Alex Blaze

Coming out to my host family

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 28, 2008 3:23 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, France, Rémy Martin

When I came here to France, besides my coworkers, I knew nobody.

That was OK since I immediately signed up for unlimited phone to the US and high-speed internet (all for 30 euro a month with basic cable included, thank you progressive European telecommunication regulation) and whiled away my time calling American friends and watching YouTube.

It's was one of the harder parts of transplanting myself to the other side of the world, trying to find a small community again. In December when I visited my brother in Germany, I confided that I felt like I was still living in America, considering that I was still living 95% of the time in English, knew a reason to vote against each presidential candidate but not the name of the mayor of St. Etienne, and was drinking far too much instant coffee.

So in January, when I got a call from the manager of a private English tutor list, saying that there was a family who wanted to talk English once a week and would pay me in dinner, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like a host family, people who could help me adapt to this new town.

It's funny because I'm far too old for a host family. I came to France on a contract to work, everything else was just detail. At my age my mother was already married and pregnant with her first child after moving half-way across the world to the US. My father was in Turkey serving in the Air Force when he was my age. I couldn't be the child of a family at this age - I'm supposed to already know how to make friends in a new country and get by just fine, no matter the language or cultural differences.

We agreed that I'd come over on Tuesdays at 7. They were a lovely middle-aged couple, I found on the first Tuesday; N cooked an impressive gratin (not from a can, the style of cuisine to which I've become habituated and which has become my low, low standard for good food), and I sat around with L after dinner drinking cognac (Rémy Martin, so I couldn't say no).

And I didn't mention the fact that I was gay at all.

It wasn't that I avoided it; it just never came up. No questions about girlfriends, no questions about the site after I mentioned it, no questions about plans for marriage.

Since we were speaking in English, we stuck to those great high school foreign language class topics, like travel, geography, food, weather, their home. Those things you learned how to say in Spanish in high school are what they learn to say in English out here. It's invigorating conversation.

I showed up the next week, Tuesday at 7, and no one was home. No one called me; I didn't call them. And I didn't go the next week. A couple months have passed.

Since then I've met a few more people, gotten to know some of the French gay boys, and have been seeing a boy who lives in Paris.

Just last week I ran into the woman who runs the private tutoring list at the university. She was in the lobby of my building as I got back from work and she asked how my job was going.

Good, I said.

How's your family?

Strange question, since she's never been to Indiana, but I said they were good.

No, not your real family, your host family!

I explained the situation and she told me she'd get on it. They were personal friends of hers, you see.

So this past weekend in Lyon, spending it with A who came down from Paris, I told him about the whole kebab.

Are you going to see them this Tuesday? he asked

If I did (I didn't), I probably would have told them about my weekend. Oh, this boy came down from Paris to spend the weekend with me in Lyon. And last week I spent the night with a guy out near Firminy....

I don't know their thoughts on gays, so what if they got upset? What if they kicked me out of their house? What if L shouted, "Not in this host family! We have no exchange son!" while N sobbed, "My American son, a homosexual. Where did we go wrong? Did I coddle him too much when I passed the salad? Was the way I offered dessert over-bearing?"

Well, it's looking like I'll never know.

My coming out to my parents was surprisingly calm since my parents simply replaced one dream of how I'd live my life (nice wife, several kids, a stable career) with another (nice male permanent partner, several kids, a stable career). I feel that in a way I didn't really come out to them considering how I bite my tongue sometimes about my personal life. I have a second coming out to do, but it isn't going to be funny like the one I dreamed up over the weekend.

If it ever happens, it won't be a single event. It seems sometimes like coming out is a whole lot more than just having a party, telling everyone I'm gay, and moving on. It's more complicated than constantly coming out to new people. It involves more than the sex of the people to whom I'm attracted.

If anything, I'm imagining being truly out as a consuming frankness, making it a standard so high I don't feel like living up to it. On the other hand, I tick off the "Totally out" box on online profiles. I know what's being asked, but at what point does one really earn the right to label him or herself as "Totally out"?

Whatever the answer to that question, if I do come out to my host family, if I do see them again, I'll wait until after the Rémy Martin. I can't afford it, and there's no way I'm putting my chance at getting some more in danger.

