LGBT rights are making monumental progress for equality across the world. Volunteers are contributing to this success and are making a real difference in areas ranging from informing the public of LGBT-related laws and acts to volunteering at LGBT award ceremonies or marches to supporting the LGBT youth and community.
By volunteering for gay and lesbian rights abroad, volunteers can help through crisis intervention, counseling, and disease prevention.
Read on to discover what opportunities are available for volunteering overseas with LGBT rights and how you can make it happen.
Many LGBT focused foundations and projects allow a multitude of ways for volunteers to get involved with LGBT issues. These issues include: volunteering at award ceremonies and marches, crisis hotline intervention, and multimedia volunteer opportunities. The following is a list of foundations/projects that focus on gay rights issues:
- GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is located in San Francisco, California and New York, New York, allowing for volunteers on both American coasts to get involved. GLAAD works primarily through and with the media in order to ensure change through our current culture. The projects and opportunities provided by GLAAD are suited specifically for each volunteer. GLAAD matches volunteers on specific projects with common goals and skills in order to ensure the utmost achievement.
- The Trevor Project works with the LGBT community to provide suicide prevention and crisis intervention. The Trevor Project has two main offices in Los Angeles, California and New York. The opportunities provided by The Trevor Project are suited specifically to the skill set of the volunteer, allowing for the most successful outcome.
- It Gets Better is an online project geared towards providing videos of hope and inspiration to LGBT youth struggling. The project was initiated “to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.” Volunteers can create videos, adhering to the guidelines established on the website, sharing their own experiences of struggle and providing hope to LGBT youth watching that “it gets better.”
Although AIDS and HIV affects Americans all over the country, the statics have affected gay and bisexual men at a higher rate, over 50% of new cases. The prevention of AIDS and HIV in the LGBT community has been an important fight for decades and still needs all willing volunteers to help prevention. The following is a list of foundations/projects that focus on these issues:
- AIDS Lifecycle: Ride to End AIDS is a project to help both raise money and awareness to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Volunteers have the opportunity to help in either the office in Los Angeles or San Francisco, California on projects and special events.
- San Francisco AIDS Foundation works to end HIV/AIDS in San Francisco, California through three different goals that are found on the website: “reduce new HIV infections in San Francisco by 50%, ensure all San Franciscans know their current HIV status, ensure access to proper care for all HIV-positive San Franciscans.” Volunteers have the opportunity to be involved in ongoing projects and special events via ongoing needs of the foundation.
- GMHC (The Gay Men’s Health Crisis) is an organization dedicated to providing AIDS/HIV prevention in New York. GMHC provides information regarding AIDS/HIV prevention, testing and medical treatment and counseling. Volunteers have the opportunities to either work with clients, the public or with staff; these opportunities allow volunteers to make an impact on communities suffering from HIV and AIDS.
City Specific Organizations
Within every state in America are LGBT centers that have multitudes of volunteer opportunities that provide support the LGBT community. The largest volunteer opportunity most get involved in is with Pride Marches/Parades to celebrate the LGBT community in a positive event. This event usually takes place sometime around June in order to commemorate the Stonewall riots, the beginning of the LGBT movement for equality in the late 1960s.
LGBT Equality in Law
Same-sex marriage is still illegal in more than half of the states in America, proving that equality for the LGBT community is still greatly lacking. The fight for equality is now being taken to courts, both local and supreme. The fight for same-sex marriage is being fought in the regions currently that don’t recognize the right of marriage; these regions total more than 30 US states.
Things to Consider
As with any volunteer experience, it is important to work with reputable companies and to make sure in advance that you have everything you need to travel and live in that country for an extended amount of time. If you are hoping to volunteer for LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, your needs and plans will be substantially different than a volunteership in Paris. For location specific tips, consult our location guides.
You might also want to consider working with a volunteer program provider, like Global Volunteers, who has prior experience working with LGBT volunteers and local LGBT organizations. While on the surface the volunteering itself looks like other programs, this is different.
As Linda Schlapp explains, “the program is the same, but with free time I’ll do things like set up chats with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups or activists, if they exist locally. But an equally important part is for volunteers to be openly out, to be able to say, ‘this is who we are, and we’ve come to help.’”
Schlapp, the director of LGBT Programs and Development, says she “came out to myself” as a lesbian during her first Global Volunteers trip — as a traveler to Vietnam in 1995, before she worked with the organization. “What a great way to show the world how human we are by simply volunteering,” she said. “All activism is critical, and this is a low-key, peaceful way to help break down barriers."
This means that volunteers will be welcomed, cared for, do good, and enjoy their vacations.
- GLAAD works primarily through the medium of media and news to help bring about positive impact and change in the LGBT community.
- Research done by The Trevor Project found that LGBT “adolescents and adults have two to six times higher rates of reported suicide attempts compared to comparable straight people.” In order to curve this rate, The Trevor Project is making great strides to provide hotline support to LGBT people.
- It Gets Better Project provides videos via YouTube in order to communicate to LGBT youth that it gets better. With over 50,000 videos since 2010, the project continues to grow and spread the inspirational message to the LGBT community.
- The San Francisco AIDS Foundation website is dedicated to AIDS/HIV information, counseling, medical attention and volunteer opportunities
- GMHC is an organization dedicated to ending AIDS/HIV through prevention, support, research and medical attention.
While the rights of the LGBT community have advanced substantially in the United States, there are many corners of the world that are not as progressive. There are some places where even publicly discussing these issues can bring down a world of trouble. In others, like Ethiopia for example, it's illegal.
It is, therefore, important to think about your intended destination and do plenty of research. You want to be safe and secure and not take any unnecessary risks.
It is also important to be aware that despite every good intention, consider this from Idealist.org: “if your issue area or cause is politically volatile, you'll need to assess if it (a) would be safe for you to volunteer there and (b) would be appropriate for a foreigner to get involved. For example, if you're interested in advocating for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens in a country with a history of violence towards those of non-heterosexual orientation, is it safe for you to get involved? Would your involvement help cast an international spotlight on the issue area and cause? Or would it distract from and possibly disempower locals?”