Transgender and Non-Binary Students Abroad
Studying abroad can be a great time to learn about gender identity and expression across the world and forge connections and alliances across cultures. For transgender and non-binary students, the decision to study abroad can raise many questions, so we invite you to use these resources to learn more about what being abroad might look like for you.
The Study Abroad office can help to answer your questions and begin building your study abroad support system. As a transgender or non-binary student studying abroad, you may want to keep in mind the following items:
- Your travel documents: Airline reservations require your full name, birth date and gender to match the information on your passport. If you have not already, update your identification to ensure that it reflects your gender.
*As of June 2021, U.S. citizens are allowed to declare their self-identified gender on their U.S. passports without providing medical documentation, and may select an X gender marker option. It can be helpful to talk with your advisor about how an X gender marker might impact visa applications, travel through certain countries, and more, as this is a new process for everyone.
- Traveling with medication: If you are traveling with medications, you will need to carry them in their original packaging and bring proof of your prescriptions.
- Airport security: In airports throughout the United States, you have the right to waive the Advanced Imaging security screen, and can opt for a pat-down by an officer whose gender presentation most aligns with yours. If you experience harassment or inappropriate behavior, you may file a complaint through the Office of Civil Liberties.
- Prosthetics: You are not required to remove articles of clothing, including prosthetics, in airport screenings in the United States. Keep in mind, however, that prosthetics or bounded chests could be flagged by security lead to additional screenings.
- Researching your destination: A good first step to help you decide on your program is to inform yourself about the laws, attitudes and culture surrounding gender in your desired destinations. Remember that not all countries accept or lawfully allow citizens to formally change their gender. That being said, many cultures have histories of recognizing multiple genders that inform modern understandings of gender outside the binary. The resources on this page can help you to identify countries that may be more accepting to transgender and non-binary students, or where gender nonconforming folks can find community.
- Your program: What are the available housing options? Does the center or university have all-gender restrooms? What are the available support structures for students? How will your program assist your ability to be open with other students about your identity, if you choose to be? These are all good questions to ask as you're choosing a program.
- Being out abroad: One question to consider is how and when you will feel comfortable being "out" while abroad. Keep in mind that people of different cultures may not understand language used in the United States, and for some, how you identify may be an entirely new concept. It may get tiring, but patience and understanding is key to communicating across cultures and it can be very rewarding to build relationships across difference in this way.
The Study Abroad office can help to answer your questions and begin building your study abroad support system. While studying abroad can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for students of all genders, it is imperative that you keep yourself informed and understand the risks that studying abroad may present.
- TSA Transgender Passenger Information
- IES Abroad — Air Travel Tips for Transgender Students Studying Abroad
- TransRespect.org — Comparative Research on 190 Countries Worldwide
- OutRight Action International — Where We Work
- World Gender Customs Map
Optional Template for Informing Professors
For more country-specific information, you can view the U.S. State Department’s Country Factsheet for your country of interest for specific laws pertaining to transgender people abroad. Additionally, you may view the Human Rights Report for country-specific violations of LGBT laws, discrimination, and incidences of violence.
Student Stories and Advice
- "Queer Identity in Korea," written by Nico Leger '21, explores the intersections of transness and Korean culture observed while studying abroad at CIEE/ Yonsei University.
- "Ni él, ni ella: Being Nonbinary in Spain" was written by a student studying abroad on an IES Abroad program in Spain. It discusses the ways that they navigated language, cultural differences and gender presentation in Salamanca.
- "A Transgender student in Japan" was written by a high school study abroad student in Japan, and describes the challenges, coping strategies, and importance on finding your community in study abroad ventures. This piece also includes tips for integrating into the local culture and setting realistic expectations.
- "A Trans Guide for Staying Safe While Traveling" is an excellent resource for travel tips, what to expect from TSA and how you can stay safe while abroad.
Transrespect vs. Transphobia Worldwide (TvT) provides an overview of the human-rights situation of trans and gender-diverse persons in different parts of the world. The link above contains country-specific information about the cultural, social, legal and health care climates for trans individuals in 190 countries.
National Center for Transgender Equality is a great resource for transgender issues and knowing your rights.
The LGBT Student Guide for Education Abroad provides numerous resources, tips and safety information for students studying abroad. It also includes helpful country-specific information on local laws, attitudes and culture surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation.
OutRight Action International's mission is to protect and advance the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. The link above contains country-specific information on these issues.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is a worldwide federation of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people everywhere.
External resources organized by country.