Welcome. While this page was initially created for international queer students �" students of global backgrounds who identify as LGBT, everyone is more than welcome to utilize the information mentioned below! Feel free to read the entire page or skim through the sections that interest you only. Whatever you do, know that there is a space for you here at Penn. Connect in and make sure you create that home for you, a place where you belong, and whether it is at the Center or not doesn't matter.
If you have any suggestions on how to make this page better, please contact (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Language is ever-changing and dynamic. Thus, certain definitions might vary based on different circumstances, such as but not limited to time, place, culture, and society, in this case the United States. More specifically, some of these words do not have proper translations into several different languages. For example, the term "gay" in Arabic translates to "faggot." Keeping all of this in mind, please see the words offered here as working definitions, and continue learning.
Ask people what terminology/pronouns they prefer when you are referring to them or talking with them. Be sensitive about which words to use or not to use based on individual preferences. Do not be surprised if someone asks to be referred to as they/them/theirs or ze/hir/hirs. These personal pronouns are used by some people who are not comfortable with gender-specific pronouns. Because some languages, such as the romance languages, are much more gendered than English, and the extent of recognition of transgender issues differs across cultures and countries, you might not find equivalent pronouns in your native language. However, analogous examples in other languages include the use of the letter "x" or "@" in Spanish to neutralize gendered nouns (i.e. amig@s/amigxs instead of amigas or amigos).
As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, domestic US law applies to international students (foreign nationals). Alas, it is important to know your rights in Philadelphia specifically, in Pennsylvania and the United States more generally. Keep in mind that there are differences in stances on LGBT issues in each of these legal circles.
Read about the types of discrimination that are illegal in Philadelphia here.
Read about Philadelphia's prohibitions against unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, among other bases, here.
Read about Life Partnership in Philadelphia here.
Read about the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs here.
In the United States of America
If you're going back home, check out the links below to know what your country's stance is on LGBT issues. It also helps to find organizations involved in LGBT support and/or advocacy.
Click here to check out Country Specific Information compiled by the US State Department.
Click here for information by country compiled by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
We understand that all international students come from different backgrounds and have different stories, and we are unique. This is why we have this section - for topics that might pertain to any international queer student.
Coming Out and Being Out
Coming out is a process as unique as the individual; no two people come out the same way. If you have already come out before coming to Penn, or are coming out at Penn, do what feels most comfortable for you, what suits you and your needs.
A lot of international students find themselves coming out in the US but not back home. If you are not out back home, there are ways you can protect your identity in the US such as adjusting your social media privacy settings. One tip from people who have been in your shoes is to, change your Facebook settings so you have to approve everything that goes on your timeline. In addition to that, let your friends at Penn know that you are not out back home. Two hard parts are having to go back home for academic year breaks, and managing this "dual" identity. Find someone you trust back home to talk to about what you're going through and create your support group here at Penn. Check out our Resources section to learn about places where you can do that!
How to Tell if Someone is LGBTQ Friendly i.e. an "Ally"
The term ally refers to anyone who is LGBTQ accepting and works to combat heterosexism and homophobia. Identifying an ally is not an exact science, but there are some hints that people might share, whether consciously or unconsciously. Here are some ways to tell if someone is LGBTQ friendly:
- Having a rainbow flag or other pride sticker at their desk, work place, home, etc.,
- Having a Penn LGBT Center pin on their person or their belongings,
- Talking comfortably about LGBTQ issues,
- Using inclusive language, e.g. person would ask if you're dating someone instead of if you're dating a guy/girl,
- Being inclusive in pronoun use, and
- Mentioning which pronouns they use when introducing themselves.
Additionally, at least within "official spaces" at Penn (like class, extracurricular meetings, etc.), you should never tolerate any sort of disrespect, discomfort, or harassment, because of your gender identity, sexual orientation and/or gender expression. If anything of the sort happens, contact the LGBT Center or a trusted university resource that can help you respond to the situation appropriately. This being said, the University of Pennsylvania is an open-minded school, where the LGBTQ community is strong and well-supported, so you are in good hands!
Being an Ally
An ally is someone who is supportive and accepting of LGBTQ people or even someone who fights for equal rights and fair treatment. Like the process of coming out, there are different ways to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. Most importantly, remember to be a good listener and keep an open mind and heart, as no two queer people are the same - the same way any two people are not the same. That being said, there are a lot of resources on becoming an ally. Here are some to get you started:
- The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has a collection of resources for allies here.
- Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has a guide on how to become an ally here.
Tolerance vs Acceptance - A Global Scale
Cultures and mindsets around the world differ not only by nation but also within nations. In some countries, it is illegal to participate in "queer relations." Being queer is also considered to defy religion by some. Hence, there exists a rejection of queer people in some countries. In such countries, there are often a lot of stereotypes about being queer such as that all gay men want to become women. In other countries, there is a level of tolerance. In Mexico, for example, homosexuality is not accepted, but in Mexico City, the capital, same-sex marriage is legal. In some Southeast Asian countries, being transgender is commonplace and tolerated. Then again, there are countries that are generally more accepting of queer people, such as Finland and Iceland. As potential indicators, queer people are protected by the law in terms of healthcare, job protection, and non-discrimination, and society embraces everyone in these countries. Overall, moving from rejection to tolerance to acceptance is a slow process, but it is happening at various speeds around the world. To check out more country specific information, see Your Rights Abroad.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Welcome to CAPS! We offer free, confidential professional mental health services to Penn undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Our goal is to help students adjust to University life and support them in connecting to Penn's academic and social environment. Our culturally-affirming staff works with students across many issues, including, but not limited to: exploring sexuality and gender identity, making cross-cultural transitions, coping with academic stress and relationship difficulties, and managing anxiety and depression. At CAPS, students can learn to address personal problems and situational crises effectively, develop self-awareness, personal responsibility, and skills for life-long learning.
