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
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. You may also make an appointment with one of our Education Abroad Associate Directors in order to discuss any concerns.
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.
- Campus Student Organizations:
- Queer People of Color
- Purple Circle
- Queer Student Union, Howard Gittis Student Center South, 3rd Floor, The Village, Room A352
- Temple University Wellness Resource Center, Mitten Hall, Lower Level
- Be sure to check out their Student Guide to LGBTQIA Life, updated every year
- Temple IDEAL
- NAFSA: Association of International Educators’ Rainbow SIG site has resources and information specifically for LGBTQIA students seeking to study abroad.
- Diversity Abroad has an LGBTQ Study Abroad Guide, as part of their diversity and inclusion guide series.
- International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA): a global travel network committed to connecting LGBTQIA travelers with queer-friendly businesses and events. Their website offers a country-by-country searchable database.
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA): an international organization committed to achieving equality for LGBTQIA persons all around the world. They have a comprehensive list of the legal status of LGBTQIA identities for each country, including regularly updated maps that visually depict sexual orientation laws across the world.
- International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC): another international organization dedicated to expanding civil liberties and they offer country-specific legal information for LGBTQIA travelers.
- The U.S. State Department has a special page for LGBTQIA travelers.
- GlobalGayz.com: offers country-specific, first-hand travel experiences from queer travelers.
In our most recent panel, 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.