When we are looking for au pair candidates who might be a good fit with our family, we have criteria (e.g., must drive, can’t smoke, likes dogs) that are non-negotiable.
We have preferences that direct us to candidates with characteristics we think we’d like in an au pair (e.g., is musically talented, family-oriented, German).
And then we have ‘considerations‘, which are things we want to keep in mind as we evaluate prospective au pairs.
FrenchAuPair mentioned one feature of au pairs that might be something host families consider: the au pair’s sexual orientation.
Now, not every host family cares to know about an au pair’s sex life, and not every family wants an au pair who is will be sexually active. But regardless of whether or not an au pair gets involved with a relationship partner (or partners) she or he may likely have some romantic activity over the course of her/his au pair year. This may mean crushes, flirtations, whatever. Romantic activity can happen regardless of an au pair’s sexual orientation. And, even if there is no romantic activity per se, your au pair’s sexual orientation is part of who she or he is.
Your au pair’s romantic activity may be completely off your host parent radar. And, you may want it to stay that way.
However, there are at least two reasons why you may want to be aware of your au pair’s sexual orientation.
First, you may have some concerns about your au pair’s orientation and how to ‘fit this in’ with your family. Whether or not you are a ‘gay/bi-/queer positive’ person, you may feel more or less comfortable establishing a family-member-like relationship with a person whose orientation is different from your own and/or new to you.
Just because you’re ‘positive’ doesn’t mean you are ‘comfy’. And that’s completely normal.
Part of learning to embrace diversity and difference is learning how to develop close relationships with people whose life experiences and self-definitions are different from yours. And, this learning happens in layers… you start with one level of comfort, feel awkward, deal with it, grow closer, and then move to another level. Being ‘positive’ in theory is great; being ‘positive’ in close, daily interaction can be more challenging.
A second reason you may want to be aware of your au pair’s sexual orientation is that (1) in order to really know a person, and (2) in order to let another person grow, you need to acknowledge and be able to affirm the parts of them that they value.
You can’t have a good relationship with an au pair who is in the closet in your family but who really wants to be out. You can’t have a good relationship with a person who is experimenting with who he or she is while being judgmental of their experimenting. And, you can’t provide a healthy environment for your au pair and your family when you are unwilling to see them for who they are. This is true with regard to sexual orientation, ethnicity, spirituality, personality, and everything in between.
I am in a relationship, with a girl. My current host family doesn’t know. I am not hiding that relationship but they don’t ask about my personal life and I don’t talk about it either. I don’t plan on lying to my next family when I extend. If they ask me “Do you have a boyfriend?”, I will say “No, but I have a girlfriend.” I wonder if a lot of host families would have a problem with that.
I know some people don’t accept homosexuality. I just wonder to what extent? Would your reaction be a big No-no if a candidate was in a relationship with someone the same sex?
Great question. I have wondered about all the ‘boyfriend’ discussions on this site, which presume that au pairs are all straight. And, moreover, do not acknowledge that as a young adult the au pair might be questioning her/his sexuality.
Not sure in your shoes whether I would say, “No, I don’t have a boyfriend,” or “No, but I have a girlfriend.” The former is to-the-letter honest but a little dodgy. If I chose the latter, I would put it in context, “Since you ask about a boyfriend, I wanted to let you know that my partner is a woman. Would that be a problem for your family? I am looking for a family that would be accepting and would not have a problem with this.”
This could pose problems for some matches, I imagine. But surely there are some families out there that would be fine with it?
Related note: I think an openly gay male au pair would face a lot of challenges getting selected, but I’m not sure whether it would even be harder for an openly lesbian woman!
Another: I have told prospective au pairs that we have gay friends, gay families are a regularity here, and ask if they are uncomfortable with that. I do this both to let them know what life here is like and to signal a gay-friendly attitude.
Similarly, TakingAComputerLunch added:
I would not have a problem with an au pair who is either gay or lesbian. I’ve had au pairs who have had lesbian relationships – I just wanted them to be happy and in a good relationship. (We’ve never had male candidates – as much as it might be easier for The Camel to be cared for by a strong man, either our agency doesn’t have many or most do not have experience with special needs children.)
On the other hand, I would advise you to tread lightly about how much of yourself you reveal to a potentional HF. When The Camel had nurses instead of au pairs (we were living in 3 bedrooms while the rest of the house was gutted), one reacted very strongly to the daughter of our next door neighbors – she didn’t understand how she could have two mommies and was rather vile when she realized what it meant. If it is very important to you that your host family be aware, then ask a leading question about tolerance. Of course, if you really want to be sure that you are completely accepted, then do come out to them.
Just as we may want au pairs to be comfortable with our own sexual orientation and be comfortable with the diversity across our own families, friends and communities, we want to make sure we can make them comfortable too.
Thoughts on this? How would you respond to FrenchAuPair’s question?
Image: Friendly Warmth from Alex Pete Patellis