LGBTQ+ Students Off-Campus

Just as in the U.S., attitudes and understanding of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues vary by region. Most LGBTQ+ travelers encounter no problems when overseas, but it helps to prepare before you go. Students who identify as LGBTQ+ should research their destination and talk with the Off-Campus Programs office and program staff about the cultural norms and LGBTQ+ rights and issues in their location.

LGBTQ+ life exists almost everywhere, but the degree to which it is visible at first glance varies. In some countries, LGBTQ+ individuals are protected by law and have equal rights in their society. There are other places where identifying as LGBTQ+ openly is punishable by law, or there may be no laws to protect an individual from hate crimes. While Lawrence University affirms those who identify as LGBTQ+, the resources and tips below are intended to help navigate spaces that are outside of our campus and the U.S. Remember, U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of their host country. It will ultimately be up to you to strike the balance between being true to yourself while staying safe in your particular context.  It is important to be open to different opportunities and be respectful of locally acceptable behavior. It is advised that you research your host country so you know local cultural views, resources, and legal protections that may impact your experience. Understanding this will help you decide where you would, or would not, want to study.

You may also find that you can be more open about your identity than in the U.S.  Some students have reported feeling more comfortable with their gender expression or sexual orientation than they do in the United States.  For example, while certain things have been socialized to be particularly feminine or masculine in one country, those things can be reversed or even acceptable to both genders in another country.  There are also countries with more open laws regarding LGBTQ+ relationships, including locations recognizing gay marriage and adoptions.  Spending time living abroad can allow students to learn more about their gender identity and sexual orientation by exploring the LGBTQ+ community in a different cultural context.  This can be an empowering personal experience for students to dive into the host culture in a meaningful way and learn more about their identities on a global scale. 

Always put your safety first, and find a support network while you are abroad. If you experience difficulties, you should contact your on-site program staff immediately.  Lawrence’s Off-Campus Programs office is also available to help or listen.  Be as open and honest as you can with your study abroad advisor and program staff so they can tell you about specific resources or issues that might be valuable for you.

Questions you should consider for further research:

• Are there laws regarding sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression in my host country? How can I navigate these laws? Should I consider this country for study abroad?
• Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad?  Are there limits as to who I can be out to?
• What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship? (For example, two people of the same sex kissing or holding hands in public may mean something completely different than how it would be viewed in the U.S.)
• What kinds of LGBTQ+ resources are there in my host country?
• What kinds of LGBTQ+ resources are available from my program provider or onsite staff?
• Is there a united, visible LGBTQ+ community in my host country/city? What are some ways members of these diverse communities represent themselves within the wider society?
• What are the housing options in this program?  Do I have questions for my program regarding housing such as their expectations surrounding inclusion and safety of homestay host families?

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