Students who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community may encounter different social, political, and legal climates in other countries. Recent years have seen vast and rapid progress for LGBTQ+ rights around the world, and there are countless opportunities for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Nevertheless, students who identify as LGBTQ+ are encouraged to examine their own sexuality and/or gender expression alongside the cultural norms in the countries they plan to visit.
Reading about and listening to LGBTQ+ travelers’ experiences can be insightful when determining how to adjust to new cultural environments. Bear in mind that attitudes towards LGBTQ+ folks and issues abroad can be as varied and nuanced as they are in the US. The best preparation when entering any new environment is to determine what you need to ensure your own mental and physical well-being and to familiarize yourself with the support services available to you both at home and in your host country.
As you research, consider these questions:
What laws and cultural attitudes exist relating to the LGBTQ+ community? Does this vary depending on context (e.g. on campus vs. off campus)?
Will the climate towards the LGBTQ+ community affect my expression of my sexual orientation and/or gender identity?
How do my sexual orientation and gender identity interact with other aspects of my identity in the context of my host country?
What information and/or support systems do I need in order to ensure my safety and well-being while abroad?
Am I able to achieve and experience the things I want from this program in a safe way?
These resources may be helpful when considering how your sexual orientation and gender identity influence your international experience:
WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center: https://lgbtq.wvu.edu/
WVU Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: https://diversity.wvu.edu/
Sexual Orientation Laws Map – IGLA World’s Sexual Orientation Laws Map (2019).
LGBTQ+ Abroad - Diversity Abroad’s webpage and resources for women going abroad.
OutRight Action International - Leading international organization dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators - Rainbow Special Interest Group - Resources for students studying abroad who identify as LGBTIA+.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - Worldwide federation of more than 1,600 organizations from over 150 countries and territories campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex human rights.