Staff at AFS Canada, Norway 2013/14 | School Program
My name is Gabriel, I am 25 years old and a staff at AFS Canada. I came out of the closet as gay when I was only 13 years old. Many people think it is very young, but I was lucky enough to have a very supportive family and friends.
In 2013-14, I went abroad with AFS to Norway for a one-year high school program. Having lived out of the closet for a good 5 years already, I was quite worried that I would have to go “back in the closet” and do a second coming out to my host family and Norwegian friends. I had heard that Norway was a pretty open and liberal country, but I did not exactly know what the reality was in my small host community. When I first arrived in Norway, I decided to open up to some of my local volunteers. They were very accepting and they helped me have a better understanding of how I should approach this topic with my host family.
A couple of months into my exchange, I finally came out to my Norwegians friends and classmates. Their reaction was very positive and it actually helped me get closer to them. At that point, I hadn’t told my host family as I was still a bit worried. However, one day, when I got back from school, my host mom (who is a teacher) came to me asking about some things she had heard at school, about the fact that I had came out to my schoolmates. I felt very shocked by how fast the news had travelled and I confirmed the things she had heard were true. We had a very nice discussion where she asked me many questions about my story, when I first came out, how my family back home had taken the news, etc. I then talked about this with my host siblings and host father and everyone was very open and welcoming towards my sexuality. I had worried too much for absolutely nothing.
We still are in touch today and I recently got into a relationship and my host family is very excited to meet my boyfriend next time I am in Norway! Today, I work for AFS and it is important for me to let our participants know that they can feel as safe with me as I felt with my local AFS volunteers and host family. I want them to feel that our organisation is a safe space.