For many organizations, much attention is allocated to risks such as crime, political instability, natural disasters, and health risks in preparation for travel. There is no question these are important areas to look at when assessing travel risk. However, there is also a need for awareness regarding travel safety and security for LGBTQ+ travelers and the unique challenges they may face abroad. In this piece, On Call’s Global Security Team details special considerations regarding LGBTQ+ travel safety and share resources to support and assist your LGBTQ+ travelers before and during their trips abroad.
Experiences for LGBTQ+ travelers can vary globally, so it’s important to encourage travelers to gather information about their destinations prior to travel including specific cultural, legal, and security issues. Travelers do not necessarily have to avoid certain locations, but they should nonetheless be aware of local laws and cultural attitudes that could affect the LGBTQ+ community in their destinations of interest.
Trip Planning Resources
The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) is a trusted LGBTQ+ professional association, representing travel and hospitality providers on six continents. The folks at IGLTA provide free travel resources and information while continuously working to promote equality and safety within LGBTQ+ tourism worldwide. IGLTA’s members include LGBTQ+ friendly accommodations, transport, destinations, service providers, travel advisors, tour operators, events, and travel media in over 75 countries around the world.
In many countries, identifying as LGBTQ+ is considered illegal. In certain destinations, individuals can be barred from entering a country or face arrest if they are suspected of engaging in or promoting certain behaviors. For example, members of the LGBTQ+ community have been detained for waving the LGBTQ+ pride flag at events, and others have been entrapped by local law enforcement and even blackmailed for using LGBTQ+ dating apps. For some countries, specifically identifying as LGBTQ+ is not illegal by law, but individuals could still be prosecuted under indecency charges. Due to threat of legal action, some hotels may even require LGBTQ+ couples to book a room with two beds rather than one.
While conducting research on a destination’s legal stance toward the LGBTQ+ community is important, travelers should also be aware that local laws and societal attitudes are not the same. Although identifying as LGBTQ+ may be legal in a specific country, it could still be frowned upon. Displays of affection considered innocent in some locations, like touching or holding hands, may be against cultural or religious practices (even for heterosexual couples) in other countries.
Transgender travelers are confronted with additional considerations. Some countries may refuse entry to individuals whose documented gender does not reflect their appearance. Prior to travel, all documents should be up to date with the traveler’s gender and name. If two documents vary in information there may be increased difficulties and stops at security points. If a passport shows an “X” in the sex field, especially when crossing international borders, it may insight difficulties.
If a traveler is carrying medication that may correlate with reassignment therapy, it is advised to discuss alternative explanations for the medication with a doctor prior to travel. The medication may be questioned while abroad.
As a general rule for all travelers, staying aware of surroundings, being mindful of accepted dress codes, and remaining discreet is the safest option when traveling to any new location. Furthermore, travelers should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using the Internet and Social Media Platforms to help keep their personal information safe and secure. As a precaution, travelers should also be careful of any information uploaded to social media and always use discretion if disclosing personal information.
Risk professionals across all sectors should create pathways that empower travelers to come forward with concerns regarding LGBTQ+ travel safety while allowing them to maintain confidentiality. Establishing such channels can encourage LGBTQ+ individuals to ask questions and address concerns before travel. Furthermore, organizations should establish a travel risk management partner who is available to assist LGBTQ+ travelers should they feel unsafe abroad.
Want to Learn More?
On Call’s Global Security Team can provide your travelers with explanations of societal norms, laws, and restrictions towards members of the LGBTQ+ community for any destination in the world–we also offer pre-travel consults and individual briefings where travelers can ask questions and receive in-depth advice tailored to their specific trips and situations. For more information, contact us today.
For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.