LGBTQ+ Students

A global education experience is a wonderful growth opportunity as you get the chance to experience a culture outside of the United States (U.S.), absorb a language you may or may not already know, and expand your understanding of what it means to be a globally conscious citizen. 

challenges to Studying Abroad

Living in a culture that you have not experienced previously can come with its own challenges. While applicable to all students who study abroad, a further layer of complexity exists for students who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ (Two-Spirit [2S], Lesbian [L], Gay [G], Bisexual [B], Transgender [T], Queer or Questioning [Q], Intersex [I], Asexual [A], used to indicate the vast spectrum of sexual orientations, romantic orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions a person may hold over their lifetime [+]).

Some of the challenges that students in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community have expressed before and during a global education experience include: 

  • Uncertainty about living authentically abroad
  • Different cultural perceptions and attitudes towards 2SLGBTQIA+ identities
  • Assumptions that the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is a monolith
  • Laws discriminating against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community
  • Lack of non-binary and/or transgender options on legal documents, housing abroad, etc.
  • Stereotypes based on people’s assumptions related to one’s gender, sexual orientation, and/or romantic orientation

Reflecting and talking with others about studying abroad as a 2SLGBTQIA+ individual, including choosing a program and preparing for departure, will assist in one’s decision-making process as they plan for their study abroad experience.

Learn About Your Host Culture Before You Go

Acceptance and understanding of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals varies widely, even within the U.S. For 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, some countries are more legally protective than the U.S., while some other countries have less legal protection.  All students need to be aware of the discriminatory laws and policies, including ones targeting gender and sexual orientation in other countries.

Before choosing a program, find out the legal rights 2SLGBTQIA+ persons have in the host country. For example, in some countries “homosexuality” is illegal. It can be helpful to research what cultural norms are related to things such as friendship and dating.

Before leaving the U.S., learn as much as possible about culture-specific norms in the host country, including nonverbal communication. Be informed and aware of the history, politics, attitudes, customs, and laws of their host country.

Finding Community

2SLGBTQIA+ life exists everywhere, but the degree of visibility varies widely. As one gets to know people and places in the host country, connecting with local 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations and support networks can help ease the transition and provide a space for support.

Campus resources

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Tips for Transgender Individuals

TSA often performs forced body searches of individuals traveling. For 2SLGBTQIA+ people, body searches can be a traumatic experience. TSA acknowledges concerns that 2SLGBTQIA+, specifically transgender, individuals might have regarding the security screening processes at U.S. airports. TSA provides travel tips explaining various screening processes and technologies travelers may encounter at security checkpoints.

Additional Resources

There are many resources specifically for 2SLGBTQIA+ students to support them with the preparation of studying abroad and processing nuanced experiences one may have.

U.S. Department of State LGBTQIA+ Travel Information

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association

Global Gayz