Diversity and Identity Abroad LGBTQ+
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Students who identify as LGBTQ+ will encounter dramatically different ideals, norms, and levels of openness toward sexuality depending on their study abroad destination. Support for the LGBTQ+ community can range from very positive to hostile and punishable by law. Certain cultures value open sexual and general identities, while others constrain them. Traditions, norms, and values centered on sexuality differ dramatically by country, region, and individual.
Expressing homosexuality or non-heterosexuality can, in some countries, be risky. Even within the United States, the LGBTQ+ community encounters different beliefs and ideologies among individuals. Public displays of non-heteronormative (and, in some cases, heteronormative) affection or sexuality may not be tolerated, may result in hostility, or may not be a big deal. Consider the possible emotional difficulties of disclosing your sexuality to new friends abroad, who may or may not be supportive, and determine how public you’d like to be regarding your sexuality. Know the laws and legal rights of each country you intend to visit. Seek out resources, appropriate contacts, behavioral norms, and relationship advice prior to departure. You may find that you can be more open about your identity than in the US, or face the opposite situation, where you may need to hide your sexual or gender identity completely to avoid cultural ostracism or arrest. You may even find freedom in being away from home, and consider coming out for the first time while abroad. In doing so, consider how this decision may have potential ramifications back home among family and friends and how it may impact your study abroad and returnee experience.
If you have any questions or concerns about LGBTQ+ rights, customs, and norms in your study abroad destination country, please contact an advisor and refer to the resources below to help navigate your experience away from Penn’s campus.
Questions to Consider
- What are the laws and norms about sexual identity, relationships, and behavior in the country I plan to study abroad in? How can I navigate these laws, interact with the LGBTQ+ community, or educate new acquaintances or interact with people who do not understand my sexuality?
- Will certain sexual health resources and medication be available in my host country? Can I legally travel with these medications? Where can I find support?
- How might hiding or disclosing your sexual identity impact your study abroad experience? What is the social attitude towards LGBTQ+ people among society, police, or friends?
- If your gender identity differs from what is listed on legal documents, what challenges might I face? Are there situations when I may not disclose my identity?
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ilga) maintains country specific information related to legal rights and social climate.
NAFSA’s Association of International Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group offers resources for students, as well as scholarships.