LGBT Au Pairs: Have Host Parents’ thoughts changed on whether sexual orientation matters?

by cv harquail on October 5, 2014

Given the pace of changes in the US around issues of marriage equality and the recognition of trans* people, an au pair writes to ask whether Host Parents views have changed:rainbow

I found one post about the topic from 2010. I am curious if something has changed for HF’s?

I am gay but none knows about it. None back home in my country neither here in the USA. I care for two precious girls and I really feel like a part of a family but at the same time I have a feeling of betraying them.

My HF seems open and tolerant but I don’t really know what are their feelings about gay au pairs taking care of their kids. They keep asking me about boyfriends and stuff so I answer honestly, no I do not have one- but it is not telling the full truth either!

I come from a place where you can be easily put in danger when it comes to revealing your sexual identity.  Here in the USA, I don’t want to end up in rematch. I am afraid of peoples beliefs, either religious ones or just assumptions that every gay person is pedophile. I have lived with this secret 23 years, so I guess I could say nothing for six more months, but it keeps bothering me. ~QuestioningAuPair

Have things changed?

Back in 2010 when we discussed Choosing an Au Pair: Sexual Orientation as a consideration, four things became clear:

1. Host Parents were less concerned than the original poster feared.

2. Many host families were happy to welcome an au pair who was not heterosexual.
And, many families imagined they’d have similar expectations of au pairs whether the au pairs were in same sex or opposite sex relationships, or both.

3. Host Parents felt comfortable with their personal choices, 
whether that meant that sexual orientation did matter or didn’t matter to them. “The beauty of the program is that you match with an au pair that fits with your family.”

4. Host Parents and Au Pairs welcomed more inclusive language in our conversations on the blog.

 

That was all great to learn… but the question “Have things changed?” is still open.

So I’m wondering…. if you think back to where you were either in 2010 (if you were a host parent then) or when you got your first au pair (more recently):

How have your views changed about au pairs, sexual orientation, and what your family looks for?

See also:  Choosing an Au Pair: Sexual Orientation as a consideration

{ 85 comments }

HRHM October 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Nothing has changed for me. I always didn’t care what my AP’s orientation was and still don’t. I DO care, however, that my AP is honest with me and doesn’t make a full on attempt to conceal her true identity and self from me.

I am certain I want to know nothing more about what she does in bed and with whom, than she wants to know about me! EEK. Having said that, I would be sad and disappointed to find that I missed the chance to know my AP as a real person in toto, including getting to know and like her significant other, because she felt the need to hide from our family. FWIW, this has happened with a straight AP and I was no less sad, confused or upset.

NJmama October 5, 2014 at 9:27 pm

This is difficult. And I say that bc even in families who are very open about these things it can be difficult for some kids to come out. For my family it wouldn’t at all matter what our AP’s sexual orientation was. But if this person comes from a place where she/he has had to keep it a secret then how can we expect her to be so open with us? if this is a person who had a hard time coming out to his/her own family, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be with a family that you’re living with for just a year.

I guess what me advice would be to this au pair is, is there a way you could work a discussion in? It would be easy if a family had gay friends – then you could draw them out in a conversation. but what if they don’t? Also, is there a reason you feel hesitant? Is there something about their politics or beliefs that would make you think they wouldn’t accept you? Or do you just assume / worry they would not accept you? If you have never heard them make disparaging remarks, then the family would probably be embarrassed about the assumptions they were making but accept you for who you are.

Perhaps you would feel more comfortable talking with you LC about it?

~QuestioningAuPair October 5, 2014 at 10:45 pm

The fact that they are so open is actually encouraging. I think that is what made me think about coming out in the first place. I feel ashamed though and the truth is I have never told that to anyone so the thought of people knowing is frightening. I am afraid of kids questions etc. Because it would probably become a topic in the house. I am so used to avoiding the topic, changing the subject or shouting out no when someone ask do you have a boyfriend that it would be now very difficult to change this habit. And I should probably start saying the truth to everybody after coming out.

I might gone too far with lies also. I mentioned that I am trying to be as honest as I can but in a perspective all the stories about boys I met (because I tried dating guys just to test it or be normal) will seem one big fat lie.

I definitely feel more comfortable with my HM rather then my LC and I had few chances to tell her as we spoke about diffrent topics including being homo/bi/trans in my country or meeting mr right or having babies of my own in the future. I did not use the oportunity. I regret but it was too hard at the time. Now it seems even harder because they would be disapointed with lies.

WarmStateMomma October 6, 2014 at 2:12 am

Our APs come from a culture that isn’t very tolerant. HD and I would be very, very surprised if an AP came out to us or even admitted it to herself. We wouldn’t be hurt if she didn’t come out to us, just because we realize how difficult it would be for someone from her culture to do. It would be a shame if she didn’t come out to us because she’d miss the opportunity to live in a supportive environment before returning to her country.

I think this conversation would work out better if it’s just between the AP and the HPs – with no kids around. Depending on the ages of the kids, it could open a dialogue that the parents don’t feel the kids are ready for yet. As a mom, that would upset me even though I wouldn’t care if my AP was gay.

WestMom October 6, 2014 at 9:54 am

I don’t think much has changed. Families that were open 4 years ago probably still are, and families that don’t agree with the lifestyle still don’t. We did welcome a gay AP in 2011. I appreciated that she came out to us literally in her first email response, because she did not want to keep her orientation a secret.

If anything, I think there was a bit of a double standard with us… While we don’t generally pursue candidates with boyfriends, we did make an exception for her because she seemed very mature about her relationship w/ her girlfriend. And with 3 teenage daughters, we only consider female APs, but if I could find a great gay bropair I would certainly be open to the possibility. Unfortunately, that’s not a question in the AP profile…

DarthaStewart October 6, 2014 at 10:03 am

It doesn’t matter to me, really, and never has. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with how “good” of a person someone is, or so many other things. I’m also on the more liberal end of the spectrum, and I also have had male au-pairs. I wouldn’t get another male au-pair, simply because we’ve had two who didn’t work out, and lots of females who did.
But, I don’t really care about sexual orientation, or transgender issues, etc.

That said- I’m perfectly happy to live with it, celebrate it, tolerate it, etc, but I don’t consider it a political agenda, and I’m not going to sit around chatting with you while you angst over it either.

Should be working October 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Gay/lesbian doesn’t matter to us, although frankly we would probably not choose an AP who was transgender or extremely obviously queer. Getting someone settled in a new place, and where the first circle of friends is likely other, mostly hetero-typical APs, I just would not want to feel responsible for finding the social world to make it work for such an AP.

Also with a VERY hetero-typical teen girl as one of the HKs I would want to know that a gay AP would be accepting and even go along with some of the girly-girl obsessions of my daughter. Probably that means that a very butch lesbian wouldn’t be a good fit for us. Ultimately I guess this means that my own sense of my limits of how much I’m willing to work with obstacles to fit–my daughter’s resistance (increasing with every AP anyway) and the social-settling-in issues–makes us less likely to go with non-hetero-typical APs although not out of any principle except minimizing risks of failure of the match.

Host Mom X October 7, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I wanted to respond to your comments (and some others I see below) in the name of promoting tolerance and neutralizing stereotypes. Having been a follower and participant on this blog for several years now, I get the sense that none of the “regulars” are in same-sex relationships, but that most of the regulars consider themselves tolerant people. I myself am in a long-term heterosexual relationship, though I consider myself bi-sexual and I also dated women before settling down with HD. Not that this necessarily makes my perspective any more or less valid, but just putting the background out there.