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JK Johnson | March 28, 2008 6:18 PM


Sorry the "host" family thing didn't work out better. I think you would enjoy the Mayor of Saint Etienne. Here is his bio from Google:

Michel Thiollière
Mayor of St Etienne, France
After becoming Mayor of Saint-Etienne and President of its Urban Community (a federation that includes 43 districts and almost 400,000 inhabitants) Michel Thiollière lost no time in launching a major urban renewal project. This would go on to profoundly change the face of the city, allowing both its service sector and cultural and architectural assets to assume their full potential. In 2006 Michel Thiollière was included among the top ten mayors in the annual World Mayor project.

The city has been marked by the upheavals caused by 200 years of industrial revolution. It has also suffered the effects of crises in the mining and metalworking industries. Against this background, Michel Thiollière’s optimistic style has shone through - often contrary to the local mood. On assuming office he quickly set in motion his restructuring plans, making his imprint as a visionary, or more simply as somebody with the capacity to shape the future.

His action has been based upon major projects to improve the structural fabric of the town and to give it the means to expand and develop. In all of this, initiatives to boost the arts as a vehicle for development as well as social cohesion were not forgotten. Today a number of major projects are helping to transform the image and influence of Saint-Etienne and its surrounding area.

The underlying objective of the renovation and construction that is going on is to combine the charm and nostalgia of the past with a modern, attractive environment while maintaining a healthy balance between respect for people as individuals and administering the community as a whole.

One major guiding theme has emerged from it all - the Saint-Etienne Métropole Design. Saint-Etienne and its urban area can draw upon a strong tradition in the industrial and artistic fields, combining cultural creativity and technological innovation. One of its objectives is the Cité du Design (Design Village).

This strategy is based upon the existence of a thriving cultural scene including the presence of the Museum of Modern Art, which houses France's leading modern art collection outside Paris, the International Biennial Design Festival, and famous sites such as the Le Corbusier site in Firminy and the proposed first Zenith music and cultural centre of the Rhône-Alpes. Named in 2000 as a Town of Art and History, Saint-Etienne is today a candidate for the status of a European Culture Capital in 2013.

Michel Thiollière has a unique style, displaying a high degree of determination and openness, whether concerning people, other French regions or the international scene. He daily demonstrates his ability to unite people around an idea, regardless of their political viewpoints.

His commitment to innovation and creativity has also attracted some of the greatest names in contemporary architecture, including Fumihiko Maki (now working on a vast urban renewal project in the town centre) and Sir Norman Foster (currently designing the future Zenith entertainment venue).

In addition to his willingness to listen and to engage in dialogue, he also possesses the ability to inspire confidence and faith in the town and in its inhabitants. He is politically courageous, determined and demanding. But he is also careful to explain each of his ideas in detail in order to ensure their success. Michel Thiollière firmly believes that Saint-Etienne now stands at the crossroads, and that thanks to clear vision and much long-term work the city can finally make the transition it so desperately needs.

More information can be found here:

Wow. I dont' know jack taco about michele, but alls I know is he got jacked from his position this past week. He's done for and replaces by a member of the socialist party. Not that it matters, I'm outta this place in a coupla months, whether I go back to america or not.

Wait, didn't Michel just get voted out for a Socialist like two weeks ago? I need to look that up....

But seriously, that art museum here in St-E I keep on hearing is the biggest and best one outside Paris in all of Europe. I need to visit - it isn't all that far away.

Not that it matters, I'm outta this place in a coupla months, whether I go back to america or not.

Why is it I'm finding these things out on the blog? *sigh* I remember when you used to call me and tell me things...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 29, 2008 9:15 AM

Poor confused Alex waking up in his little room: It is a sign of liberation to be who you are while not living up to anyone else's expectation of who you should be. This does not require you discuss your personal life with anyone you choose not to. After all, did your host family tell you whether they prefer the missionary position, doggie style or three ways with their guest "foster Children." (yuk)

Look, they probably forgot the night and were not home and were too embarrassed to contact you back.

Unless, oh, yes!

I would think it is more likely that you gulped your cognac when you should have slowly savored it.