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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Education abroad can be a great opportunity for self-exploration and individual growth, and sexual orientation and gender identity can be fluid concepts. Should you identify yourself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, it is very important to research your host country’s attitudes, customs and laws prior to your departure.

Researching Destinations

One’s gender expression or sexual orientation will affect interactions in foreign environments. Many students struggle with the concept of being “out” while abroad while being true to their own identity. It is important to remember to put your safety first while at the same time respecting who you are. Some of the questions you should be able to answer are:

  • What are the current and past laws in the host country? These include hate crime laws, criminalization and laws of consent (can be different between hetero couples vs. same-sex couples), etc.
    – View the interactive maps of sexual orientation laws by the International Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
    – Consult the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory; each country will have information regarding legal restrictions and LGBTI travelers in the Local Laws and Special Circumstances section
    – Find regional airports from OutRight Action International 
  • What is the cultural attitude surrounding the community with whom I identify?
  • Are there open communities in the country? Or at the local university?
  • What are the inter-gender communications?

Additional questions can be found at diversityabroad.com.

For more information on specific programs, talk to an education abroad specialist about their knowledge of the country and past participant information. Additional resources are available at LGBTQ at Ohio State or the Office of Student Life Multicultural Center located in Suite 1000 of the Ohio Union.

Accommodations Abroad

In instances of Ohio State faculty-led programs or other programs where university staff assigns shared accommodation, room assignments are allocated according to shared gender. The standard marker used is the binary gender listed on an individual’s passport (U.S. DOS information on changing sex marker on U.S. passport). Transgender students, including those whose passport gender does not reflect their gender identity, can request alternate arrangements. The availability of alternate accommodations may vary based on each program’s housing arrangements. In instances where alternate accommodation may incur a supplemental fee (e.g. a single room), the individual student would assume the additional cost. Students wishing to explore housing options in advance of applying to a program are encouraged to contact Jeannie Simmons, associate director of education abroad, early in their planning process. Students can do this by scheduling an appointment or emailing simmons.272@osu.edu.

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