I would ask that you re-evaluate your stated reasons for not choosing an AP who was “transgender or extremely obviously queer” after considering the following:
(1) while it is true that the majority of APs are “hetero-typical,” and I agree 100% that a large part of a happy AP-host family relationship stems from the AP having a group of friends and an active, happy social life, a queer AP would not have a problem in this age of Facebook and social networking in finding a community of friends (if the AP were so inclined; APs gay and straight can have problems establishing a social life, and this definitely puts a strain on the host parents). I would also not assume that an “extremely obviously queer” AP would not be able to make friends with a “hetero-typical” bunch of APs. We hosted a gay AP (who is probably in the “obviously queer” category!), and she definitely was not into the “hetero-typical” club-going, boy-chasing activities of the majority of our local cluster. But she quickly found a social group – both with other APs (even “hetero-typical” ones! – though not the club-going ones), and in the young queer community in our city generally. She had a social life to her satisfaction – with friends, dating etc. We had zero involvement in helping her “make it work” in the social world. There are plenty of straight APs who also don’t “click” with the typical AP “type” that you find in most clusters, and while some of them don’t have a great year and aren’t able to establish other social outlets, plenty of them find a social life that suits them.
(2) as to “accepting” or “go[ing] along with” the “girly-girl obsessions” of hetero-typical host kids: My kids are younger, but given that – they are obsessed with princesses, make-up, doing their nails, etc.: really girl-girl stuff. Our gay AP, who you would probably describe as butch, was happy to indulge them (just as HD, who is a man and had very little exposure to princesses, makeup, nails, etc. before having a bunch of little girls, is happy to indulge them). I am sure it was not your intent, but I would like to emphasize that it is unfair to assume that someone who you’d describe as “butch” based on her appearance would not be willing to care for and relate to your daughter according to her interests and needs. If someone is a good caregiver, then he or she should be able to respond to the children’s needs and interests, period. Having nothing to do with their sexual orientation or the way he or she presents him or herself to the world in terms of style and appearance. And I might even go so far as to say that as your daughter becomes a “typical” teenage girl (that is, resisting everything, certainly babysitters, since she is trying to become independent and establish her own identity), perhaps hosting an AP who can broaden her worldview (if her worldview does not yet include people with a non-straight sexual orientation) could be beneficial.

In response to the posters who mentioned that they’d be okay with a gay AP, so long as the AP didn’t reveal her sexual orientation to the host kids: I would urge you NOT to host a gay AP if that is your attitude. I do not want my APs discussing their private sex lives with me or my kids, gay or straight! (Just as HD and I don’t discuss our private sex lives with our APs.) But in terms of mentioning romantic partners, having them over to our home, etc. – if you would allow a straight AP to do so, but not a gay AP, that is a double-standard that would be harmful to your relationship as a host family with a gay AP. If you do not think your children should know that gay relationships exist, I think that would create an issue in hosting a gay AP.

Case in point: Our gay AP came to us after a rematch. She comes from a very intolerant country, where there are legal consequences to being “out.” Needless to say, she was wary of revealing her orientation (though as we joked with her, for someone who claimed she was trying to hide her orientation, she could have chosen a MUCH different wardrobe and hairstyle!). Though her first placement was in a very liberal city, her host family was very religious and was intolerant of gay people. When the host mother discovered that AP was gay, she kicked her out. So – despite realizing that we are a liberal, tolerant family, AP did not “come out” to us out of fear of consequences, and we had to gently convince her that it was okay and that we accepted her as she was, wanted to meet her girlfriend, etc.

Now – to the posters who say they’d be okay with a gay AP as long as she didn’t mention her orientation to the kids: can you imagine the devastation you would cause this AP were she to inadvertently reveal her orientation to your host kids, and you imposed consequences? No need to debate here whether I consider such a viewpoint toward gay people and relationships valid or not (I think you can guess that I wish everyone could be not only tolerant but accepting); but given that’s your viewpoint, I would not advise exposing a gay AP to it. It can’t end well.

Anyway – I know I am speaking in somewhat strong terms here, but I do not intend to convey disrespect.

hOstCDmom October 7, 2014 at 6:03 pm

+1…or rather +1 a thousand times over. Well said; well conveyed; good advice.

NJmama October 7, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I second the + 1000

WarmStateMomma October 7, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I wanted to respond to your (thoughtful) post, Host Mom X. I suggested the AP speak to the HPs without kids around because I think it’s a delicate matter. The HPs can decide what info should be shared (if any) with the kids based on the kids’ ages, developmental stage etc. We’ve had an issue with my toddler calling strangers “Dad” and we’re currently struggling with her shouting “old lady” at strangers. Yelling “lesbian” at people would just be too mortifying. I wouldn’t care if my daughter were aware that the AP’s significant other was female, but she doesn’t need to be part of the conversation (and learn helpful new vocabulary).

Host Mom X October 7, 2014 at 6:26 pm

So – I actually posted the post below yours before seeing what you just wrote, WarmStateMomma. And for the AP who asked the question, who is already with a host family – I agree that she should probably have a “coming out” conversation with just the host parents. But mostly because the PARENTS need that; kids don’t NEED “coming out” conversations if they haven’t already been indoctrinated into our society’s (hopefully changing) destructive attitude toward gay people.

I also agree that young children don’t need to learn vocabulary that is meant to focus on differences between people if they are not already indoctrinated into our society’s obsession with differences.

Host Mom X October 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm

I would also add, for the posters who are trying to clarify that they mean that they wouldn’t want ANY AP, gay or straight, discussing any romantic details at all with their host kids: ask yourself, honestly, if you REALLY mean that. Do you REALLY mean that you would not be okay with your straight AP answering simply “that’s my boyfriend,” when the host kids bust into her room uninvited and see a picture of her holding hands with or kissing her boyfriend and ask “who’s that?” And perhaps answering “maybe….[shyly smiling] – I hope so” if they also ask, “are you going to marry him and live happily ever after like Cinderella and Prince Charming?” Or do you mean that you’d of course be okay with THAT, but you just wouldn’t be okay with the equivalent if the person in the picture were your lesbian AP’s girlfriend, and she answered the innocent questions in the same innocent way?

If your honest answer is that you’d be okay with this for a straight AP, but not a gay AP – then I’ll say it again: you are NOT actually okay with hosting a gay AP, and you shouldn’t kid yourself that you can do it without setting yourself up for truly hurting a young person who has come to this country for new experiences, positive cultural exchange, and the desire to be accepted into a “second family” who will embrace her/him for who she/he is and all she/he has to offer.

Angie host mom October 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm

I really mean I would want my AP to call them her friend rather than her BF or GF. REALLY. If the relationship is significant enough to feel the need to talk about it with my kids, I expect she would talk about it with us first.

Host Mom X October 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Fair enough!

Should be working October 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I knew that post might convey a narrowness that I don’t think I actually possess. Of course a “butch” lesbian, or even a straight-but-not-girly heterosexual woman, might get along great with my girly teenager. Basically, though, when it comes to selection I fantasize that I am able to reduce the number of factors that MIGHT be a problem. Like vegetarians–not that they are difficult or inflexible, but I don’t want to deal with it. And very skinny APs–might be fine but I don’t want to worry about eating disorders (although of course normal-weight APs might also have bulimia). And strongly religious–might be fine, but I’d rather have someone where I don’t have to worry that we appear dissolute. And also cheerleader-squad members–might be lovely, but I want to find other role models for my teen.

So yeah, I do select for some things that are kind of superficial but it just makes me feel like I have a formula: pleasant, cheerful, average weight (a little over is ok), some sports fine but not super-sportsy, not too much makeup, pleasant looking but not movie-star-like or wannabe, bedroom doesn’t have raunchy posters hanging (according to photos), has some siblings, comes from one of 2 parts of a country with lots of parts, parents are not terribly poor, has some chores at home, no horse hobbies, has decent grades, has plans for after au pair year, et al. . . .

Should be working October 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Also our girliest AP did NOT get along with our teen, too much competition. So I guess I like “moderates” in most characteristics.

Host Mom X October 7, 2014 at 10:09 pm

I’m sorry, but I have to ask – because there has to be a story behind the “no horse hobbies” qualification!

