ+ Study Away Students
- 12 Study Abroad Scholarships for LGBT Students
- Fund for Education Abroad- Rainbow Scholarship
- Point Foundation
Internet and Social Media Use
- If you are traveling to countries that are less welcoming to LGBTQ+ people, you may want to take precautions to protect your identity by masking your online presence. You are encouraged to:
- If you plan to write a blog, do so using a pseudonym or post using TOR browser (https://www.torproject.org– The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.)
- Get a VPN and use that for all communications and sensitive web browsing (privateinternetaccess.com)
- Encrypt hard drives and phones; set secure passwords; some computers may have the option to use an encrypted SD card as an external drive so it can be removed if not in use.
- Connect with partners/family using a secure encrypted communications app such as Signal or WhatsApp. Signal is available for Android and iOS. A desktop version is also available for Linux, Windows, and macOS. WhatsApp has also adopted some of the security protocol from Signal for messaging. Both parties must download Signal in order for the encryption to work.
- You should let trusted friends/family know where you are and how to get a hold of them at all times by using the “Share my location” option on a phone; provide friends/family with numbers of the Embassy, staff and contacts where you are staying so that family/friends can give exact details about location in case of an emergency.
- If you have to hand over your device(s) to authorities and it is out of your possession for any length of time, it would be possible for software to be added that could undermine any of these security protocols. So in that event, you may decide to err on the side of caution and not send anything they would not want to be tracked.
- Visit https://www.eff.org/ for more information on electronic civil liberties and freedoms.
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