Queers Abroad

Sammy Mestizo

¡Hola! My name is Sammy Mestizo, and I chose Madrid-Complutense as my study abroad location. If you gain only one piece of knowledge from my statement, it should be that Madrid and the rest of Spain is generally one of the most queer-friendly places in the world, despite Catholicism's prevalence amongst Spaniards. Locals often reassured that Spaniards do not perceive being queer as an issue. Locals also frequently pointed to the legalization of same-sex marriages within the country and the Chueca district of Madrid as evidence of Spaniards' acceptance of queer identities. Chueca is known as the queer district of Madrid because it is home to many queer bars, clubs, and bakeries as well as queer people; however, the district is so charming, conveniently located, and lively that queer people aren't the only ones to call it home. The rest of Madrid is also very queer-friendly (ex. I saw many PDAs between all types of couples, including queer couples, on several occasions). 

All of this being said, I was very disappointed with the queer organization on the Complutense campus. Briefly, I was laughed out of the organization's office when I asked for information. I made a complaint, and a non-official did apologize, but the damage was already done. Race was absolutely a matter in this situation, as it was in several other situations not just for me but also for all the other Latinos in the program. Racism is prevalent in Spain, which is something to consider whether you're queer or not.
The bottom line is, if you're contemplating a study abroad experience in Madrid/Spain but are concerned about how your queer identity will be perceived by the locals, set those concerns aside as your queer identity will more than likely be of no concern to anyone. Feel free to ask any questions or seek advice about studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, Europe or in general :)


Katherine

My name is Katherine, and I spent the 2013/14 school year studying at the University of Bristol, England. In July 2013, their government passed laws to allow same-sex marriages across all of England. Overall, I would say that England is fairly accepting of sexual and gender minorities. You will find people who are not very accepting, but you will also find quite a lot of people who are accepting. I found that in the larger cities or in areas around universities, the community tends to be more liberal and open.  The city of Bristol has two large universities and a very active music and street art culture. In general, I would say that the city was liberal and supportive of sexual and gender minorities. 

I joined the LBGT+ Society at the school, which runs social gatherings, nights out at Bristol's LGBT+ clubs, and day trips out of town. The society also had welfare student representatives who are available weekly if you need someone to talk to with anything in Bristol or related to LGBT+ issues. Outside of the school, Bristol also had a strong LGBT+ community, which runs its own events. I would advise to search around the internet to see if the school you are interested in has similar clubs or communities. I happened to be placed in school housing that was on the same street as most of Bristol's LBGT+ clubs. Additionally, at most of the housing options at Bristol you have your own room, so you don't need to be concerned about roommate issues.  I chose not to talk about my identity to friends, classmates, or staff abroad, but I never felt uncomfortable nor that I couldn't come out if I chose to do so. Overall, I would say going to school in England as a sexual or gender minority student would be similar to going to school in California.

Feel free to email me with any questions you might have about studying in England at klwalton@ucsc.edu


mark study abroad

Hello, I am Mark Le.  I took fall quarter of 2014 to study abroad in Bordeaux, France.  Before even going to Bordeaux, during my questionnaire I specifically stated for a host family that will be accepting toward my sexual orientation.  Due to this fact, my host mother already knew that I was queer.  Best part was that she never made it into an issue!  While my time abroad, I had no fear being true to myself with my peers and friends.  Considering that France is quite liberal with the idea of sexual identity, I really had no problem meeting sexual minority students and friends.  In part, it was important for me to at least make some friends who were queer because it is always interesting to understand their own perspective through their own culture.  Throughout Bordeaux, and in France in general, there were no shortage of queer/queer-friendly establishments.  It was nice to see how accepting people can be.

While examining the queer community in France, it was quite nice to know that there are people who were open about their sexual orientation.  Even if I heard several insulting slurs in French, relating to the queer community, there was no shortage of people being supportive of who you are.  From my friends from the UCs and to the friends I made from France, I learned that the issues of sexual orientation was never an issue.  The main importance was the character of a person and their own integrity.  In all, what I can say is that do not be afraid to be who you are in any place in the world.  Everybody in the world all have similar problems and it is always an enlightening to see how supportive everybody in the world can become if you are true to yourself.  


