Sexuality and Gender Expression Abroad

Cultures vary in terms of how sexual and gender identities are defined and understood. You will find that attitudes and tolerance toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans issues vary from country to country, and possibly even within each country, as they do here in the U.S. Some countries are more welcoming and legally protective than the U.S., while others are less accepting and more restrictive.

Being knowledgeable about sexual identity and gender expression in the area where you will be studying will allow you to have a rewarding international experience. When researching the environment of your host country, it is important to learn about cultural norms and local manners; laws of the host country; general attitudes toward LGBTQIA persons; and the various LGBTQIA organizations, support services, and media that may serve as resources to you before, during and after your time abroad.

Some questions to ask before you travel

Take some time to become familiar with your host country before departure. Educating yourself on cultural attitudes toward variations in sexuality and gender expression abroad can help ease your transition and make for a safer and more enjoyable study abroad experience. Some questions to ask:

  • How does the host culture interpret and handle different sexual identities and gender expressions? If I am "out" at home, will I be able to express myself in similar ways abroad?
  • If I am not open about my identity at home, will the host country provide more freedom for me? If so, how will I transition once I am back home?
  • What laws exist that affect LGBTQIA persons? Are laws different for men and for women?
  • Can issues related to sexuality and gender expression be discussed and debated openly?
  • Are certain forms of sexual or gender expression, including displays of affection that are generally accepted in the U.S. (whether queer or straight) expected to be private in your host country?
  • Where are some nearby LGBTQIA-friendly establishments? How can I find them?
  • Are there local support and community networks for LGBTQIA students in the host country?

You may wish to begin your research by familiarizing yourself with campus, community and web resources dedicated to LGBTQIA issues. In addition to local resources, there are several well-known organizations that offer information and support for international travelers and/or study abroad students.

    Contacts and Resources

    You are welcome to schedule an advising appointment to discuss your concerns before you travel.

    If you encounter any religion- or spirituality-related issues abroad, please contact your on-site staff or Education Abroad.

    Temple Campus Resources

    Temple University has a network of organizations and services in place for LGBTQIA students. Consider reaching out to one of them before going abroad for tips and resources.

    Online Resources

    Student Perspectives

    Read student blog posts about LGBTQIA+ identity abroad.

    LGBTQIA+ Webinar

    Take a look back at this webinar, in which some of our LGBTQIA+ identifying study abroad alumni recalled their preparation, experiences, and discoveries as an individual navigating their identity abroad. Our panelists explored their experiences with race, gender, sexuality, and intersectionality in a global context and how they related to foreign culture, politics, and language. We learned more about how students engaged with the LGBTQIA+ community while abroad and what they ultimately brought back home from those experiences.