Should be working October 8, 2014 at 12:59 am

My experience with APs who are into horses is that they want to ride here and it is time consuming, which keeps them from being as available as we want, and they are frustrated at the expense. i also suspect that horsey young women (not little girls) are not as people-oriented. Granted this is based on a sample of two. It all goes back to the tea-leaf problem–are we developing better selection criteria, or just a better sense of what counts as a good AP, or just having a stroke of dumb luck.

Should be working October 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I’m still pondering Host Mom X’s well-formulated plea for overcoming stereotypes about gay/lesbian au pairs, because I will confess it hurts my sense of myself as progressive/open but I did want to be honest in my answer to CV’s question nonetheless.

Yes, I think of myself as entirely open-minded but still do feel like we would pass over a very unfeminine-looking girl AP. Does it mean anything that we would also pass over a hyper-girly AP? Actually I can’t remember ever passing over a less-girly type but we have definitely passed over many hyper-girly types, it’s one of my main photo-filters: when the long, perfectly coiffed AP hair is clearly a point of extreme pride in the photos, or there is heavy black eyeliner on a blond girl, or the prom-photo shows a gawd-awful dress.

We might be missing out on some great APs out there with these biases, but we still stick with those ridiculous “objective” criteria (no horse hobbies!) and even more so our “biased” look at the photos and emails.

AP selection for me is so delicate and important that I might be hypersensitive to “signals” and I don’t want anything that signals anything that might not be a good fit. Which means I end up more “conservative” (not in the political sense, but just in the sense of cautious) in AP choice, looking for “moderate” types. Like a little tattoo somewhere is ok, big tattoos on visible body parts not. I don’t really care about the tattoos, but somehow I guess I do look for a “moderate” personality, pleasant but with no stand-out qualities in any respect, including femininity.

Need to think more about this!!

Host Mom X October 8, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Look, I think we all do exactly as you describe above. After years of hosting, we all tend to develop criteria that when written down or said out loud (as you bravely do above!) sound terribly superficial. And while our “passes” are not quite the same as yours, we’ve probably got some that are just as arbitrary-sounding, or are based on past issues we’ve had with APs from a particular country, etc. that unfairly cause us to assign baggage to potential APs that they might not actually have. (I’m still tickled that you had not one but TWO issues with APs with horse hobbies…that just does not seem like it would be such a common problem!)

But – I think that most if not all of what you are describing above are outward characteristics that the AP candidate has control over. They reflect choices that the AP has made in terms of presentation, appearance, hobbies, etc. Whether one wears one’s hair “butch” or ultra long and feminine – that is a choice. Whether one is gay or straight – that is not a choice. But it sounds to me that you are actually making choices not based on sexual orientation, but on outward appearance and presentation. I think your point is that when sorting through mounds of AP applications that all look basically the same, we all have to have our selection criteria – arbitrary or not – or the process becomes too overwhelming. And in the end, this is someone you have to live with. Perhaps what you are really feeling is – “I think I would click better with a young woman who chooses to present herself in a typically feminine way – not TOO ultra-feminine, and not purposefully unfeminine”; and the sexual orientation of that person is not really your issue, it is the personality that you assume comes with a certain method of self-presentation.

Should be working October 8, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Host Mom X, yes, thanks for formulating it that way. Self-presentation is pretty much the main tool we have when we make judgments in matching, along with our (idiosyncratic–horses!) past experience. So yes, I look for someone who self-presents as a moderate in most things, including femininity. Because I *imagine* that that is least risky as a match. Sometimes I wonder about if I chose someone who seemed WAY OFF to me in self-presentation, maybe I’d discover some great AP. But I’m risk averse.

Our AP told us that at training school they emphasized the variety of families and that, legendarily, once an AP showed up full of tattoos and piercings, they couldn’t believe she got a HF. Then the HF picked her up . . . and they were full of tattoos and piercings. More interesting to me would be the white-bread family with the Goth AP, or the introvert family with the extrovert AP. How do they pick those? How do they work out? How do “radically opposite of us” APs work out for HFs?

HRHM October 8, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Great response!

I had the amazing good fortune to move into a home two doors down from a gay couple when my DDs were 8 mos and 4. We spent time at their home, used their business (one of the best salons/spas in our area) and saw them regularly around the neighborhood. My DDs are now 6 and 10 and I’ve never had to “explain” gay/lesbian couples to them – they just get it. You love who you love and that is who you make a life with.

I realize that’s not every HPs belief, but if it isn’t, then maybe you really aren’t as open to having a gay AP as you think…

HRHM October 8, 2014 at 3:24 pm

This was meant for HostMomX’s post above, but got pushed way down here

Seattle Mom October 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

It would not matter at all to me, in fact I would welcome an LGBT au pair as a way to broaden my family’s horizons even more. My husband admits that he’s a bit uncomfortable with the idea… he’s not against gays in any way and supports all the rights that everyone else has (marriage, adoption, service, etc). His issue is just that he feels it might be awkward for him to live with a lesbian (since we only take female au pairs). It’s very complicated and hard to explain- this is not an issue only about sexual orientation, and I think his problem is more the fear and anticipation then the actual getting along. I think he’d probably be fine.

Actually we were just considering an AP who is probably gay, at the very least she dresses very masculine and wears her hair short. And while at first DH balked at the idea he was still strongly considering her and he let go of his personal feeling that it would be awkward. She is a really amazing person- the most intelligent & accomplished AP I have seen, it hurt a little to let her go. I was also very happy to get an AP who didn’t mention the word “Disney” or “princess” anywhere on her application, and to teach my kids that there are more ways to be a great girl. But we ended up choosing to move on for reasons unrelated to the way she looked or her ambiguous sexuality.

NBHostMom October 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Personally, I wouldn’t consider my au pair’s sexual orientation a factor at all. I look for au pairs who have a good sense of their self, have similar interests as my children, are active and have stable lives. If my au pair decided to tell my they were gay, the only change I can imagine is me needing to remember to phrase the questions about relationships differently. Like another poster mentioned, my personal boundary is I don’t want to sit and discuss with an au pair at endless lengths anything involving politic agendas or a journey to self discovery… I think this goes back to my au pair selection criteria about them needing to have a good sense of themself.

Angie host mom October 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I don’t think I cared then and I don’t think I care now – but the issue hasn’t come up for us. I really don’t think things have changed much.

ChiHost Mom October 6, 2014 at 4:34 pm

It really wouldn’t matter to me. Even with a young toddler, we talk about families with 2 moms, 2 dads, etc – we and my daughter has friends in all of these and other situations. I wouldn’t mind knowing if an au pair was LGBTQ, and I’m not sure if I’d want someone mid-transition. Openness to being a part of a city and in an environment that’s LGBTQ friendly is important for our friends and family. For me what’s most important is finding the right fit for my family, sexual orientation isn’t on my list of criteria.

happyhostmom October 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm

It wouldn’t matter to us either, but I’d like to know. Not because I’d change my behavior, but so I’d know her about a person. (not that I’d want any details). I’d want her to be comfortable being herself around us. That being said, I can’t predict how a host family would react, whether they would have an issue with it from a religious or personal perspective and there are some families who are not as tolerant as the families on here seem. I would say either broach with LCC Or make a reference to a gay friend and see how that goes. Good luck with your decision and let us know what you decide and how it goes. My wish for you is that you have a great family who doesn’t mind either way, as long as you are caring for their children.

4th time lucky?! October 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm

No issue for us either. In the end, it comes down to personality. I don’t care and don’t really want to know about anyone’s sexual orientation (or preferences for that matter) – in a positive way, if someone wants to share and talk about something that’s all good. While I appreciate that some people take issue with other people’s life style choices for various reasons and that in some situations there are unexplained awkward feelings but it still strikes me as odd that the social situation is still such that we need to discuss whether or not sexual orientation should be discussed with HF (or anyone else for that matter). No one would ever feeling the need telling people they are heterosexual. Don’t get me wrong – I know why and I don’t want to get into a discussion about this. Just one of these peculiarities of people I sometimes wonder about.