Lena Study Abroad

My name is Lena and I identify as bisexual. I studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan between July and December of 2012. It was absolutely incredible, and I encourage study abroad in Japan highly.

Now, two very important things about being queer and dating abroad - research the culture's views on homosexuality before you dive right in, and then go ahead and have as much fun as you can. We live in California, which is fairly open-minded, and we're really lucky for this. But as most queer students know, even living somewhere as supportive as California still leads us to face stigma, and we have to be mindful of those around us who won't support our choices. If you intend to study abroad in Japan, or just want to learn more about gay culture in Tokyo, look up "Nichome". It is a small area mainly dedicated to a million gay nightclubs and bars in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. It's a little hard to find, but you'll know when you get there. There are other gay areas of Tokyo too, but they're not as large and I don't have much else to say, as I didn't frequent them.

I thought that Japan had a look-the-other-way mindset toward homosexuality, which is somewhat true of men dating men. But women dating women? The Japanese are pretty unsupportive of this, enough so that many women hide their relationships for fear that it will negatively impact their jobs, other opportunities, and sometimes even their social networks. I had a few sad conversations with some women telling me about the difficulties of dating married women while being in the closet. But I also heard inspiring stories from strong women who fought the stigma, and while they didn't flaunt their sexuality, did as they pleased whilst being careful! 

I don't mean to stop those going abroad or considering going abroad from going out and meeting others and having a blast; I just want everyone going abroad to be safe and in the know. Hearing these women's perspectives enlightened me a lot, and ignited a desire in me to fight for bisexual and lesbian women's rights across Japan. And it was also just a whole lot of fun meeting new people and expressing myself as I wanted to. I hope you have your own incredible time abroad and expand your horizons as much as possible!

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email me at lringstr@ucsc.edu.

Thanks!


London

Being part of the UC London (Bloomsbury Fall 2013) program was a great experience. I lived in central London which was greater because there were many fun and fast-paced sites. There were universities, museums, pubs, and other fun sites. This attracts people from different backgrounds which makes citizens widely receptive to people of different cultures and sexual orientations. I felt comfortable being myself wherever I went and never feared to express my identity. To meet queer-identified people, it is best to go into pubs and other places in Soho. I would perhaps also explore student organizations, however I was not actually enrolled in a local university. There are fun and open-minded people all throughout Europe which made me feel extremely comfortable and hope to return. -Abel Rivas


Japan

I'm a new member of the community (gender-fluid and I only recently realized) and I still feel more like an ally than an actual member, because I haven't faced any oppression for my gender. Honestly, it's much more of a superpower than a handicap. So, it wasn't on my mind during this trip, and I didn't make any effort to meet others in the LGBTQ community or look for support. However, I do have some information about Japan. It's mostly things I've heard rather than seen, because openly LGBTQ people or attitudes are rare enough to never be seen outside of Tokyo (where I actually have seen plenty of crossdressers and a few gay people), and other peoples' reactions/opinions of them are either nonexistent (as in they don't care) or not expressed in public.

What I've heard, however, is that the community does get some chances to express themselves--some bars have special gay nights, for example. What I've also heard is that Japanese people largely view these alternative genders and sexualities as "just a phase" and let them carry on without thinking about them too much, which is both better and worse than America, depending on which kind of discrimination you're sick of receiving.

The one thing I know firsthand is that you're bound to still make friends, even if you're open and honest about it. The younger generation, especially college students, are a lot more open-minded and kind than the country as a whole, and some of the ones I met here noticed my coming out on Facebook and didn't think any less of me. One of them applauded it. I feel like, thanks to the internet and modern ideologies, the younger generation of the world as a whole is very culturally connected and has the same insanely open-minded attitude throughout. -Jimi Bove