Gender & Sexual Identity
Depending on the country, gender norms and customs could be very different than we are used to here in the United States. Some countries have more relaxed customs and laws towards gender and sexual identity and relationships, while others are more strict. Even small things such as making eye contact or smiling at strangers can carry different meanings in a different cultural context. Researching and paying attention to gender roles in a country is a good first step towards ensuring your safety while abroad. For example, if people dress more conservatively in the country you are travelling to, it’s a good idea to follow their lead, especially during the first few weeks after you arrive. For women, dressing like a local can help reduce unwanted attention or “catcalling”.
LGBTQIA+ Students Abroad
Studying abroad may provide opportunities for you to explore or express your sexuality or gender in ways you may not have felt comfortable doing in the United States. At the same time, LGBTQ students or those who are questioning their sexual or gender identities may travel to cultures that are less tolerant of such expression. In some countries, same-sex behaviors are illegal and carry punishments. When reading about your host nation, consider the laws and cultural attitudes toward LGBTQ travelers and ask yourself these questions:
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family and others?
- 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 LBGTQ-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 restrooms, 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?
K-State provides many resources and avenues of support for any issues relating to your sexual or gender identity and expression. No matter whether you go abroad or remain in Kansas, you may contact the K-State LGBT Resource Center at any time for advice, guidance, and support. As always, you may contact your Education Abroad Advisor for more information about LGBT attitudes abroad. Many advisors across campus are members of the Safe Zone program and are willing and able to help.
Just like here in Manhattan, students should take personal safety precautions while abroad. Whether a country is more restrictive or permissive than the U.S., you should always research the laws of the host country and be prepared. There are simple steps you can take to ensure you have a safe and fun time abroad. When going out, always make sure you’re going with at least one friend that you know. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don’t carry your passport with you unless it is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, gender violence is a global issue. If an incident should occur (such as sexual assault), go to the hospital and call the local police. You can also contact the K-State CARE Office for support even while you are abroad. Lastly, check with your host program when you arrive for safety advice and cultural norms.
Resources beyond K-State
You can access a lot of information about your host nation's attitudes toward LGBT travelers online. For some general information, check out the Gay and Lesbian Travel page on Wikitravel. At local bookstores you may also find travel guides, such as Lonely Planet, that often include information geared toward LGBT travelers. Also check out the NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group, which is particularly designed for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students abroad. The following resources may also be of assistance as you are researching a country or planning your time abroad:
- National Center for Trans Equality Travel Guide: Advice for navigating airports as a trans* person
- IES Abroad LGBTQ+ & Ally Resources: Country information, scholarships, maps, and advice for finding a community abroad.
- UC Davis Interactive LGBTQ+ Map: This map is still in development, but provides a quick overview of individual countries.
- IFSA-Butler Unpacked: Student stories for a variety of subjects
- ILGA Sexual Orientation Laws in the World - Overview
- Culture Crossing Guide: An evolving database with country information, which can be edited and updated by anyone. Some gender information on this website will be limited to heterosexual and cisgender information, but other cultural information might be helpful.
- Tips for Finding LGBTQ+ Friendly Locations: Advice offered by one of our program providers, USAC.
- TSA's Guidance for Transgender Passengers
- Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
- Blogging and vlogging is becoming very popular is a way for students to journal their time abroad. Try looking for student stories on YouTube!