I also think that disclosure or not is probably much more of an issue and at the forefront of the AP’s mind because he/ she is right in there, young and probably still sorting a lot of feelings and approaches to life our her/himself. I am not trying to insinuate they don’t know whether they are gay or not but more thinking generally that as young people we often think we’ve got it all sorted and know how the world works and then much later find out we didn’t know anything. Most HP are a bit older, wiser (maybe), and more relaxed and confident in themselves (“been there, done that” – maybe not literally :-) but most of you might be able to relate to the feeling and agree how much less worried and more settled one gets and how much less one cares with age).

Didis October 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm

In this case depends what kind of relationship you have with your hosts and what kind of people they are. If you feel like, after your contract is done, you want to continue having them in your life, you might want to sit with them and explain why you were hiding it and why are you admitting now. But if you do feel this is job you like, but as soon as you are done you might never see them again, nor you feel you want to maintain friendship after this, it might be better to keep it the way it is.

Boys Mama October 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I don’t think the personal life of an Au Pair is any of our business unless he/she wants it to be so long as it doesn’t impact our family. We have an AP now that I’m pretty certain must be a lesbian, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t know that herself yet and it’s not her responsibility to share the most intimate aspects of her inner life with us.

We had a bropair who was bisexual and he was open about it in the interview process because he didn’t want to feel he was keeping secrets from us. I think that endeared him to us greatly, we felt trusted. (never mind he flamed out within 4 days, remember that tale?) The only thing that we had to think about in terms of LGBT issues was how to reword the handbook section about “no boyfriends in your bedroom because it’s upstairs next to the kids rooms and far away from ours”… later transformed into something more direct about “no romantic partners upstairs in your room”.

Bottom line: You should do what makes you comfortable. You shouldn’t feel as though you are betraying your Host Family unless you are betraying them. Your personal sexual orientation has nothing to do with your loyalty to your Host Family. I promise you they don’t want to sit around the table and make sure you are comfortable with everything they do in their bedroom, either.

To be perfectly blunt, however… In our house, AP sexual activity is not cool. Girl, boy, straight or upside down, sexting on the cell phone we provide… none of it cool. It’s in the handbook. That has nothing to do with civil rights, it’s about protecting our young children and being in control of what they are exposed to. Accidentally exposing our kids to a sexual situation would be a major betrayal.

Anna October 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I wouldn’t care either way but I would ask her not to discuss or mention her orientation with my kids.

Julie October 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

As an LCC, I’ve seen both sides–some families might have issues with homosexuality. Others say to me “can you find us a gay au pair?” because they prefer that orientation around their children. It’s interesting in that some families assume all male au pairs are gay (only 3 of the 11 I’ve had in my group have been admittedly gay) and some families always assume they are straight. What I would encourage is that if it matters to a family, you say it. You tell the au pair that you think very highly of her/him, but due to religious or other family beliefs, it would not be successful if, for example, the au pair is gay. You’d be amazed that there are families who will not address it or will assume the au pair isn’t gay because, for example, the au pair worked at church camp. I’ve heard of au pairs literally kicked out at a moment’s notice (though not in my group) because the topic finally came up and the family was shocked. If you care, share that you care so that the au pair can reject you. If you don’t care, you don’t. I do not think it should be a taboo topic/question if it would break the relationship once the au pair is in your home. My 2 cents!

Seattle Mom October 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm

It would be nice if that question could be included on HF applications. I’ve filled out 3 different agencies’ applications and none of them asked if you had a preference with regard to sexuality. I wonder if it is legal to ask that in an application? Obviously you couldn’t ask an AP about their own sexuality on their application, that would probably go against all kinds of laws… but at least have some way of asking whether a family would be OK with hosting an AP outside of the mainstream?

They do ask APs whether they would be ok with a same-sex family on Interexchange’s AP application, and they allow free-form answers. 90% of APs just write “yes” or “no” but the longer answers can be more telling. Why not ask HF’s the same question? I guess because just because someone is gay doesn’t mean they have a significant other, and if they do have one (or are looking for one) you wouldn’t necessarily have to know about it. But then this opens the door to situations you describe, where APs get kicked out when they are found out by an intolerant family.

WarmStateMomma October 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I’m currently registered with several agencies looking for our next AP. Every profile asks if the AP is willing to live with a family where there is a single HM, single HD, or same-sex HPs. Many of the applications I’ve seen say the AP is not willing to live with a single parent (more often just the single HD is a problem) or with same-sex parents.

Every application I’ve seen says they would be willing to live with someone of a race/ethnicity, but it’s just something the local agencies tell them to check off so they look more attractive to the families they are willing to match with. My two APs have made it clear that APs from their country turned down families because of race/ethnicity.

AuPair Paris October 7, 2014 at 3:50 am

As an LGBT host pair, it upsetsme that people are saying they “don’t care” but it mustn’t be discussed around the children. No au pair should be discussing sex around young children at all (except in an educational manner – my HM bought a book about where babies come from, and asked me to read it to the kids and answer their questions. She was too embarrassed and I didn’t mind.)… But my kids have looked through some of my pictures and seen me holding hands with girls, seen male friends of mine holding hands with boys – even a picture of me kissing my ex-girlfriend on the cheek.

The youngest asked why, and I said “because they’re/we were in love”. End of. My littlest girl is four and has a “boyfriend” at school with whom she plays at playtime and holds hands. She understands romance, without automatically thinking of anything sexual or inappropriate. She didn’t jump to the conclusion that my pictures were torrid and sexual just because they were two people of the same sex. Why would anyone?

It’s up to the individual family what they want their kids to know, but I could never feel comfortable with a family who “were fine with” my sexuality – as long as I never mentioned it. The idea that the kids can hear funny stories about trips I did with my ex-boyfriends, but not the trips I went on with ex-girlfriends bothers me. It makes me feel like these host-families think this knowledge gives them some kind of insight into my sexual life; it really doesn’t. I have normal relationships, sometimes with men, other times with women, and if I mention that, I certainly hope people aren’t immediately conjuring up vivid images of my sex-life!

As for my HF – they don’t know because we never, ever talk about each other’s private life. It’s a much more professional set-up here. But we know each other’s political views, because we live in a very Catholic area, and it’s impossible to ignore the anti-gay marriage protests, which happen every five minutes. I know the parents have a straightforward attitude to teaching their kids about heterosexuality and homosexuality. If I had a girlfriend (or boyfriend) it would probably come up… But since the word for “girlfriend” and “friend” is the same here, I don’t know if it would be figured out, even if I mentioned it. I certainly don’t intend to be like “my friend who is my friend in a romantic way”… Or “my love(r)” which is the other option!

Angie host mom October 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Straight or LGB or T, I don’t want my current AP talking to my kids about their love life. It’s not the identity I have the issue with, it’s the discussion about dating and sex.

Former APs, it is common for this kind of conversation to take place with kids around and with parents around and this is fine. The issue is that current AP is around child alone and I won’t have ability to hear and respond if appropriate.

Then again, I didn’t let my AP take my kids to see Tangled because I didn’t want them to see the thief as the good guy without me around to discuss it. Way too many girls fall for the bad boy…

AuPair Paris October 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I fully understand that, and agree with the letter of it. I wouldn’t have boyfriends or girlfriends over with the kids around, and I certainly wouldn’t involve them in details of the minutiae of my relationships.

I suppose I think there’s a difference between actively talking about your love life, and the casual offhand comments you find yourself censoring when you’re not out/allowed to be out. When you have to pay attention to it, it happens all the time – and this is coming from someone who mostly talks to their host kids about Little Women or Matilda or the Max & Lili books. Even if everyone in your life is an unspecified “friend” – which is how I tend to handle it, kids ask questions. I guess if all TV and films are banned, and you stick with “I don’t want to/can’t discuss/answer that question” whenever you’re asked, it would work.

