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GLBTQ & Travel
Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity to learn about world cultures as well as your own. As a GLBTQ student you may wish to consider some additional issues before departure.
Preparing for what to expect in a particular country can make the difference between a wonderful experience abroad and an unpleasant one.
Get to know your destination. Explore GLBTQ travel guides and Internet resources. Talk with other GLBTQ and allied people about their experiences in certain countries or regions to gather as much information upon which to make your choices and decisions. Once in your host country, find out what local newspapers, ezines or online resources may be available.
Some questions to ask:
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family and others?
- How important is it to me to find other sexual minority students and friends while abroad? How will I make connections with other sexual minority students, local residents, or community organizations and gathering places?
- What resources are available in my host country for sexual minority people?
- Are there any GLBTQ-friendly establishments nearby? How can I find them?
- What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? Is the program able to make special accommodations for students who request single rooms, private baths, or certain roommates?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services due to my transgender status? Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with my medication or supplies?
The U.S. Students Abroad link at NAFSA: Rainbow SIG contains useful information, advice and links to consider.
Gay.com contains helpful information on traveling and links to Ask the Expert.
Gay Crawler, a Gay and Lesbian Travel Directory, contains helpful links to world destinations.
Understand the context, customs, and attitudes in your host country. Similar expressions or behaviors may have vastly different meanings in different places. In some locations when you are outside distinct gay neighborhoods or specific vacation or resort facilities, open expressions of your sexual orientation might be frowned upon.
In some other areas of the world, expressions of friendship (such as eye contact, a smile, touching, and physical proximity) may be quite different than those expressed among your U.S. peers and cause you to experience confusion or uncertainty about who may or may not be GLBTQ. For example, in several Middle Eastern countries hand-holding among males is a custom of special friendship and respect and does not necessarily imply homosexuality.
Some questions to ask include:
- What are the cultural and local attitudes toward Americans, tourists, and sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country?
- What are police attitudes towards local residents, tourists, GLBTQ visitors?
- What is considered typical male and female social behavior and customary gender relations and social patterns in the host country?
- What may make the coming-out process different in the host country compared to the U.S.?
- What are the norms and behavioral expectations within the GLBTQ communities in my host country?
- What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country? How are GLBTQ people socially defined? What roles do transgender people play in the host culture?
Learn the laws of your host country regarding GLBTQ issues, same-sex sexual behavior and expressions of GLBTQ identity and community. You are required to follow the law in your host country.
Once outside the United States you are no longer protected by U.S. laws. If same-sex acts are illegal in your host country and you are caught engaging in them, or even presumed to have engaged in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country.
In some countries, the penalties are very severe and can even include deportation, corporal punishments, and execution.
Be familiar with local laws and customs so you can make informed and safe choices about destinations and programs which will be the best fit for you and your needs.
Some questions to ask include:
- Are there public decency laws? Or public indecency laws?
- What is the age of consent? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples?
- Does the law require having proper documentation at all times?
- What is the police attitude towards the local GLBTQ community?
- Will laws and attitudes be the same for different social classes or geographic areas?
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission contains country-specific online resources and information to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status.
The Amnesty International: LGBT Network facilitates activism, discussion, and education around the world.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association is a world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people everywhere.
The UTSA Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement Center offers a scholarship to students involved in the GLBTQ club on campus.