LGBTQ+ Students

Studying abroad provides students who identify as LGBTQ+ with opportunities to explore new concepts and cultural understandings around gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression. Depending on the location, these concepts may be broader, narrower, or different than what students experience in the US or their home country. In preparing to study abroad, it is important for students who identify as LGBTQ+ to think about how their sexual orientation and gender expression may be salient to their abroad experiences.

Each student’s experience is unique to them, and this page is just a starting point. While you are preparing to study abroad, your Education Abroad advisor is here to help and answer questions you may have about your identity(ies) and experience.

Questions to ask yourself and/or your Education Abroad Advisor:

Sense of Community

If a sense of LGBTQ community is important to you, it may be beneficial to do some online research about local LGBTQ organizations in your potential study abroad location. If you know of someone who identifies with the LGBTQ community and has either studied abroad or visited that location, you may want to ask them about their experiences. Just remember, there are always going to be different opinions and viewpoints. 

  • How important is it to me to find other LGBTQ students or friends while studying abroad, and how prepared am I to create these relationships? 
  • Will I be able to maintain these relationships upon my return to the US? 
  • Are there open LGBTQ communities in the country? Or at the local university? 
  • If a sense of LGBTQ community is important to me, how will I manage the potential difficulties of not finding one while abroad?

Availability of Resources

Think about the resources that you currently have and/or use at Dickinson. It might be beneficial to look into the types of resources that may or may not exist in your potential study abroad location. 

  • Are there LGBTQ+ resources or organizations in my host country?
  • What resources do I use at home or on campus? Will I have access to these resources while I am abroad? If not, how might I navigate my experience without them?
  • What are the housing options on my program? With whom can I communicate my housing needs, expectations, or concerns?
  • What resources are available to me upon my return to campus? 

Coming Out

Coming out is a process that looks different for each person. For students who are already out, they may find they can continue to be out and open about their identities. For others, they may be selective in who they choose to come out to while abroad. Still others may choose not to be out while abroad in interest of their safety.

Study abroad can also be a time for students to further explore their identities. Students may come out for the first time while abroad, explore new ways in which they identify or express their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This process may be freeing, challenging or both.

  • If I am open about my sexual orientation and/or gender identity, will that change at all when I am abroad? 
  • If I choose to come out while abroad, how will this affect me and my relationships with friends and family upon my return?
  • How open will I be about my sexual orientation, gender expression and personal pronouns with my professors, peers, friends, host family, and others? 
  • Are there situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation or gender identity? 
  • If I choose not to be open about my sexual orientation or gender identity while abroad, what impact will this have on me while I’m abroad and upon my return? What supports and resources can I turn to if I need them?

Local Attitudes

When it comes to local attitudes, there might be a difference between how local people interact with other locals and how they interact with visitors from other countries. To help work through and understand these differences, consult with others who you may know who have been to the location in question. If you don’t personally know someone, try to find personal stories others may have shared online about their experiences. It’s also important to remember that local attitudes may vary even within the country (e.g. attitudes may be more open at the host university but the broader community may not be as open).

  • What are the cultural and local attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country? What about the city/town/university?
  • What do cultural expressions of gender and sexuality look like in the host country?
  • What do gender relations look like in the host country? 
  • What are the behavioral norms within the local LGBTQ community?

Personal Health & Safety

  • What are my safety needs, and how can they best be met?
  • What mental health resources are available while I am abroad? Can I connect with a mental health expert trained in LGBTQ+ issues?
  • Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones?  Are they available in my host country?  If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies?  Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies? 

Legality

Concerning legality and enforcement, the U.S. Department of State LGBTI Travel Information provides general information about travel advice for LGBTQ individuals. They also have a country specific database that includes information on LGBTQ rights.  

  • Are there any restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBTQ people? 
  • What are the laws regarding identity and travel documentation?
  • Are there hate crime laws in place that provide certain protections for LGBTQ minorities?
  • What is the legality of same-sex sexual behavior? 
  • What is the age of consent for sexual behavior? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples? 

Transgender Identity

  • What are the local attitudes toward transgender individuals in the host culture?
  • What are the laws regarding gender identity and travel documentation?
  • What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? 
  • Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones?  Are they available in my host country?  If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies?  Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies? 
  • If I am currently utilizing insurance for any health services, including those related to physical transition, what does insurance coverage look like while I am abroad?

Non-Binary Identity

  • What pronouns will I use while I am abroad? Is the use of gender-neutral pronouns common and/or accepted?
  • If I’m studying in a country where the host language is gendered and I use gender-neutral pronouns in English, how might I navigate my pronouns?
  • How might a gendered language impact my mental health, especially if it impacts what pronouns I use?
  • What are the local attitudes toward non-binary individuals in the host culture?
  • What are the laws regarding gender identity and travel documentation?
  • What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met?

Additional considerations regarding gender markers and official documentation 

The US Department of State now allows individuals to select male (M), female (F), or unspecified or another gender identity (X) as their gender marker when applying for a passport. You can select the gender marker you would like listed on your U.S. passport and the marker you select does not need to match the marker on your supporting documentation. More information about selecting your gender marker on your passport is available on the US Department of State's website. 

While the US Department of State issues passports with the X gender marker, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You may face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the X gender marker. Before you travel, check with the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States for more information. Students who are not US citizens should consult their embassy/consulate to determine if the X gender marker (or equivalent) is available to them and what documentation is needed. 

For students with the X gender marker or considering selecting the X gender marker on their passport, below are some questions to consider:

  • Does my host country recognize non-binary identities and/or the X gender marker on legal documents and/or visa applications?
  • What barriers might I face if the gender marker on my passport does not match my supporting documents for legal/visa processes? 

TIPS

There is no one way to be an LGBTQ+ student abroad. Each student’s experience is unique to them, so if someone else’s experience doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay. It may take time to find the resources that resonate with your identities.

For some students, their sexual orientation and/or gender expression become the most or one of the most salient identities while they are abroad. For others, these identities may not be top of mind. Take time to reflect on what feels right to you. Know that this may evolve throughout your experience.

On-Campus Resources

General resources

 

Special thanks to the University of Maryland Education Abroad for generously allowing us to adapt their Identities and Affiliation page for our students.