(I am allowed to let the kids watch pre-approved films in English and youtube music videos, though. I spend a lot of time with these kids, and there’s no way they wouldn’t ask me directly about the things they see. Another example – the Bright Eyes song “First Day of My Life” has a music video which is just lots of different couples listening to the song together. Straight and gay. There’s also a pregnant woman listening with earphones around her bump, and a mum and dad listening with their kids. I got questions, and answered them…)

For me, the major time it’s come up is when the kids went through my phone photos (without asking – and that’s a whole separate issue), and asked why there were boys holding hands. There are really very few children in the world who would ask that question about a straight couple – because no matter how protected they are, they have encountered straight romance a million times. The idea that I should respond “I’m not allowed to answer that question – ask your parents” or similar, really makes me feel as though a simple romance has become something dirty. Particularly when, even though the rule might technically apply to the same question about a straight couple, in that situation it would never, ever come up.

Host Mom X October 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm

AuPair Paris – I totally agree with you, and what you say is exactly why I posted above that for the host parents on here who say they’d be “okay” with a gay AP as long as the AP didn’t mention her/his orientation to the kids: those host parents are NOT actually “okay” with having a gay AP, and should not subject a young man or woman to living under such conditions. It is unfair. As you point out – our society is saturated with hetero-norms. The smallest children – if they are allowed access to any forms of media at all – are inundated with hetero-normal ideas of romance (e.g. every Disney movie, every pop song). Even young children love to ask questions about people “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” or who you are going to “marry” – mostly based on what they’ve seen in Disney movies or heard in pop songs. To subject a gay AP to a different standard than a straight AP on those topics is discriminatory (not in a legal sense, perhaps, but in a social sense), and if you as a host parent feel that you would impose such rules – you should not have a gay AP.

Angie host mom October 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

I don’t know. We’re on our 7th AP, no rematches, friendly with all of the former APs, and I don’t think a single AP explicitly shared her orientation or dating status with the kids, or pointed to pictures of them and a BF or GF. I may ask, just as a curiousity point, how difficult it was for them to keep their personal life away from the kids.

Seattle Mom October 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I completely agree that there should be no double standard. If you don’t want your gay AP to talk about anything remotely related to sexual orientation or personal experiences with love and romance, then either you have the same rule for hetero APs or you are really not ok with gay APs. Period.

Angie host mom October 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I think I’m expressing this wrong. If my kids saw pics of two guys holding hands on our APs phone and asked a question I’d expect an honest answer to be given. If they saw a picture of our AP and her girlfriend or boyfriend, I’d hope she would call her or him the ubiquitous “friend,” there really isn’t reason to go any further.

The goal isn’t to hide homosexuality – I’m reading a book with the kids right now that has a main character who is gay and we’ve talked about how some guys like guys and some guys like girls and it is very matter of fact, and I’d expect my AP to do the same if they were reading or watching something together.

But when an AP is living in our house, I want to eliminate the idea of it being okay for host kids to talk to/grill the AP about their sexual preferences = whether she likes boys OR girls. I don’t want my kids asking my AP what boys she thinks are hot and I don’t want my AP telling them what girls are hot either. I wouldn’t want an AP to come out to the kids not because I want the kids to think girls only like boys, but because I don’t want them to be thinking that it is fair game to talk to the AP about sexual relationships

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 2:18 am

I think that’s a good point, and I can’t think of a time I have actually mentioned any relationships to the kids. I would point out though, that it still isn’t exactly the same situation with LGBT au pairs – in that, my eldest girl has started being very offensive and bigoted about certain things, including gay relationships. Watching Mamma Mia, she went around making vomit noises at the gay kiss with Colin Firth at the end. And keeps talking about how it’s weird, or bizarre or not normal. Like I said, she lives in a conservative area. I’ve been responding with “I don’t agree with that. I don’t think it’s true that gay people are “bizarre”” or similar. But it’s very grating not to be able to say “Oh, I’m bizarre then?”. Given that if she knew more LGBT people, she would not think it so weird. It’s not my job to change her mind, and her parents have been working on it too, but there’s a distinct difference between “oh, it’s normal and quite common to be gay”, and “oh, but you know x, y and z who are LGBT; do you think they are weird?”

I just don’t believe it’s the same situation to say to a straight person that they mustn’t talk about their sexuality, and to a non-straight person. A straight person’s sexuality is assumed, without them saying anything. It’s hard *not* to feel like you’re lying, given that our society assumes that about you, when you sit through homophobic remarks “pretending” to be the default.

I don’t know what the solution is – like I said, I do it (aside from one comment about a picture cuddled up with an ex-girlfriend, where I said “we loved each other” – and the kids assumed I was being platonic/my French was wrong. That social assumption stuff is powerful.). I just don’t think it’s as black and white as “same rule for everyone”. If our society wasn’t as it is, pretending difference didn’t exist would be lovely and great. But it is as it is, and I don’t think the same rules for everyone, regardless of the situation, are fair.

WarmStateMomma October 8, 2014 at 3:43 am

@AuPair Paris: Do you think it’s possible your host kid knows about you and is just being snarky? Even elementary school aged kids can pick up on it (my sister and I did).

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 7:29 am

I can’t reply to particular posts! Sorry for technological incompetence.

Ahem, up until this morning, I would have said the kids wouldn’t be snarky like that with me, because they like me and are not very often rude. However, after just having experienced an extreme display of rudeness and disrespect from the eldest girl, seemingly out of nowhere – well, perhaps..! In which case I would *definitely* like it to be all above board about it, so that I could say something like “I may not be entitled to change your opinions, but I will not tolerate disrespect and deliberate rudeness”. Much easier to respond with dignity to personal attacks than to try and get embroiled in the political views of someone else’s nine year old.

Angie host mom October 8, 2014 at 1:46 pm

We’re too far indented to make specific replies any more.

It’s probably because I live in the Bay Area of California, but I really don’t think heterosexuality is assumed. And if my daughter was making barfing noises and being bigoted toward lesbians, we could correct that behavior in other ways and there are family friends they know and like to point to without talking about the AP.

This does remind me of a situation we did face – we had an Atheist AP (Atheist with a capital A, not agnostic, not indifferent, who truly believed people of any faith are stupid) – while my kids were getting educated and baptized. When we hired her we didn’t expect it to be an issue, the only issues we had with religion with APs was some tolerance issues with Catholics. But she felt it ok in adult company to say that religion is a crutch and only weak minded people are religious.

She clearly had strong beliefs, and they are counter to the assumed beliefs. I did ask her to not make negative comments about religious people around my children – I never asked her to pretend to believe in anything, or to say she wasn’t an Atheist. I think the most she told the kids was that she didn’t go to church, but I don’t know. It wasn’t the atheism that bothered me, it was the judging of another group of people that I didn’t want my kids to inherit. All that said, she is in general a lovely young lady and she did attend the HK’s baptism.

She could have seen my request to keep her opinions of religious people away from the kids as a mandate that she deny a core part of who she is. At the time, HKs had a lot of religious questions and conversation, including about friends at school who were atheists. I remember the kids talking about a friend who said only dumb people believe in God, and AP probably wanted to jump in and say the friend was right, but she didn’t and probably felt like she was denying her own identity. But it’s one thing to say you don’t believe in God and another thing to say people who do are dumb.

We carpooled with an atheist family that explicitly requested that I not allow my children to mention God in the car, we complied with that request. It felt strange – not like the kids talk about God all the time, but an odd request – but I understood that they wanted to control how their kids learned about religion, if at all.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit, since religion and sexuality are different – but they are both a core part of our unique selves that others can’t see from the surface, and so we all can face a lot of angst when asked to repudiate or accept intolerance.

