Cultures support, constrain, value, or devalue public expressions of our sexual and gender identities differently according to social norms and traditions within those cultures. There is no global agreement about how much or how little sexual orientations matter, no universal standards for how freely one can express non-heteronormative identities in public, and no agreement across cultures about the human rights associated with sexuality.
Studying abroad is an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ students to view their sexual identity from a different cultural perspective. What LGBTQIA+ means as a social identity varies depending on the country, and in fact, some other cultures use language to describe non-heteronormative sexualities and genders that does not always translate into English. Your host nation may be more tolerant of LGBTQIA+ individuals than the United States, and talk of sexualities may be welcomed. In other cultures, open talk about non-heteronormative sexual life is forbidden, and certain behaviors may even be sanctionable. Some countries criminalize homosexuality, and open hostility toward members of this population may be considered to be acceptable behavior. For information regarding such differences, please review the resources listed below.
Before you travel abroad, you should be familiar with the laws, customs, and attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community for your host country. Similar expressions or behaviors may have vastly different meanings and consequences abroad. Ask your program director if they can connect you with past LGBTQIA+ participants who were on your program or in your host destination to learn about their experience.
The Office of Education Abroad strives to create a supportive environment where you can discuss all aspects of your study abroad experience. Any information about your identities that you share with an adviser remain confidential.
Davidson Student Testimonials
"In retrospect, it is through effort and really putting myself out there that I made friends with many Bolivians and found a niche in the LGBTQ community there. These more intimate encounters added another dynamic, meaningful layer to my experience. Only through the relationships was I able to more fully understand what it’s like to be queer in Bolivia. I also learned a lot about myself as well as what it means to be queer in the United States."
Chile, Jordan, Nepal
"Even though I could not consistently rely on my host families for acceptance ... one of my most powerful memories abroad remains coming out to my Nepali host mom and being accepted with open arms."
"Deciding to study abroad in the biggest city in the world (population-wise) worked to my advantage. Shanghai is a city filled with people from all walks of life, including many people from the GLBTQ community. While the GLBTQ community is not as visible as those in New York, Sydney, or London, social gathering places do exist."
- Diversity Abroad: LGBTQ Students Abroad
- IES Abroad: LGBTQ+ & Ally Resources
- IFSA Unpacked: Homestay - First Impressions
- U.S. Department of State: LGBTI Travelers
- NAFSA: Association for International Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group (SIG)
- GoAbroad: LGBTQ Travelers’ Perspectives
- ILGA: Map of Sexual Orientation Laws in the World
- TSA.gov: Transgender Passengers
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Know Your Rights – Airport Security