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Bobcats without Borders

Celebrating Pride and LGBTQ+-Friendly Countries

UC Merced Study Abroad Stories of Interest

Students celebrating Pride abroad

In an ever-shifting landscape of options, it's important to recognize changes in international travel for the LGBTQ+ community. And 2022 is a big year for trans folks traveling internationally.

Most look to New York City as the birthplace for the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, and while the USA has been one of the most avant garde countries on this front, in many ways we have come late to the party, behind other nations. The USA was not the first to recognize same sex unions or legalize gay marriage, or protect the LGBTQ+ community from targeted discrimanation, or issue non-binary passports or other official identification documents, or even to abolish old sodomy laws.

New Nonbinary Gender Markers for US Passport Holders

Did you know that you no long need to choose between having an 'M' or 'F' on your US passport? As of April 2022, US travelers can now choose an 'X' for their gender marker on their passports. This clearly calls for celebration to recognize those who have fought for these nonbinary gender options. At the same time, we encourage students to consult a study abroad advisor if they have a nonbinary gender marker on their passport or plan to apply for one; some countries will be more open for you than others.

Highlighted LGBTQ+-Friendly Countries for Study Abroad

No country has arrived at equal rights or equal protection in practice—even if in law—but here are are a few standout destinations for the adventurous.

European Leaders

All Saints Church Spire and cityscape, Lund, Skane, Sweden

Sweden tops the list in Europe and it has stiff competition. Allowing same-sex marriage, offering strong protections, and more, Sweden nabs the top spot across the pond.

Colorful row of old Dutch houses reflected in a canal in Amsterdam in the Netherlands

An honorable mention is the Netherlands, the first country to permit same-sex marriage. Netherlands residents share many of the same rights and protections as Sweden.

Best in Latin America

Three guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

This is a close call among rivals in the South. Chile finishes in the lead after legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption in 2021 on top of many pre-existing protections.

A sunset view of Mt Fitz Roy with a reflection in a grassy pond in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Argentina falls behind Chile with fewer protections for the LGBTQ+ community, but Buenos Aires is a Mecca of sorts for the LGBTQ+ community in Latin America.

Scenic view at Basilica of Guadalupe with Mexico city skyline

An honorable mention is specifically Mexico City, Mexico's capital with its Zona Rosa, or "Pink Zone." The capital city is the most progressive across the country.

Recommendation for Asia

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei, Taiwan

This might surprise many, but Taiwan tops the list for Asia. Some might look across the water at a few better known countries, and while some have better recognition of trans individuals, Taiwan is the most well-rounded in Asia right now with same-sex marriage, stronger protections than their neighbors, and better safety.

Down Under

At sunset, the snowcapped peak of Mount Cook reflects in a still lake in a national park of New Zealand’s South Island

Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia

What can we say? New Zealand might top the list but Australia is a top destination, too. Both are leaders in the region and globally on LGBTQ+ rights and protections

Bright Spots in Africa & the Middle East

An aerial view of Cape Town Camps Bay with houses, ocean, and mountains in the background in Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa leads the continent by quite a margin with legalized same-sex marriage, stronger protections than almost any other place across the continent.

Aerial view of Jerusalem, Israel, with the golden Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the background

Israel might surprise some as a destination for LGBTQ+ travelers, but it stands out in the region for stronger protections for trans individuals, firmer protections, and same-sex adoption while giving access to the region.

A Good Neighbor

Woman canoeing on the turquoise water of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada

Our neighbor to the north may be the most friendly study abroad destination for LGBTQ+ students. Check out Canada's opportunities.

An Academic Recommendation

View of Basilica di San Domenico in Bologna, Italy

While Italy might be more conservative than its northern neighbors, the University of Bologna has had a strong pull on students interested in internships or political science courses connected to LGBTQ+ movements regionally.

More Information

Please reach out to the study abroad advisor for questions about a specific program or country. You may also be interested to check out the LGBTQ+ and Study Abroad page.

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