Working in International Relations as part of the LGBTQ+ Community
The world of international relations speaks to people of every background. However, for some people, it can be an intimidating or dangerous field of work. According to Human Rights Campaign, only 29 countries have fully legalized same-sex marriage. Other states criminalize and persecute queerness. With so much uncertainty about their rights in the international realm, queer people may steer away from international relations. In this article, I want to address some common concerns of LGBTQ+ people that their cisgender or straight counterparts may not have to consider, and explain how to be a helpful ally to your LGBTQ+ peers in these situations.
Disclosing Your Identity (“Coming Out”)
LGBTQ+ people must make thoughtful considerations about disclosing their identity. My advice is that if you are in an environment where it is safe to disclose your identity, do so! By coming out, you will increase visibility and awareness. I was confident enough to come out as bisexual in high school because other students had come out first. Later, I found out that my coming out helped another student realize she was queer, and she came out a few years later. Increasing visibility and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community normalizes our identity, and helps other queer people discover or embrace their identity.
Unfortunately, not all communities are safe places for queer people. For LGBTQ+ people working in international relations, moving from country to country can be daunting if you have concerns about your rights. Before you come out, research your rights in your area. Research the policy at your place of employment as well. As of last year, firing someone for being part of the LGBTQ+ community became illegal in the United States. However, if you are working abroad, this may not be the case. Be thoughtful about your decision to come out in professional settings.
Travel Safety and Education Abroad
Before embarking on a trip, make sure you know the rights of LGBTQ+ people in the destination. Make sure you take proper precautions before leaving. Check out the resources at International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, a network that provides free travel resources. There are many resources online that may be helpful as well. If you are a LGBTQ+ student, look into the Rainbow Scholarship, which allows students who are LGBTQ+ to participate in study abroad programs. You should also check out the Fund for Education Abroad, which gives scholarships to underrepresented groups for study abroad. There are many resources and scholarships online for LGBTQ+ people, and I encourage you to apply.
Allyship to the LGBTQ+ Community
A good ally will treat their peers the same no matter what their identity is. If someone comes out to you, show them acceptance. Never tell other people about their identity without their permission. This is called “outing” someone. It can have severe consequences for their personal or professional lives, their trust, or their self-esteem. Even if you think it is okay to tell someone else, always check with your peer first. They will appreciate the gesture.
If you want to be a good ally, you need to refrain from asking personal questions at the wrong time. Sometimes, coworkers and peers feel compelled to ask LGBTQ+ people invasive questions, such as “how do you know you’re gay?” or “have you experienced homophobia?” or even “would you ever try being in a straight relationship?” You are inadvertently asking them to relive experiences that may be traumatic or too personal to share. Build your relationship with that person around your shared experiences instead of their identity, just as you would do with anyone else. Likewise, a good ally does not make assumptions about others. The LGBTQ+ community is vastly diverse. There is a plethora of sexual orientations and gender identities represented, and everyone’s experience is going to be different. The complexities of my experience as a bisexual woman are going to be different than a non-binary person, or a gay man. People of many religions, political orientations, ages, and ethnicities are all represented in the community. Before you make assumptions about what being LGBTQ+ looks like, get to know your LGBTQ+ peers to understand the differences within all of us.
LGBTQ+ Organizations and Resources
If you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, or an ally looking to help the LGBTQ+ community this pride month, there are resources for you at Carpe Global! Here are a few interesting resources:
- GLAAD Global LGBT Rights: GLAAD provides “resources and information on best practices for journalists in the name of LGBTQ rights.”
- OutRight Action International: This organization fights for LGBTQ+ rights all over the world. They advance LGBTQ+ rights through action, defense, research, and more.
- The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association: A worldwide organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.
- GLSEN: A network for education professionals that provides LGBTQ-inclusive classroom resources.
Sarah Hyser is an associate at Carpe Global. She leads the Welcome to Worldly blog and publishes the monthly newsletter. Sarah is a rising senior at the Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy and International Relations. She majors in Diplomacy and minors in Middle Eastern Studies and French. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in Sustainable Development and International Affairs, and work in international development.