If you are an LGBTQIA+ student, it is important to understand that being out while you are abroad can affect your experiences. Some countries and cultures are open and accepting of LGBTQIA+ people, and same sex marriage is even legal in some countries. However, you may encounter stares or even hostility in other places where homosexuality is against the law.
Depending on where you go, openly displaying affection for your same-sex partner may put your physical safety at risk. If you will be staying with a host family, discuss with your study abroad advisor or program director whether or not you should come out to your host family.
Before you go abroad, find out what kinds of legal rights LGBTQIA+ persons have in your host country. For example, in some countries, homosexuality is illegal. You’ll also want to research what kinds of behavior are appropriate for friendship and dating. Two people of the same gender kissing or holding hands often has a different meaning abroad, so it's important to recognize that this does not necessarily reflect a romantic relationship.
No matter where you go, you will encounter different ideologies and will have to adapt to different customs while you are abroad. Some students find it necessary to hide their sexual orientation for safety reasons, while others feel free to express their sexual identity openly. In addition, discussing sexuality is taboo in some cultures, while in others it is acceptable.
Be informed and be aware of the attitudes, customs, and laws of your host country. Confide in people who you can trust, and establish a healthy relationship with others who can support you, help you feel safe, and make sure you have a rewarding experience abroad.
Must Ask Questions for LGBTQIA+ Students:
- What are the laws regarding homosexuality and gender identity in my host country?
- Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad? Should I come out to my host family?
- What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
- What kinds of LGBTQIA+ resources are there in my host country?
- What is the LGBTQIA+ population like in my host country? How visible and large is it? How do they dress, behave, etc.?
Tips for LGBTQIA+ Students:
- Put your safety first.
- Before you leave, familiarize yourself with the customs and laws of your host country.
- Research whether or not talking about sexuality is taboo.
- Research the terms and definitions used in your host country to talk about LGBTQ+ issues.
- Find a support network abroad.
Use Diversity Abroad Destination Guides to learn more about your host country.
Author: Diversity Abroad Community