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I guess to that I would say, there’s a difference to having to hide your own intolerance (pretending not to be anti-religious…), and having to hide a part of yourself towards which other people will be intolerant…

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

As for whether heterosexuality is assumed – I am sure some areas (such as yours) are better than others (such as mine), but I’m not sure I can possibly believe that there are areas where heterosexual privilege doesn’t exist at all. But of course I understand that your kids are probably more aware of and better educated about LGBT issues than the ones I look after. Certainly, if there is any awareness at *all* here, it wouldn’t be expected to apply to me – with my long hair, dresses, make-up, and general “just that average girl you knew from school, whose name you don’t remember” look. I’d need to shave my head, burn my dresses, start wearing flannel, and paint a rainbow flag on my shorn scalp before anyone started looking at me worriedly – and then I’d still have people whispering “is she..?!” instead of knowing for sure…

Host Mom X October 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

AuPair Paris – I completely agree. There is a vast difference between asking an AP not to express intolerance toward others’ beliefs and asking an AP to deny a part of herself over which she does not have control.

No matter how core to a person’s self-constructed identity religious or atheist beliefs may be, they are BELIEFS. Even if raised with certain beliefs, one can debate them, defend them, change them, learn opposing viewpoints, etc. One’s sexuality cannot be debated (it is what it is), changed, and should not have to be defended nor should one have to defer to others’ “viewpoints” regarding her sexuality.

Should be working October 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I always make a point during interviewing by Skype of mentioning our friends who are gay with kids and I watch their reactions carefully. No AP would ever admit to being racist or even homophobic, but if their nose wrinkles at the mention of gay with kids or they act more than just surprised then I know they are not right for us.

Angie host mom October 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I have to laugh.

The way I read these posts, asking a LGBT AP to keep her relationships to herself is unfair, while asking a straight AP the same thing is not.

So, by these standards, I should not host an LGBT AP, because I would be asking them to deny their identity by asking them to not discuss their sexual preferences with my kids. Asking a hetero AP this is not asking them to deny themselves, so it is ok to have a hetero AP.

I guess I need to start screening on this. I never thought we would be a bad HF for an LGBT AP, so thanks for letting me know!

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Well… I guess if you have kids who would definitely come running if a straight au pair slipped and said the word ‘boyfriend’, going ‘mummy, mummy! Did you know AP is heterosexual?!’ And the ap comes from a culture where she’s been told all her life that to mention a boyfriend is shameful and disgusting and dirty, AND she’s still in a culture where she can’t necessarily trust that that’s not the individual HP’s view… And with all that you’d definitely still react exactly the same way, even though her heterosexuality comes as a shock to you… Well then I have to apologise – there’s no double standard, in that case.

WarmStateMomma October 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm

@AuPair Paris: it is possible to have the kids who don’t find it noteworthy that someone is LGBT. As kids, my mom sat my sister and I down to tell us that a beloved relative was gay. She hoped we would still feel the same way about him, he’s a good person, etc. She will tell you that she was surprised that we’d long ago realized he was gay but it hadn’t come up in the family conversation. We were really sheltered kids so maybe we just didn’t know that it was such a sensitive topic – we certainly enjoyed gossip as much as the next kids.

That said, I don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes and I’d have a hard time dealing with the hostility you’ve been dealing with at home and work. My husband and I have been talking about how to minimize our children’s exposure to prejudice (gender, orientation, ethnicity, etc.) as we continue to host APs from a less-tolerant culture. I really appreciate getting perspectives from the HMs and APs on this blog so we’re better prepared as our daughter gets older.

Host Mom X October 8, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Angie HM – I think you are taking this further than what either I or AuPair Paris meant (though I can only speak for myself of course). I do NOT think that you should have different standards for gay and straight APs in terms of talking about their romantic relationships in front of/with your kids. That is precisely my point – your standards should be the same. But what I think both I and AuPair Paris were also trying to emphasize that because of the hetero-normative world in which we live, most of us – without realizing it – just accept discussion of hetero-romantic relationships, etc. without thinking about it (what AP Paris refers to as heterosexual privilege). So my point, at least, was for HPs who say they don’t want gay APs talking about their sexual orientation to the kids (but are otherwise okay with having a gay AP) to ask themselves whether – for REAL – if something slipped out or were revealed about a romantic relationship by a straight AP, whether your reaction would be the same as if the exact same revelation came about on the part of a gay AP. If you would react harshly to or dismiss a straight AP for an inadvertent revelation about a romantic relationship in the same way as you might react to a gay AP – great. I don’t think either I or AP Paris is suggesting that you MUST allow a gay AP to talk about her relationships, even if you would ask a straight AP not to talk about her relationships.

To use a phrase that is popular in liberal arts college classrooms these days, I think what we are saying is something along the lines of “check your privilege.” Sorry, I actually hate that phrase, since it’s basically a conversation ender. And I don’t mean to end the conversation, but to point out that I am hearing some agitation over the thought that someone is accusing you of homophobia when you KNOW that you are not that way. The point is just that sometimes we forget that even though we BELIEVE we are applying a policy of equality, the norms of our society have started us off with tipped scales. So we just need to think about that. I hear you, and I believe you, when you say that you would apply the same “no relationship talk” policy to gay and straight APs. The question I am asking folks to think about is: “should that policy be broken, even inadvertently, how would you react?”

Seattle Mom October 8, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Well said! As long as gay people don’t go around bashing straight people then they aren’t like the atheist saying that people who follow religion are stupid.

Angie host mom October 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm

OK, it was a bad analogy – it was the only one relevant to me that I could come up with other than asking the AP to keep her BF to herself, which I have asked, repeatedly, but which doesn’t seem to count as a challenge to part of the APs identity.

Au Pair in Paris – specifically, if my kids saw a photo of AP and her BF or GF my littlest would definitely come running to tell me AP has a BF or a GF. The gender wouldn’t matter, she would come running either way. Honestly, I wouldn’t care which it was. If it was one of our APs who has expressed disdain for homosexuals and she had a GF, I would probably have a talk with her about it and would be quite worried about her. If it were any of the others, I’d just ask her to please not talk about her personal BF/GF relationships in front of the kids unless I’m present.

If you feel bad over this – I am very sorry – I am not trying to attack you and don’t feel like you are attacking me. But I do feel like you are saying it is not enough to treat an LGBT AP with equal courtesy – that equal courtesy is insufficient and special accommodations need to be made, which I’m not providing. OK, if that’s the consensus, I can understand it and just will think harder about whether or not to host an LGBT AP.

AuPair Paris October 7, 2014 at 3:50 am

Eum au pair that should say – I was reading the comments and had “host parent” in my head while typing!

Taking a Computer Lunch October 7, 2014 at 7:00 am

Out of the 10 APs I have hosted, two were bisexual – one openly (the other moved in with her girlfriend after she left our home although she dated men – sometimes for months – while she lived with us). Although we invited the partner one AP who had a long-lasting lesbian relationship to our dinner table, she never accepted. We are a family that does permit APs to host boyfriends (or girlfriends) overnight.

Our children are open and accepting of a variety of differences in people, whether it be disabilities, race, or sexual orientation. They have openly gay aunts and uncles, cousins who have physical, emotional, and mental disabilities. We live in a multi-racial neighborhood.

One thing I make clear to newly arrived APs is that we don’t tolerate slander in our house – no racially disparaging comments, no verbal intolerance toward gays or lesbians, and obviously no negative comments toward disabilities.

We do our best not to comment on our APs’ choices in partners – although we usually think they aim too low in relationships – we understand that part of living away from home is the freedom to take a variety of risks.

WarmStateMomma October 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

One of the unexpected benefits of coming to the US for our APs and exchange students has been getting to know people with different labels. They’ve changed some of their views on people of different ethnicities as they’ve made friends. They’ve all come here from pretty homogenous cultures and have really benefitted from making friends outside that circle.

LondonMum October 7, 2014 at 3:33 pm

We also have a very open and tolerant culture. I feel sure that 2 of our APs have been lesbians but they have not told me so and I would never dream of asking such a private question but would be fine it they chose to tell me.

Of course I wouldn’t want our AP to discuss her intimate sex life with the kids, but I wouldn’t want a heterosexual AP to either. However, my kids are very aware of differences within families, even my youngest, when he was 5 said “boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls if they want to”. There is a boy in his class that has 2 mums. Also, my Godfather is gay and I was born back in the 70s and my parents obviously didn’t think it was an issue even back then. Quite frankly, I’m amazed that it is an issue for any well educated person in this day and age!