1. What should I do if I'm questioning my sexuality?
There is no specific time when people question their sexuality. Each person's journey is uniquely different. If you are indeed questioning your sexuality, take advantage of the available resources at Penn (check our Resources section). Specifically, you can sign up for a mentor with the Center, speak to or e-mail the Center staff, or go to CAPS. If you don't want to talk about it just yet, there is plenty of literature out there about sexuality - feel free to even read the books at the LGBT Center. There are also plenty of resources available online, including A Resource Guide to Coming Out by the Human Rights Campaign.
2. What should I do if I'm questioning my gender identity?
In the same way that people are unique, their individual journeys are very different too. There doesn't exist a designated time for people to question their gender identity. If you find yourself questioning your gender identity, learn about the resources available to you at Penn by checking our Resources section. There are plenty of books at the LGBT Center to read. Once you are ready to talk, the staff of the LGBT Center and CAPS are here to listen and help. You can also sign up for a mentor. Keep in mind that the concept of gender identity varies across the world - read about the idea of gender in the US by checking the Terminology section. In addition, there are a lot of online resources you can check out, such as the Transgender Visibility Guide and A Resource Guide to Coming Out, both by the Human Rights Campaign.
3. How can I be involved in the LGBT Center?
The LGBT Center is open for students throughout the year. Whether you're looking for a place to hang out, eat your lunch, print, study, or have a meeting, the space is there for you! The best part of it all, there are no questions asked - you can be yourself all the time, whether with the staff or the other students there. It is a place where everyone belongs, where you belong. The Center is always open to suggestions and feedback to serve the community better, so if you have any at all, definitely share it with the staff either by email or in person. Make sure you sign up for the LGBT Center's newsletter if you want to receive information about upcoming events. One of the many ways you can be involved in the Center also includes volunteering to be a mentor: check out the Resources section for more information.
4. What is the Association of Queer International Students (AQIS)?
AQIS (Association of Queer International Students) is Penn's only student group catered for the needs of queer students from global backgrounds. This page is one of AQIS's first projects. We provide mentorship, plan social events, and promote discussion about international queer issues. The acronym AQIS, phonetically pronounced a-ki, means here in Spanish and to whom in French. The pronunciation is also closely related to the term my brother in Arabic and strange in Mandarin. Email aqis.upenn(a)gmail.com if you want to get involved or check out our Facebook page.
5. How can I be involved in international groups?
This answer is specifically catered to undergraduate students. If you are a graduate student, please check out the website for the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly for more pertinent information.
The largest and most encompassing group for students with a global background is the Assembly of International Students. There are also country and region specific groups on campus, some of which cater toward international students or have a mix of international and domestic students. Please find below a list of some of these groups - it is definitely not exhaustive but it's a good place to start:
- CASA - Caribbean American Student Association
- Club Singapore
- CSA - Chinese Student Association
- HKSA - Hong Kong Student Association
- KAP - Koreans at Penn
- Mex@Penn (Mexico)
- PASA - Penn African Student Association
- PASS - Penn Arab Student Society
- Penn Brazil Club
- Penn Thai (Thailand)
- PPA - Penn Philippine Association
- The Lebanese Club at Penn
6. How can I be involved in LGBTQ groups?
All of the undergraduate, graduate, and alumni LGBTQ groups are listed on the LGBT Center's website here, and everybody is welcome to all of them. Make sure to check them out!
7. Is the LGBT Center only for domestic students?
The LGBT Center is here for Penn students regardless of where you're from! Come in, say hi, and get to know the staff and people there.
8. Is the LGBT Center only for undergraduate students?
The Center is definitely not solely geared toward undergraduate students. There is an array of graduate student groups and programming available too. Visit the LGBT Center's website to learn more. If you are a graduate student and have advice to make this webpage even more understanding of the graduate student experience, please email (karamm(a)sas.upenn.edu).
9. Do I have to be involved in the Center or its groups to benefit from the resources?
It's important to realize that you don't have to be involved with the Center to be involved in the LGBT groups or the other way around, but you could always be involved in both if you want too! The Center is a resource for you irrespective of your campus involvements. Everyone belongs here, no questions asked. That is to say, you belong! Whatever you do, make sure you create a home for yourself at Penn, whether at the Center or not, a home where you are comfortable being yourself.
- For resources specific to transgender students at Penn, please click here.
- Learn more about our Mentor Program by clicking on this link. International students areespecially encouraged to join!
- LGBTQ Student Groups
- Albert M. Greenfield Intercultural Center
- Makuu: The Black Cultural Center
- Pan-Asian American Community House
- Penn Women's Center
- The Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina
Association of Queer International Students
- Facebook page
- Email: (aqis.upenn(a)gmail.com)
Assembly of International Students
- Erin Cross, LGBT Center, at (ecross(a)upenn.edu)
- Kate Miller-Syoum, ISSS, at (millek(a)upenn.edu)