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Queer Students

Ryerson strives to ensure that students of diverse sexualities, gender identities, and gender expressions experience equal opportunity in their academic career, however in situations of global travel, the safety and opportunity to thrive may vary based on local laws and cultural attitudes.

To have a safe and rewarding experience when participating in global learning activities abroad, it’s important to think about how your sexual orientation and gender expression may shape your experiences abroad. Learning and/or working abroad can present you with exciting possibilities to explore other cultures and understandings of identity. You should be aware of local and cultural attitudes towards sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as well as local laws that may affect people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This will help you make informed and safe choices about destinations and programs that best meet your needs. 

We’ve compiled resources and stories for queer students considering going abroad. The goal of these resources is to ensure you can make an informed decision about global learning abroad. As you navigate these resources, feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have. 

Note that this information was adapted from the University of Maryland - Education Abroad’s LGBTQ+ Students Abroad page, external link, opens in new window and Michigan State University - Office for Education Abroad’s Sexuality and Gender Identity page, external link, opens in new window.

Questions to Ask Yourself and/or Your Activity Organizer:

If a sense of queer community is important to you, it may be beneficial to do some online research about local queer organizations in your potential destination. If you know of someone who identifies with the queer community and has either studied abroad or visited that location, you may want to ask them about their experiences. Just remember, there are always going to be different opinions and viewpoints.

  • How important is it to me to find other queer students or friends while abroad, and how prepared am I to create these relationships? 
  • Will I be able to maintain these relationships upon my return? 
  • Are there open queer communities in the country/region/community? Or at the local university? 
  • If a sense of queer community is important to me, how will I manage the potential difficulties of not finding one while abroad?

Think about the resources that you currently have and/or use at Ryerson and in Toronto. You should look into the types of resources that may or may not exist in your potential global learning abroad location.

  • What are the documents that you will need for travelling and studying abroad that include the identification of your gender/sex?  Would it be useful to change the gender/sex marker on any of those documents before traveling? For Canadian passports, the Government of Canada’s LGBTQ2 Travel website, external link, opens in new window has information on passport policies for queer individuals. Note that this may require assembling additional information and may take time to complete.
  • Are there resources available for queer people or queer -friendly centers in the host country?
  • Does my global learning program offer queer -friendly housing? 
  • Does my global learning program offer gender-neutral housing facilities i.e. bathrooms and dormitories?
  • Does my global learning program discuss queer considerations during orientation?
  • What resources are available to me upon my return to campus?
  • If I am open about my sexual orientation and/or gender identity at Ryerson, will that change at all when I am abroad? 
  • If I choose to come out while abroad, how will this affect me and my relationships with friends and family upon my return?
  • How open will I be about my sexual orientation, gender expression and personal pronouns with my teachers, peers, friends, host family, and others? 
  • Are there situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation or gender identity? 
  • If I choose to conceal my sexual orientation or gender identity while abroad, what impact will this have on me upon my return?

Try to consult with others who have been to the location you’re thinking of going. If you don’t know someone, try to find personal stories others may have shared online about their experiences. Expressions of friendship and body language may be quite different than in Canada and may cause confusion or uncertainty about who may or may not be queer.

  • What are the cultural and local attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity in your destination country? 
  • What do cultural expressions of gender and sexuality look like in your destination country?
  • What do gender relations look like in your destination country? 
  • What are the behavioural norms within the local queer community?
  • How are friendships and emotions expressed? What are the body language norms for that region? In places where these are different from Canada, you may experience confusion or uncertainty about who may or may not be queer.
  • What is considered typical male and female social behaviour and customary gender relations?
  • What are my safety needs, and how can they best be met? Is the program able to make accommodations for students who request single rooms, private baths, or certain roommates? 
  • Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones?  Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies? Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies? 
  • Visit our Safety Abroad page for more information on our partner International SOS.

Concerning legality and enforcement, the Government of Canada LGBTQ2 Travel, external link, opens in new window website provides general information about travel advice for queer individuals. They also have a country-specific database that includes information on queer rights. You are required to follow the law in your host country. Once outside of Canada you are not protected by Canadian laws. In some countries same-sex acts are illegal and the penalties if caught can be very severe.

  • Are there any restrictions on freedom of association or expression for queer people? 
  • Are there “public decency” or “public indecency” laws?
  • What are the laws regarding identity and travel documentation?
  • Are there hate crime laws in place that provide certain protections for queer minorities?
  • What is the legality of same-sex sexual behaviour? 
  • What is the age of consent for sexual behaviour? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples? 
  • What is the police attitude towards the local queer community?
  • What are the local attitudes toward transgender individuals?
  • What are the laws regarding gender identity and travel documentation?
  • What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? 
  • Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones?  Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies? Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies? 
  • If I am currently utilizing insurance for any health services, including those related to physical transition, what does insurance coverage look like while I am abroad?

Positive Space at Ryerson 

Destination Pride, external link, opens in new window - A project managed by PFLAG, this site is a data-driven search platform based on the world’s LGBTQ laws, rights and social sentiment.

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association, external link, opens in new window - Has information on legislation in different countries that affects the LGBTQI community.

Government of Canada LGBTQ2 Travel Information, external link, opens in new window - Up-to-date information for queer people traveling abroad. Includes helpful pre-departure tips and advice.

Sexual Orientation Laws, external link, opens in new window - A map of the world with each country’s laws regarding sexual orientation.

LGBT Student Guide for Education Abroad, external link, opens in new window - From the University of South Florida

LGBTQ Student Reflections on Travel, external link, opens in new window - From the University of Iowa

National Centre for Transgender Equality - Travel, external link, opens in new window

GlobalGayz, external link, opens in new window - A gay-owned charitable travel and culture website

Student Stories - LGBTQ Students , external link, opens in new window- Articles by queer people who have participated in global learning activities at Butler University.

Things to Think About for LGBTQ Students Itching to Study Abroad, external link, opens in new window - NPR article 

Coming Out to My Overseas Family: How I was able to finally become my whole queer self in Taiwan, external link, opens in new window

9 Major Life Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT, external link, opens in new window - From GoOverseas.com

LGBT Students in Sevilla, external link, opens in new window - Interviews with queer students who studied abroad in Seville, Spain