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Sexual Orientation, Gender Expression and Education Abroad

Queer people exist all over the world. They live in the realities of the exclusive laws, regulations, and oppressions and determine ways to navigate them. Coming out as a queer student can be different than it is in the U.S. In some places, LGBTQ+ identities are accepted and welcomed, in some extreme cases not knowing cultural or legal standards can lead to violence or imprisonment. 
 Argentina, Pride
Acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is even higher than in the US in many countries. Students who participate in study abroad programs in these places, may gain a new international perspective and a renewed comfort with their sexual or gender identity. 
Trans students who want to study abroad should research their host country and look into immigration rules and regulations.
CU Boulder education abroad respects the sexual and gender identity and expression of all people and encourages these students to share their experiences with the world. Disclosing LGBTQ+ Identity to a study abroad advisor will help us provide support throughout the entire study abroad process.


Finally, it is important to understand that gender expression and sexual orientation are just two parts of your identity. Consider how your other identities (race, ethnicity, ability, religious beliefs, etc) will impact your education abroad experience. 

(Photo Credit: Argentina by Isabelle Boes)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Some questions you may want to consider, research, and ask about when looking at host countries:

  • Does your right to be LGBTQ+ in the US conflict with your host country’s religious or cultural values or traditions?
  • What are gender relations in the host country?
  • What roles do trans people play in the host culture?
  • Are there safety considerations I should be aware of?
  • Will I have access to the healthcare and medications I take?
  • Will I choose to go back into the closet? How will I navigate that in my host country? 

Tips to keep in mind

  • If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. They are available 24/7 who provide emergency assistance to Americans. They won’t pass judgement on you and will protect your privacy.

  • Be alert and try to avoid potentially unsafe environments. Look out for yourself and your friends, especially late at night. 
  • Begin researching now by looking at the resources below, talking with a study abroad advisor and program alumni.
Here from others! Advice from Alumni
  • No matter where you are in your personal journey, our alumni joined to share their experiences as LGBTQIA+ members abroad. Tune in to learn about how they chose their destination, the research they did before going abroad, and how they found community in their host country..-ISA 

Rainbowcrosswalk(Photo credit: Netherlands, by Nicole Sharp)

Useful Sites to Begin Your Exploration

  • The Pride Office at CU Boulder: a CU resource for services and information.
  • CU Boulder Program Specific Handbooks: look for country specific information in these orientation materials students receive upon acceptance on a program; some will include GLBT country-specific information.
  • International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission : A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC effects their mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.
  • International Lesbian and Gay Association: a worldwide federation of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people everywhere; offers a country-by-country world survey of the legal position of LGBT people. (Keep in mind that not all countries offer a safe environment for openly gay people).
  • The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association: IGLTA is to provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers and expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact.
  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group: extensive information for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered students interested in studying abroad including a comprehensive list of related links and bibliography; if you only have time for one Web site, this is the one.
  • Out Traveler: This webpage is a resource for GLBTQI travelers. This webpage has articles, city guides, and information on bars, restaurants and clubs all over the world. 
  • Equaldex: A collaborative LGBTQ+ knowledge base that helps you gauge LGBTQ+ attitudes around the world. 

We look forward to meeting with you to discuss your goals and plans. See the Get Started for your next steps!