Gender & Sexuality Abroad

No matter who you are or where you study abroad, it's important to understand how your expression of your gender and sexuality may impact your experience overseas.  Cultures around the world can vary greatly in their perspectives, norms, and opinions relating to the complex gender and sexual identities of American study abroad participants.

Before we talk about how your gender or sexual identity fits into your study abroad experience, let's make sure we're all using terms in the same way—a challenge even within the U.S., never mind outside it. It's important to distinguish gender identity, the sense that a person is male, female, transsexual or intersex, from sexual orientation, the sense that a person claims a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual identity. Gender identity is a person's sense of being masculine, feminine, in-between, or androgynous—a sense that is independent from biological sex and usually manifests itself by the age of three or four. Sexual orientation refers to a person's emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction and the expression of that attraction—which does not manifest itself until much later in life, usually after puberty and often not until adulthood. And gender expression—the way you communicate your gender to others—is independent as well. Many equate being gay with looking or acting effeminate and being lesbian with looking or acting mannish—or even think gay men want to be women and lesbians want to be men—but the spectrum of gender expression is more complex than that.

UCSC's International Education Office (IEO) supports the study abroad goals of all UCSC students and, as such, aims to provide advising tailored to the needs of individual students. IEO staff can provide guidance based on a combination of their own study abroad experiences as well as the experiences of current study abroad participants.

For more detailed information on gender and sexuality issues overseas, click on the specific sections on the left. 

For more general information, please explore the following links:

GLBTQI Study Abroad Resource Handout

NAFSA Rainbow SIG - Resources for GLBT students

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

LGBT Student Travel in Africa

The University of California, Santa Cruz International Education Office thanks the University of Iowa, UC Davis, University of Pittsburgh, Indiana University, University of South Florida and CIEE for their shared resources.