Discussing sexually sensitive subject matter with students or employees ensures their awareness of and mitigates associated risks. Different countries present different societal attitudes on issues such as public displays of affection, projection of sexuality in dress and mannerisms, and LGBTQ concerns; traveler safety and health depend on those travelers receiving accurate and timely information about their destination. As a result, travel and risk managers need to be comfortable having a conversation with their travelers that involves human sexuality. These conversations must be handled delicately to avoid violating privacy, causing offense, or being insensitive to private issues. That said, there are compelling global security and health concerns that make this aspect of duty of care imperative for organizations.
Start the Conversation
The reality is that many areas of the world still heavily discriminate against the LGBTQ community and criminalize expressions of sexuality. Travel and risk managers do not necessarily need to know the sexual preferences or sexual identities of their travelers to counsel them about the cultural and societal attitudes present at their destinations. Presenting a comprehensive overview in a matter-of-fact manner can side-step the need to pry into a person’s personal life while also setting up an environment conducive to deeper conversations and questions as necessary.
Understand LGBTQ Health Risks
Healthcare options may be especially limited for transgender individuals, who may need specialty medical care at their destination. These individuals may struggle to find needed medications or obtain a refill should they run out. Anti-hormone transition drugs suppress levels of testosterone to allow estrogens to take prominence but may have adverse effects on the heart. LGBTQ individuals may encounter challenges finding medical care and may be dissuaded from providing a complete medical history in areas that present a high threat for LGBTQ patients.
Most countries restrict the amount of medication travelers can enter with according to the length of the stay. In many instances, a maximum of 90 days of prescription medication may cross borders.
For expatriates, having a doctor’s note on letterhead, with the patient’s full name, medication name, dosage, and reason are required for refills and importation of prescription medication to many countries. The reason (diagnosis) may be especially challenging if traveling to a conservative country with a known low tolerance for the LGBTQ community and may present security challenges.
Surgery of any kind increases the risk of blood clots during flight. LGBTQ patients who have recently undergone surgical procedures should ensure adequate time between surgeries and flights. Some hormone therapies (especially estrogens) also place patients at risk for deep venous thromboses (DVT): blood clots that form in the legs and may become life-threatening if the clot or part of the clot travels to the lungs.
In more socially liberal countries, unconscious bias from healthcare workers may lead to substandard care. LGBTQ individuals need to be prepared to encounter these attitudes and be able to advocate for their care and proper treatment. Risk managers and travelers should research cultural tolerances and potential biases to determine if an advanced arrangement with a “preferred” treatment center is necessary.
Ensuring the safety of your LGBTQ personnel and students starts with a conversation. Transgender travelers require a duty-of-care policy that helps them prepare for the challenges they may face abroad. Ensuring the safety and health of these unique travelers is a corporate responsibility.
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