The following are resources and tips based on needs presented by LGBTQ international students at American Univeristy. These are options for handling different situations that may arise, not recommendations or what you have to do. This is an extremely country/culture specific topic and your best discretion to ensure your safety should always be used.
"LGBTQ" is an acronym that stands for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer". While this acronym is generally used to define the community of people that are not heterosexual or cisgender (identifying their gender with the sex they were assigned at birth), you may also see the full acronym, "LGBTQIQAP+," and other variations of that acronym. LGBTQIQAP+ stands for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Questioning, Aromantic/Asexual, Pansexual, and more". Definitions for these identities can vary among individuals, but you can find a general list of definitions courtesy of GLAAD. You may also hear phrases like "the gay community," "the queer community," and "the homosexuals" to refer to the community as a collective. Phrases like "the gay community" can essentialize the community to only those identities that fall under same-gender attraction (lesbian and gay) and thus exclude trans, bisexual, pansexual and aromantic identities. As such, you may want to stick with using "the LGBTQ" when referencing the community as a whole. The phrase "the queer community" can also be loaded because the word "queer" has a negative connotation because it was historically used as a slur. Older LGBTQ folks may be especially sensitive to this word even though younger LGBTQ people have reclaimed and identify with the word "queer". Before using this word or using it to refer to the collective, you should check whether the LGBTQ people around you or who you are with are comfortable hearing this word. Finally, phrases like "the homosexuals" should be avoided when refering to the community as a whole. This is because the phrase essentializes LGBTQ people to sexual behavior that not everyone in the community even engages with. Furthermore, the term has medical connotations that stigmatize LGBTQ people. In the 1960s, LGBTQ peopel were diagnosed as "homosexual" as a mental illness. For these reasons, the phrase "the homosexuals" should be avoided.
The LGBTQ community is not one that is exclusive to the West (North American and Europe) or whiteness. In fact, many indigenous cultures and pre-colonial societies honored and celebrated LGBTQ identities and similar identities. You can find a list of Indigenous LGBTQ identities here. Furthermore, here is an article that explains the concept of "coming out" from non-Western lens: GLOBALIZING THE CLOSET: IS ‘COMING OUT’ A WESTERN CONCEPT?.
Occassionally people who are pedophiles (attracted to minors)try to claim that they are in the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ community does not consider them a part of the community. Other people might claim to be polyamorous (in a consenual relationship with more than one person) so that they can cheat on their partner. The LGBTQ community does not claim these people either. Finally, there are feminists, both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ, who do not consider women of trans experience to be women. These people are labeled "trans exclusionary radical feminists" of TERFs and are also not considered representative of the community.
There many myths about the community that are perpetrated by homophobic/transphobic and biased groups and people. You can read some of these myths and how they are debunked here: Anti-Gay Myth's Debunked.
As isolating as this can feel, you are absolutely not alone. As many of the resources below suggests, homophobia and transphobia are products of European colonialism and many countries have rich histories of LGBTQ identities being honored and celebrated. Being LGBTQ is not exclusive to the West, to whiteness, or to non-religious people.
Above all else, your safety comes first. While different contexts will influence your ability for self-expression, you still have the agency to explore identities online and build a virtual community.
Trevor Project - an online LGBTQ resource that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. They have online chat services and phone call services available.
Other wellness resources:
- Understanding Your Identity/Coming Out Resources
- Self Care on Social Media
- International Suicide Awareness Hotlines
- It Gets Better Project
- Gender as a Colonial Object
- 30 Ways to Combat Internalized Homophobia for Gay and Lesbian People
Culture-specific articles and resources:
- LGBTQ+ Identities in South Asia
- Pride and Self-Love in the L.G.B.T.Q. African Diaspora
- 'Un-African'? Photos Challenge Notions Of LGBTQ Identity In The African Diaspora
- Outright International Blog
- Queer Liberation in Middle Eastern Communities: Who has the Right to Speak?
Political-Social Movements: Homosexuality and Queer Movements: Southeast Asia by Sharyn Graham Davies
- Combating Gender-Based Violence Against LGBTQI and Women in the Caribbean
- No Longer Alone: LGBTQ Experiences in the MENA Region
- My.Kali -- a conceptual webzine for/from the Middle East and North Africa
- African Sexuality and the Legacy of Imported Homophobia
- An overview of LGBTQ rights in Eastern Europe and Eurasia
This is a situation where you will need to use your discretion and consider how you can be safe given your context. This may mean only expressing your true identity to close friends or online. While this is not ideal, it may be the only way of staying safe. You may even want to consider entering the asylum process.
If you would like to connect with an online LGBTQ community or seek out LGBTQ asylum services, here are just a few options:
- Trans Activists
- Asylum Connect
- Human Rights Watch International LGBTQ Resources
- Please note that on this website some of links are broken. Additionally, not all of the websites are in English so you may have to use your computer to translate. Outdated language used to describe some organizations can largely be attributed to translation errors from the native language to English.
- LGBT Support Group
- LGBTQ Chat Room
- Gay Center Resources
- Online LGBTQ Chat Support Group through the Trevor Project
- Befrienders Worldwide International Resources on Sexual Orientation
"Coming out" is the ongoing process of disclosing your LGBTQ identity to loved ones, friends, and even strangers. It is not a one time event. It does not have to be a sad event. And there is no "right" or "wrong" way to come out. There are a few things you may want to do to prepare and protect yourself before coming out.
Before you go home, prepare some answers to potentially personal questions from friends and family so that you are not caught off guard and possibly "out" yourself. Your safety comes first and you are not obligated to disclose your identity to anyone. No one is entitled to that information about you. If you are thinking about coming out to friends and family in your home country, consider coming out in your native language so that your LGBTQ identity is not associated with being a product of the West or proximity to whiteness. Brainstorm all of the ways that you can "normalize" your LGBTQ identity to avoid claims that it is against your culture, religion, or families values. You may also want to read through the following resources:
While LGBTQ Americans have been able to have some human rights recognized (rights to privacy, sexual freedom, and marriage), the U.S. still has a long way to go before LGBTQ Americans are truly treated as equal citizens. There are no constitutional protections for LGBTQ folks, protection from hate speech, or protection for minors from conversion therapy. In many states, there are no protections from being evicted or fired from a job on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Nationwide, there is an epidemic of trans women of color being murdered, gun violence directed against LGBTQ people, racism and ableism within the LGBTQ community, and homophobia. You can read more about the LGBTQ experience in the U.S. by following the links below:
Lucky for you, by asking this question you are already taking the first step! Use some of the links above to educate yourself on the unique challenges that both LGBTQ and international students face to identify, understand, and empathize with these identities. You should also connect with the International Student and Scholar Services office at AU for activities and events that are open to the wider AU community.
"They, them, theirs" is a set of gender neutral pronouns in English that can be used to refer to one person or multiple people. In the context of the LGBTQ community, "they, them, theirs" and other pronouns are used to refer to someone without using their name! Using someone's correct pronouns is not optional. For more information on pronouns, please check A Guide to Pronouns.