France 2006/07 | School program
I came out in the USA before I went abroad to France. This was the early 2000s, right on the threshold of when LGBTQ issues were becoming mainstream, but still somewhat taboo - at least in the States. I was excited to be spending a year in a new place and didn't have any fear about being gay in France. In fact, I started dating a French woman the summer before I left and I was looking forward to spending time with her while I was abroad. I was placed in a host family in the rural center of the country in a beautiful village called Nevoy. All my friends at my new high school knew I was gay and it wasn't a problem. My girlfriend came to visit and I introduced her to my host parents as, “ma copine.” Unfortunately, "copine" means both "girlfriend" and "friend who is a girl," in French and my host parents misunderstood the nature of our relationship. They found out when they saw us kissing and asked me to leave their house. Then it was AFS to the rescue! Even back in 2006 I received unwavering support from my ASF community in the middle of rural France. I was taken in for a couple weeks by volunteers in Bourges and Orleans while AFS searched for a new host family for me. The volunteers took me to the theatre, to historic sites, to festivals, to volunteer activities and helped me with my language skills while I was out of school. Within two weeks they found me a new family who was well aware and accepting of my sexuality. I finished my year with this loving and generous clan and with their support I passed the French baccalaureate and stayed in France for another three years to go to college. I stayed close with my host family ever since. I recently visited and met my youngest host sister's girlfriend and my host brother's boyfriend! Not that I think that I had any influence on my host siblings coming out but I was the first gay kid to pave the way in their house. 🙂 I will always be grateful for the support and care I received from AFS-VSF that year and beyond – I ended up volunteering with AFS in France through college.