LondonMum October 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Of course, apart from countries where it is still taboo or illegal, I meant in western culture.

Angie host mom October 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

We’ve had several Catholic au pairs who have a serious problem with maintaining a tolerant attitude. It’s frankly been more of a problem than keeping comments about BFs or GFs away from the kids.

Tristatemom October 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I would not chose a gay or transgender AP for my family. Not because I have any issues with it but because APs tend to be in their very early twenties and are just figuring themselves out period and I would expect them not be all sorted out on this front as well. I see it as an additional challenge that the AP would have to deal with in a strange country and they already are dealing with a lot. So for me it is the immaturity and living in my home that would make me want to pass.

OzHostMum October 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

This is something I’ve honestly never given any thought to…but we are relatively new to hosting APs (picking up number 4 today but only started this journey 12 months ago). It never comes up as a topic on their profile or in interviews…but we really don’t want to know ANYTHING about the sexuality of our APs…we figure it’s none of our business, and with very young children, like many other HPs here, we don’t want our kids exposed to ANYTHING at this stage in their lives. Maybe we’re a bit on the “prudish” side but with very conservative upbringings I think this is part of who we are personally. As long as what our AP does in their own time does not impact on our children, and as long as they are safe, we really don’t care if they are L/G/B/T pink, purple or polka dotted. A good AP is a good AP, whatever their personal choices.

Sina October 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I am a gay au pair but haven’t told anyone. I grew up in a catholic household which would not tolerate a gay person. In fact, my cousin who is gay does not exist anymore for my aunt/uncle as she brought “shame” over the family. So far no family has asked me about my orientation but sometimes I talk with my hostmom about relationship etc but only mention “romantic partners” then… if she thinks I am gay, ok, I don’t mind but she never asked me.

I am just afraid I come out that even families with girls would not employ me anymore.

Also I think it is very interesting that so far (I am 2nd time au pair) I never came across a gay family when looking through hostfamilies applications (and neither did my friends). But I am sure there are LGBT families out there?

German Au-Pair October 10, 2014 at 11:38 am

Yes! A friend of mine almost matched with a two-dad-family with two lovely children. They do exist!

BTW, as a heterosexual I would also like to know if families are strongly against homosexuals because I would NOT match with a family that had such strong opinions against a group of people. Even though I would not be affected by such strong beliefs, I wouldn’t want to live with a family who discriminates against any group of people.
During my agency interview in Germany I was asked what I would do if my HP would ask me not to hang out with a black friend and I was shocked that this would even be an option. I think many people from different cultures have no idea how strongly many Americans believe in some things and I think it would be a great idea to somehow find that out during matching.
Maybe HP could find a way to ask questions or somehow disclose if they have strong political or religious beliefs against any group of people or are very open about things like that? If every family was open about that, no AP would ever be left wondering if being herself in the family with whom she’ll spend an entire year was okay. And HP could be sure to match with like-minded people.
(Feeling strongly BTW starts at teaching your children that being gay is wrong. If you expect your AP to say this, maybe make sure she will before matching.)

DowntownMom October 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Our city is very diverse. One of our first questions to future APs centers around this topic since a German girl left the US after less than a month as she couldn’t bear passing a person of another race or LGBT orientation on the street.

German Au-Pair October 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Wow, sorry you had to live with such a person, I can assure you they are very very rare here.

DowntownMom October 10, 2014 at 11:17 pm

She didn’t live with us, fortunately, and shocked some of the German APs with her remarks. We have heard a couple of surprising remarks from German APs though, about who they consider to be German, which was nearly as shocking to us.

WarmStateMomma October 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I don’t know how common it is, but there is a two-dad family in our city. They have a gay male AP. Whether to come out to your host family (or anyone) is a very personal choice. I wish you the best!

NoVA Twin Mom October 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

A former work colleague and his husband recently welcomed an au pair to help care for their toddler daughter. So they’re out there – but maybe not as prevalent as other types of families. :)

ExAussieAP October 8, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I was super in the closet when I was an AP. I’m pretty sure both sets of host parents thought I was asexual. By the time I left Australia, I wasn’t in contact with the first set (I decided to leave them early), but I was in contact with the second, and I didn’t really think about it when I came out, that maybe my host mom would freak out that a super scary lesbian was in her home with her children and was maybe a predator or something. I honestly think the first family would’ve had a problem with it, but the second absolutely did not and has been nothing but incredibly supportive. So I’m blessed in that regard.
I honestly think most APs are either in the closet when they au pair OR they go into the closet to au pair, given the average age of au pairs.

Angie host mom October 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Last post by me as I’ve beaten a dead horse above and really need to get more work done….

What the conversations here remind me of is the danger of the unknowns that you don’t know….There’s the knowns, the things you know you don’t know, but then there are the things that you don’t know that you don’t know!

When we get APs, we don’t know what we don’t know about their background and culture if we didn’t grow up in it ourselves. I’m not LGB or T, so despite my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, who are – I don’t know what I don’t know. If I get an AP who is, I hope I don’t screw it up in ignorance. It’s on me to listen and pay attention to signals to figure out if I’m making my AP uncomfortable on unhappy, and it’s on AP to give us the benefit of the doubt that HPs are decent people and tell us if we’re too oblivious to pick up on the signals.

If I’ve got an AP I can’t talk to, she probably shouldn’t be my AP. And if I had an AP who couldn’t talk to me or hubby, we probably shouldn’t be her HF.

Host Mom X October 8, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Angie HM – it sounds to me like you are a terrific host mom and I have no doubt would treat any AP with the dignity he or she deserves. I do not mean anything I have written above to imply anything different.

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I’m sorry if I made anyone feel bad – it wasn’t the intention, and I didn’t mean to go on the attack. I think my problem is feeling out the difference between “this is how I feel and intend to behave towards everyone”, and “this is how society behaves, towards everyone”. If the latter doesn’t work (society behaves differently towards certain people), it’s very hard for the former to work. Because if society behaves differently towards certain people, then the individual treats them as though there’s no difference, there’s immediate cognitive dissonance. While I appreciate that for you “no talk about significant others” is a blanket rule, for me it’s something that I’ve heard from those who really would rather I crawled away and disappeared. And since I’m bisexual, I’ve been in both situations, and it really hasn’t felt the same. It’s very hard to distinguish between “with regard to your love life, you’re disgusting, and if you’re going to exist, please do it out of my sight” and “umm… Nothing personal, but please just don’t let it be known your love life exists, and I’d say it to anyone… really!”. As far as it goes, I’ve heard it about four or five times when in a relationship with a woman, and never while in a relationship with a man.

I do think there should be more sensitivity displayed towards people who have suffered oppression. I think the worst a straight au pair would think, when hearing “don’t talk about boyfriends” is “oh… Weird! Ok..!”. A gay au pair, however, might be reminded of all kinds of traumatic, horrible experiences. (I would be!) And honestly, from experience of people who’ve been hypothetically liberal, and practically really cruel, it’s very difficult to go “oh, but they seem nice, so it’s probably not homophobia”. So yes, treat straight and gay au pairs with the same sensitivity and awareness. That means accepting that they have different life experiences and might have different things that make them unhappy, that it’s important to be aware of.

With regard to the phrase “check your privilege”, it has connotations I don’t particularly like, but insofar as it means “seriously, I have direct experience of being discriminated against for this thing you think is no big deal”, I think it’s accurate. I’m on board when people say that it shouldn’t be a big deal, but given that it is, and that people have so frequently used it to make me miserable, the idea that I should just ignore it, and it’ll go away (or that other people will ignore it and it’s no big deal) is… Upsetting. It’s like saying “people are chucking stones at you? Well that shouldn’t happen. Let’s pretend it isn’t!”. I mean, thanks for not throwing more stones, but I’m still injured and bleeding over here…

AuPair Paris October 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I’d also say, from my experience of people on this thread, I think the attitude might be different if it actually happened. For example Angie Host Mum, I get the feeling that if you actually had an au pair who’d accidentally come out to your kids, you’d be kind to her. And I think you’d be sensitive to the fact that she might feel worse about it, and have more complicated emotions about it than a straight au pair who’d accidentally done the same thing? You seem quite empathetic. This is the problem with talking in hypotheticals, of course. An iron clad rule can actually become flexible when it needs to be exercised? Or no?

