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Student Resource Guide - LGBTQ+

LGBTQ+ Considerations in Study Away Programs
For many students, LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and all other identities commonly associated with this community) issues are important to consider when thinking about GO options. This guide is intended to support students and allies from the LGBTQ+ community and provide them with resources to use in preparation for GO.
Keep In Mind
While preparing to apply for GO, you should take some time to research the LGTBQ+ related laws in the countries you are considering traveling to. You should be aware that countries in Africa, the Middle East, Singapore, some Caribbean islands, Russia, and parts of the U.S. have anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Helpful links: We strongly recommend that you take the time necessary to become aware of any anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in countries you are considering traveling to. GO is not recommending for or against participation in GO programs in countries with anti-LGBTQ+ laws or policies, or where cultural traditions are hostile toward those in LGBTQ+ communities.

In addition to researching national laws and policies, it would also be a good idea to research the local news outlets for instances in the news of discrimination or violence toward LGBTQ+ members in that area? It would also be helpful to research local laws that govern the city or town where you will be. If you are considering a homestay, take time to consider whether you will feel comfortable with a host family who may have limited knowledge of or experience interacting with those from the LGBTQ+ community.

We want to emphasize that you can GO wherever you decide is best for you, all options are on the table.  We want to make sure you are planning for the best GO experience as possible, considering where you will feel safest and best supported.
Questions to Consider
  • Are there laws regarding homosexuality/gender identity in this country? How can you navigate these laws?
  • What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
  • What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people? How are LGBTQ+ people socially defined? What roles do transgender people play in the host culture?
  • What kinds of LGBTQ+ resources exist there?
  • Is it safe for you to be out while abroad?
  • What may make coming out different in the host country compared to the U.S.?
  • How important is it to you to find other sexual minority students and friends while abroad? How will you make connections with other sexual minority students, locals, or community organizations and gathering places? What are your expectations about seeking and finding community?
  • What are the norms and behavioral expectations within the LGBTQ+ communities?
  • Will you need access to medications, supplies, or services due to your transgender status? Are they available? If not, will you need any additional documentation to travel with them?
  • What are the 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? 

A Few Tips for Once You have Selected Your Program
  • We encourage you to have open dialogue with your program directory or program provider about any safety concerns you may have and about what plans or ideas you have for ensuring you enjoy and get the most out of your GO program.
  • If traveling with a program provider, ask them for any resources available to LGBTQ+ students to aid in preparation for the program.
  • Decide based on your personal risk assessment whether you wish to disclose anything related to your sexual orientation or gender identity. If yes, consider who is privy to this information and how it may be handled.
  • Make sure your travel documents best represent you.
  • Note that students on hormone therapy should be reminded that host countries may not offer it, so make sure to bring enough to last the duration of the entire GO program. Also, make sure the therapy drugs are legal in the countries where you will be traveling. For example, in some countries, certain hormonal treatments may be classified as illegal or deemed a controlled substance.
Travel-day considerations
For all travelers, passing through immigration may often be daunting or nerve wracking. It is important to take steps to make this process as seamless as possible by advanced planning. Some considerations include:
  • Some locations may be hostile towards individuals with X gender marked passports and issuing governments cannot guarantee entry or transit through other countries with an X-marked passport, so this should be considered before undertaking travel.
  • Ensure that all gender markers and names on your travel documents (visa, acceptance letter, flights, passport, etc.) are the same to avoid additional questioning. If you need to change your sex on your passport, refer to this information.
    • Change critical travel documents and accounts with your preferred gender marker and name(s). Initiate these changes as soon as possible as many countries take weeks, months or even years for document changes to be completed
  • Each country has different regulations related to airport security. If you are flagged for additional screening, or decline going through a metal detector, you will receive a pat down associated with the gender on your identification. You are entitled to private screenings in almost all countries and may request a companion to join you in most circumstances. Here is a resource on how trans students can navigate TSA (US airport security) so they can feel comfortable, including the option to make reservations ahead of time.
  • For trans and non-binary travelers worried about body scanners, most do not display the actual scan of your body to security personnel. In fact, all passenger images are displayed as generic body forms on the screens visible to staff. The screen does identify areas that should be screened more closely, but it uses a generic body form. For example, there would be a highlighted box around the midsection of the form if a traveler forgets to remove their belt. It does not show any details of the body or anatomy.

Here is a helpful guide on navigating airport security from the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Links to support LGBTQ+ Students in Study Away