Bringing Worlds Together: Integrating International and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Programming

All too often on our campuses, the international and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) communities remain all too separate. Finding ways to bring these two worlds together helps accomplishes several goals. It improves international students understanding not only of U.S. attitudes towards GLBT issues, but also to gain a better understanding of how their own preconceptions and notions of sexuality and gender have been shaped by their culture.

At the same time, U.S. GLBT students can benefit from knowing more about how different cultures treat these topics in order to understand that there are a wide number of acceptable ways that gender and sexuality can manifest themselves culturally, socially and politically. The following are some suggestions for campus programming incorporating international and GLBT issues. While not an exhaustive list of options, it is hoped that you will use these ideas as a springboard to creating something within your own institutional context that will help to bring these two worlds closer together.

Many campuses have programming mechanisms in place for international or GLBT events. Suggest to the organizers that they may want to consider trying one of the following:

  • Human Rights Letter Writing Campaign:  provide paper, envelopes, stamps and a cause for students to write about. The Amnesty International lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered network has a website with plenty of resources including background information and sample letters for taking action. For more information visit their website at
  • Host a panel discussion with a combined International and GLBT theme: Invite international students, international faculty, or students and faculty who have lived or spent significant time abroad to discuss a common topic of GLBT interest. Some possibilities are:

                  * Differing cultural attitudes toward sexuality and gender identity
                  * Political changes affecting GLBT people in different countries
                  * International GLBT human rights issues
                  * A discussion of GLBT visibility in different cultures.

  • Incorporate international or GLBT films into exisiting movie nights or film series:  see separate sheet for more information.
  • Invite speakers to campus who can address international and GLBT issues: this can be done from a variety of perspectives, but may include someone talking about socio-political issues for GLBT people in another country, or perhaps an out GLBT person from another culture. Authors and film-makers are often looking for places to discuss their work.


  • Provide international students with an opportunity to talk amongst themselves about GLBT issues. Where are they coming from?  What have they learned here?  Using upper class internationals as a panel to answer questions from first-year students during orientation is a great way to begin this dialogue.
  • Introduce GLBT students and international students to each other: perhaps an informal gathering or activity, such as bowling night or cooking together would help to bring these groups together to meet and get to know each other, ultimately building friendships and breaking down stereotypes.
  • Find a place for a news or opinion bulletin board where news items on global GLBT issues can be posted. Journalist Rex Wockner maintains an archive of his new stories on interenational GLBT issues at


  • Utilize exisiting resources:  work with groups that are already doing programming and try to integrate there first
  • Co-sponsor events: Student affairs offices, residence life, and multicultural affairs all typically have some diversity programming models in place, see if you can help plan an event together.
  • Find out where students interests lie:  talk to students, find out what issues concern them most, and would be most interesting for them to talk about with, or hear about from, others.
  • Engage on both the intellectual and emotional level:  it is easy to over intellectualize these topics. Think of formats which will help bring some impact to the discussion in ways that might actually affect the way students think about issues.
  • Diversify your approach:  don’t rely on just one method to incorporate these topics. Try several different approaches. Find out which ones work best on your campus, but keep trying new things as well.
  • Involve faculty:  often there are faculty on our campuses who are teaching relevant courses, or courses where this material may be of interest. Strike up a conversation with a few of them to see where their own interests might lie, they can be a wealth of useful information, as well as being effective presenters or discussion leaders.

 And above all else . . . .