Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states. Some countries offer many legal protections to those who are LGBT, while other countries criminalize same-sex sexual activity. Most LGBT travelers encounter no problems when overseas, but it helps to prepare before you go.
Research, research, research…
Research your destination before you go. Educate yourself about the social culture, the laws, and support resources. Review the LGBT Travel Information page and the Special Circumstances section of the Country Specific Information document for the country you plan to visit. This will help you protect yourself.
Take the time to learn about the:
- Laws of your destination
- Norms and social culture of your destination
- LGBT organizations, hotels, and support resources
- General attitudes toward LGBT persons
Consensual same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in about 70 countries in the world. Penalties in these countries vary from a minimum penalty to long-term imprisonment or even a death sentence. The annual Human Rights Report that the State Department publishes also includes a section specifically regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in each country. Remember, civil and human rights are only as protected as the local laws allow.
- If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Seriously, there are consular officers available 24/7 at every embassy who provide emergency assistance to Americans. It’s what we do. We won’t pass judgment on you, and we will protect your privacy.
- Thoroughly investigate the country you’re traveling to. LGBT travel guides provide country by country advice. It’s also worth checking for local gay newspapers or websites to obtain more information. After all, no one understands the local attitudes better than those who live there.
- Use discretion. As an American, you may already stand out. Outside gay neighborhoods or resorts, public displays of affection may draw even more attention.
- Check for LGBT or “gay friendly” hotels and lodging. Some hotels won’t accept bookings from same sex couples – others actively seek LGBT bookings.
Be alert and try to avoid potentially unsafe environments. The general openness of LGBT settings can sometimes be taken advantage of by criminals. Look out for yourself and your friends, especially late at night.