Deciding to move abroad from the UK will come with a lot of research and planning to choose the right country and location to suit your needs, and this is particularly true for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Different countries will have different attitudes towards homosexual relationships and non-cisgender identity, both legally and socially, so it's particularly important to do your research before deciding you want to move.
Here are 6 key things you should look into if you want to move to a new country:
Know where you can go
Though things are not perfect, it's easy to forget that living in the UK as a queer person is comparatively safe. There are unfortunately still many countries around the world where homosexuality or non-cisgender identity is illegal, and can be punishable by prison sentences or in some places even death.
It's vital when deciding you want to move abroad that you know which countries will be safe for you to live openly and authentically as yourself. Generally speaking, most countries in Western Europe and North America, as well as Australia and New Zealand and parts of South America, are safe for LGBTQ+ people though there are some outliers. This map from Asher & Lyric shows the safest and dangerous countries for LGBTQ+ travellers in 2021.
We recommend also checking out their LGBTQ+ travel safety guide for more detailed information on countries and their safety.
Know the laws
Even if homosexuality or non-cisgender identity is not illegal in a country, it is still essential that you know this is not the only law that allows us to live safely and happily. For example, in the UK hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are illegal, and England, Scotland and Wales (and partially in Northern Ireland) there are laws against discrimination in areas such as work, goods and services and housing.
Unfortunately, in many countries where sexuality and gender identity discrimination are not criminalised, many of these laws and protections have not yet been put in place. Some countries do have a few of these measures in place, while others have little to none. It is important to make sure what legal protection you have as a queer individual in your potential new home, lest you get there and find that, for example, you struggle to find work or a safe place to live.
Know medical practices
As with any individual moving abroad, you need to be aware of the healthcare system in place and how easy it is to access treatment. Do they, for example, have a universal healthcare system in place, or would you need insurance or a special visa to get medical care? In addition to regular medical needs, it's worth knowing what medical care is available specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, this is particularly important if you are transgender. It's vital that you know what kind of medical treatment and/or surgery is available to trans people in the country to give you an idea of whether you can feel safe and supported through your time living there.
Another thing to consider is the access to sexual health care for LGBTQ+ people in the country. HIV prevention and treatment is a particularly big issue and different places have different levels of resources devoted to it. For example, Prep (a drug used to prevent the transmission of HIV) is free on the NHS in the UK but in other countries you may have to pay for it or it may not be available. You know your own lifestyle and what kind of care would make you feel safe, so make sure you look into these things before you move.
Be aware of social attitudes
As you are likely aware, even in places where the law and societal norms protect queer people, certain levels of homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bigotry will still exist. In some places this attitude will be quite prevalent and in others it will be easy to avoid. Some countries have certain places with thriving LGBTQ communities and other areas where there is opposition to the community.
It's therefore useful before you move, to try and do some research in the attitude to your specific community in the country or the specific area you want to move to and not just check local laws. For example while Brazil has most of the legal protection that you’d require to feel safe, there have been recent increases in violence, particularly towards trans people in certain areas. This can be scary, and of course these kinds of attitudes can change over time for better or worse, so don’t let the fear discourage you so much. Just make sure you go somewhere where you can find a community of people who can look out for you and support you.
Starting a family
Moving away is not always a decision for a short period of time, you may be hoping to settle down and think about your future in this new home. If you are hoping to start a family in the future, you should investigate what the available options are for same sex relationships in your chosen destination, namely when it comes to marriage and adoption.
In terms of marriage, there are 3 different levels of relationship that might be recognised by a country. They may recognize and allow same-sex marriages, they may only allow civil unions/partnerships or they may not allow marriages to take place but will recognise a marriage performed outside of the country (so if you got married in the UK and moved you would still legally be married).
Adoption for LGBTQ+ couples will either be allowed in the form of second parent adoption only or both joint and second parent adoption. Second parent adoption (also known as co-parent adoption) means to adopt the biological child of your spouse or partner, whereas joint adoption would mean to adopt a child as a couple. You don’t necessarily have to be married or in a civil partnership, however some places will require you to be for this form of adoption.
Find specific advice
Where there is an open LGBTQ+ community, you will find that each country will have its own organisations, charities or communities in place to offer help and guidance or even just a friendly face. You should look up what groups exist in your chosen destination that can answer any questions or concerns you have about living in the country, or in the area you’re moving to. Try and contact them before you move if you can, or at least find them once you arrive.
Alternatively, if you can’t get a hold of these groups, the internet can be a wonderful resource for reaching out to queer people who already live in the country you want to move to. You could look for online groups or places to ask questions and get to know the community there. But as always remember to use safe channels for talking and don’t give out any personal information until you know people well and trust them.
It can be very daunting looking at these points and planning a move abroad, however your safety and happiness is paramount when planning a future anywhere. Doing your homework and is key to making sure you are confident that a move is the best thing for you.