Bisexual student 'apprehensive' about travelling in Europe

By Oliver Adams

International restrictions on travel are barriers avid holidaymakers know all too well in 2021 - but outside of the coronavirus pandemic, LGBT+ people have to take extra precautions when making decisions to travel abroad.

Rhiannon Segar, 25, from Southport, says LGBT+ students travelling overseas for further study have 'extremely limited' options and often need to make special considerations about human rights and freedom of expression.

The former language student said she was 'forced' to hide her bisexuality while studying in Russia as part of her degree.

READ MORE: The Chase player's 'secret' past unveiled as fans recognise her

Rhiannon, who spent four months living in Yaroslavl, told the ECHO : "I definitely felt apprehension about exposing myself.

"I made sure never to post on social media anything too obvious that outed me as queer."

She added: "I felt like I always had my guard up."

Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, however in 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed in the 'gay propaganda law' which prohibited the 'promotion' of homosexual relationships to minors. Potential penalties for breaking this law include arrest, detention and fines.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Developmental Office issues specific advice for LGBT+ people travelling to Russia, noting: "There are no laws that exist to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity."

With knowledge of these laws and this advice, Rhiannon felt apprehensive about expressing her bisexuality amongst her Russian peers.

She said: "I've been in a relationship with the same man for many years.

"That was my safety net, I could talk about him.

"But if I was in a relationship with a woman, that wouldn't be an option. I would have to hide it."

The language student insists the actions and views of the government are not a reflection of the entire Russian population.

Rhiannon continued: "I didn't vote Tory so I don't consider the UK government to speak for me.

"It's the same in Russia. A lot of people didn't vote for Putin."

These issues surrounding LGBT+ freedom are not exclusive to Russia.

There are a number of other countries in Europe and beyond that LGBT+ people may feel a level of apprehension about travelling to.

In Poland and Hungary authorities have pushed an anti-LGBT+ rhetoric leaving LGBT+ people anxious about their safety and wellbeing.

Elsewhere Georgia, a country in the Caucasus region spanning Europe and Asia, has been suggested to be one of the most homophobic countries in Europe.

In 2021, a Pride march in the nation's capital Tbilisi was cancelled after violent far-right protestors stormed the offices of LGBT+ activists.

Rhiannon, who is soon travelling to Georgia for further study, maintains a level of anxiousness about travelling to the country.

Rhiannon said: "I do think it is quite a challenging time for the queer communities in these regions."

But she is hopeful that meaningful conversations and education can inspire a new wave of people fighting for LGBT+ rights.

She added: "Queer people exist in Russia. Queer people exist in Georgia. There are communities there and you can find them if you look.

"There is apprehension about going to these places and there is always the aspect of personal safety to consider.

"But it's important to remember that sometimes the government is very different to what the people think."

The Gay European Tourism Association offers the following advice for LGBT+ people wishing to travel in Europe:

"Check the legal position of the countries you are planning to visit using ILGA’s Rainbow Europe guide.

"Remember that legal recognition and social acceptance may not be at the same level, particularly as you move east.

"Be particularly careful in the former Soviet Union states where actions that could be construed as being overtly homosexual (e.g. holding hands, kissing in public, and insisting on double beds in a hotel) may bring you to the attention of the authorities and anti-gay vigilantes.

"Be careful when using social media hook-up sites which may be used for entrapment.

"Cities tend to be more friendly than the countryside so adapt your behaviour accordingly."

Receive newsletters with the latest news, sport and what's on updates from the Liverpool ECHO by signing up here


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.