Travelling abroad for work is a rewarding opportunity that can come with challenges for any student or staff member. For those identifying as LGBTQ+, such travel can be associated with further complications. Legal restrictions and societal norms of some countries ( may make LGBTQ+ staff feel anxious, unwelcome or unsafe. Being your true self in certain environments can directly impact your safety. On the other hand, presenting an edited version of yourself may negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. Because there is no one correct way to navigate such situations, we have collected resources, advice and stories from travelling LGBTQ+ staff members and students. While this page should not be considered an exhaustive list or a definitive travel manual, we hope it helps reduce anxiety around travelling, improves the overall experience of going abroad, and fosters conversations including those between supervisors and subordinates and co-travellers.

WHat can we do

What the university could/should do

What supervisors or senior staff can do

  • Be aware of the different LGBTQ+ laws and attitudes in countries where you conduct fieldwork and / or have collaboration.
  • Don’t rule out LGBTQ+ individuals from fieldwork, support individuals to make their own decision.
  • Be aware of the additional mental burden LGBTQ+ students / staff might be facing in the field.
  • Get educated on reporting mechanisms if things do go wrong in the field, so you can support students / staff.
  • Be aware of potential challenges for transgender and non-binary staff and students, including official documentation (i.e., where a trans person’s gender expression does not match the gender marker on their identification documents), access to medicines and access to public bathrooms

What other researchers can do to be an ally in the field

  • Be aware individuals may choose to selectively come out / be careful not to out colleagues in the field.
  • If you feel safe to, be vocal in your support of LGBTQ+ rights or state your discomfort in the language being used, if confronted with individuals using homophobic / transphobic language, and be aware that LGBTQ+ individuals themselves may not feel comfortable in doing this.
  • Be aware of the additional mental burden LGBTQ+ colleagues might be facing in the field.
  • How to be an ally and considerate traveller with a colleague

What can the individual do?

  • Prioritise your safety and mental wellbeing.
  • Know that it’s okay not to come out when in the field – this will be location dependent.
  • Be aware that remaining in the closet may be mentally challenging and engage with support networks e.g., family, friends, staff, LGBTQ+ travel group.
  • Know that it’s okay to not be a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights whilst in the field.
  • Seek out local LGBTQ colleagues / networks. 

Find out about queer identities around the world

  • Queer communities may be less visible in some countries but they are present in every corner of the globe, so don’t feel alone, wherever you may be travelling.
  • Find out about the inspiring activism of LGBTQIA+ groups in countries where same-sex relations and some forms of gender expression are still criminalised: for example Nigeria and Kenya
  • Find out about how queer identities have been recognised and often celebrated in different cultures, sometimes for hundreds of years e.g. Two-spirit, A map of gender-diverse cultures


What should I do before I travel?

All staff and students travelling on behalf of Imperial College London must comply with the processes and procedures as outlined on the College’s Staff Travel and Expenses webpages.

We recommend you discuss your trip with your PI, Line Manager or Academic Supervisor, who should be able to assist in preparing a safe travel plan. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing aspects of your personal identity with your manager, you can confidentially contact Imperial600, your HR partner or the EDI team ( before you begin travel planning. 

  • Research the location you’re travelling to: It is useful to understand the cultural, legal and security issues that may affect you as an LGBTQ+ individual in the locations you are visiting. You do not necessarily have to avoid a location, but it’s useful to be aware of the challenges you may face and plan how you might respond to these. 
    • Stonewall’s Global Workplace Briefings shine a spotlight on the situation for LGBT people in different countries
    • GOV.UK offers travel advice specifically for LGBTQ+ people travelling abroad. Click here for country or territory specific advice.
    • Equaldex is a crowd-sourced knowledge base of LGBTQ+ rights by country and region.  
    • Trans Legal Mapping Report: provides a resource covering laws and legal procedures relating to trans people and gender recognition.
  • Establish a safe contact: Whilst travelling, it’s good practice to establish a safe contact in the UK (this could be your manager, or someone else) and arrange regular phone calls to check-in. If possible, you should also establish a safe contact in your destination country. You should also know how to seek support from the Consulate/Embassy or High Commission, related to your citizenship, in case you encounter any difficulties. It is advisable to keep emergency numbers, including embassy numbers, close at hand and in different places. 
  • Social Media: Before travel, you might want to consider increasing the privacy settings on your social media accounts, creating a “professional” and “personal” social media account, and/or prepare how you might respond to questions about your social media presence. 

  • Passports and trans travellers: Trans and non-binary travellers sometimes face difficulties or delays at border controls overseas if they present as a different gender to what is stated in their passport. This may occur even when your gender expression is consistent with the sex field in your passport. You should check with your passport provider (typically the Foreign Office or National Embassy) if there is an option to have a passport with a gender marker of your affirmed gender. Some countries recognise non-binary identities, or third gender markers on their passports. 
  • Medication: If you require medical supplies such as medications and hormones, then you may wish to speak to your doctor to ensure you have enough for the duration of your trip. You should plan to take more than necessary just in case of cancelled travel or extensions to the trip. Your doctor should be able to advise on how to travel with these items, but it’s generally advised that you keep medication in their original packaging with proof that they were prescribed to you.

What if I don’t want to travel/don’t feel safe enough to travel?

If you decide that you’d rather not travel because of concerns about local laws or attitudes towards your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, then the College will support you to explore other options to conduct the work from the UK. PI’s, managers or supervisors are encouraged to explore all possible options with you. 

Should I come out abroad?

If, how, and when you choose to come out abroad is a personal decision and you can read more about others’ experiences both positive and negative in the links below. A strong understanding of the legal and cultural landscape is helpful when making this decision, as is having a support network, as reactions may be negative and could put you at risk. Many international cities have active LGBTQ+ communities, but you may have to research organisations. Depending on local laws, some communities are more visible than others. Over time as you grow more familiar with your surroundings, you may become more comfortable navigating attitudes around LGBTQ+ identities. You may even find a local network of LGBTQ+ people who can offer support. 

The College will work to support you if you do come out abroad and experience negative repercussions. If appropriate, this could include providing legal advice or arranging emergency travel out of the area/country. For further information, please consult the College’s Offsite Working Emergency Response Plan.