Angie host mom October 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Actually, we are sticklers on the rules that we do enforce. We don’t have many.

The tricky bit is the personal relationships with significant others. The first time we actually did have a real live age 19 niece living with us she was trying to get her act together and get some distance from an addict dealer boyfriend, stabilize her life. We learned a lot about how important it is for a young adult to have a safe place in her life, whether or not she thinks she needs it, and whether or not she EVER needs it.

We don’t allow current APs to bring anyone around our children or in our house without our approval. We don’t allow them to bring their personal, significant, intimate, relationships into our house. Friends? Especially pre-screened AP friends? Absolutely – the more the merrier – as long as we are asked first. Guys who are friends? Probably fine. BF or GF in a romantic relationship? No. And in 10 years, that No has stayed No in all cases for current APs. I am the bad guy and have become ok with being blamed.

My worst arguments with our APs have been over this issue, but by being clear and consistent about it, it has become easier over the years. So, visiting BFs have been accommodated in hotels (some at our expense, some at theirs) and APs have been given extended time off during the visit – and AP and BF have been invited to dinner/hang out and treated as guests at the time. Engaged AP was not allowed to have her fiancee in our house when her family was staying with us, so they had to meet at his house instead of just hanging out at ours.

We sound crazy. Perhaps we are. But I want to make sure that my house is a safe place for my kids and for my AP if things go badly in any relationship.

So, I try to head it off at the pass by not even having AP talk to the kids about who they are dating, much less introducing them, etc. If it happens, I’d talk to AP about it. They might hate me for it – at least temporarily – and think I’m judging their personal life. But the point is, I’m NOT judging it. I’m not making individual BF by BF by GF decisions. And most of the time, by the time they think it through, they get it.

NJmama October 9, 2014 at 8:58 pm

The comments have been interesting and I think have caused us all to do a lot of soul searching. They also go to the heart of the OPs dilemma.

As a country we are becoming more tolerant, but within individual families the pendulum swings quite a bit. Heck even within my own family the pendulum swings wide. My H and I are white and straight and a coupla lefties. our kids go to a school where whites are the minority. One of our daughter’s best friends has two moms – which our AP comes into contact with quite a bit. Honestly I never even thought to bring it up in an au pair interview because it’s just a normal thing for us. And perhaps because of this attitude I’ve never had an au pair who has had a problem with it (and that includes our current au pair, who is very religious).

I also started talking to my kids about sex a lot earlier than most of my friends. We’ve also discussed gay marriage, girls having girlfriends and boys having boyfriends, and even how you don’t have to be married to have kids – but don’t even think about it until you’re old enough to support one. And I’m Catholic lol! But that is my own family. Those are my choices, and they may sound radical – or not. My oldest brother is very similar. My two other siblings – not so much. I can see their families being extremely uncomfortable living with a gay Au pair. And I can see some cousins and in-laws being downright intolerant and awful. Every family’s “tolerance” is different.

Against this backdrop, it’s not surprising that a young woman or man would be nervous and feel conflicted about whether or not to be open about his/her sexual preference with a family they are just getting to know. They may think – Hey my host family seems pretty tolerant, but that Uncle Harry and Aunt Jane? Not so much. So what do the host parents really think (especially if the HF is raising their kids Catholic – as in my case)?

Also, to those who would be upset that the Au pair wasn’t 100% truthful if he /she didn’t come out to you, think about how hard it might have been for a young man or woman to come out to families and friends – even to moms and dads weren’t surprised and who were accepting, it may still have been a difficult conversation for a young person to start. Think of how much the pendulum swings in your family/town/state. Think of how hard it would be to carry that into a new family and a new country.

As for comments about butch or Lesbian women taking care of girlie girl host kids – I found this amusing bc my oldest daughter, who is 11, would be described as “butch” if she was 10 years older. She wears her hair short, wears boy clothes, plays flag football and is often mistaken for being a boy. My youngest daughter is the polar opposite – all rainbows and butterflies and completely devoted to ballet. And yet, my older daughter is the one who takes the lead on playing with dolls, coming up with story lines that the younger one follows. And the way she mothers and looks after my 3-year-old nephew is so loving. But at the same time I know when you interview it’s hard not to stereotype as you weed through the applications. I get it.

I also have rules about no significant others staying overnight. And no one coming to the house until we meet them first. But I don’t mind them talking about significant others – quite frankly I never thought it through, and it hasn’t been a problem. Our first great Au pair had a boyfriend back home that my girls would join her in skyping and then he visited and we all just loved him. At the same time, in some way it was an issue with the last Au pair – after she had been seeing her American boyfriend for awhile we invited him to have dinner with us on Christmas Eve. Then as I’ve written before she got engaged and asked my youngest to be her flower girl – and then disappeared on us. She was married a few weeks ago. The whole thing was upsetting on a variety of levels. I’m not sure that not meeting the boyfriend/fiancé would have made a difference to the kids. Getting dumped by the au pair was a lot more painful than not being in the wedding.

But getting back to the OP – I just feel for this Au pair. This may sound trite but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to feel like you had to hide something that was such a big part of yourself. Whether to tell the family or not is not an easy decision, especially if she is unsure how the host family would react. So it’s really hard to give advice. Perhaps hitting the topic around the edges would be a good way to start – if the opportunity presents itself.

Sorry for the long post!

WarmStateMomma October 10, 2014 at 8:38 am

Thank you for posting this.

hOstCDmom October 10, 2014 at 9:00 am

+1

NJ Mama October 10, 2014 at 9:19 am

:)

Old China Hand October 10, 2014 at 9:28 pm

I’ve been hesitating to weigh in, but enjoying this conversation. Plus, it’s hard to type with my thumb on one hand while nursing and nursing is usually when I read the blog. :)

Anyway, we are in a kind of unusual situation. We host aps from a very conservative country where it is illegal, at least on the books, to be lgbtq. It exists, but so far we have only looked at (and hosted one) aps from a second tier city rather than a big coastal city that is more liberal. However, we have the perfect antidote to this situation: I teach at one of the top three most liberal schools in the country (I’m not kidding), so our kids will be brought up in a town where it is expected that when you introduce yourself you give your preferred gender pronouns (she, her, hers for me). We live under a block from campus and students babysit for us. My kids go to my office and interact with my students regularly. They see all kinds of gender and sexual expression.

I am looking for a good way to ask aps about this and get a real answer about what they think. It may tell me a lot about their other prejudices too (including a very strong cultural one against another asian country).

That being said, I don’t want our ap to have romantic partners spend the night. House rule that applies to my relatives and friends too.

GayFormerAuPair January 14, 2015 at 12:08 am

I am openly a lesbian, and I worked for 2 years for a very open-minded heterosexual host family 4 years ago. They never asked me if I was gay during the matching process, and I never told them that I was a lesbian. However, they once asked me the one-million-dollar question: “Dear, are you gay?” after they saw a status on my facebook, so I was really honest with them, I told them that I was a lesbian indeed, and that I had recently started to date another au pair in my cluster, they were super-supportive to me and they even invited her for dinner at home. I don`t regret having told the truth because it relieved me. I still keep contact with my HF.

GayFormerAuPair January 14, 2015 at 12:12 am

Oh, I forgot to mention that I am from a South American country and that I have never had legal problems or homophobia incidents in my country for being who I am. My parents know about my sexuality and it is not a big issue that I am gay. This a very important part of my life and luckily I have always been accepted and welcome no matter if I am gay.

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