Wry Exchange

Gay and Lesbian Exchange Students
10-22-07, 10:58 am
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear potential Gay FES,

 Please apply to be an exchange student.  I see you’re worried about being accepted in other countries and cultures.  You Google ‘gay exchange student’ ‘gay FES in’ Argentina, Austria, Australia, all through the alphabet.  We’ve sent gay FES’s to all continents, so you won’t be the first.  I hear there are gay people everywhere in the world except Iran.

You may not wish to tell more than one adult in your program.  If it was me,  I don’t think I’d mention my sexual orientation at my interview, as many adults aren’t ready to accept teens have any sexual thoughts at all.  I certainly wouldn’t tell any adult in your host country before I arrived, or put it on my application.  Look for someone sympathetic in your program, s/he can give you advice.   I tell my students they can go anywhere in the world, just be discreet.  (I actually expect all the kids to be discreet.)  Our program’s volunteers like to assume the students are built like Barbie and Ken dolls.

Being gay is fine, but swanning about with a feather boa is not.  I me a potential FES recently who was stereotypically gay.  Everything screamed flamboyant flamer from his mannerisms, way of talking, and behavior. (he probably should lay off the caffeine, too.)  It was like the kid watched an old tv show to learn how to act, or the Fiesta, Fiesta video.  Please don’t be that person.  You don’t have to hide your personality, but you don’t need to express your entire personality, either.  Play the game.  

  I don’t know what I’m writing about. I’m just a well-meaning married, old lady volunteer.  If I’ve offended any of my gay students, I apologize. 

Another gay FES post.


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

As a former gay exchange student– both high school and college exchanges… I think you need to allow the person to make his or her choice about how out she is. Its good that you are positive– however asking a flamer not to flame and then telling them to be their own person are contradictory. In high school, exchange to Chile, I didn’t come out for months. It was a personal choice for me. I was still working on my sexuality and where I felt comfortable telling and not telling. Overall, it worked really well. People loved me before I was out and then once I was, and the shock had subsided, they continued to love me. That said, I was selective.

In college, I was much more out (and also a exchange student in Chile). I actually interned at a gay rights group. It was a great experience. A good friend of mine is a host family here in Chile. She has had students who in their application letter clarified that they were lesbian. For them, at a college level, it was important to integrate with a family who was going ot be accepting of who they were. I can only imagine how hard it would be to end up in an outwardly hostile family and only have yourself to blame for staying quiet.

I too think that LGBT youth should do exchange programs. It helps them experience the world– but more importantly, it helps the world experience them. There are tons of statistics that say that people who know personally 2 or more gay people are more likely to vote for gay rights. It makes sense.

Also, there are tons of resources for people who want to navigate their sexuality in different countries. For the record, I also was out during my Peace Corps experience.

Comment by Clare

Thanks, Clare. I advise the kids to keep their sexual orientation to themselves during the selection process. They are mostly minors in a foreign country. They have to get into the program to be able to change it. The kids will let people know as they begin to find people to trust. That’s why I tell them to ‘play the game.’ I can’t be myself completely around some of the adults in my program, neither can the students. The flamer kid didn’t fit in, just as kids who try to impress everyone with their high intelligence or a lot of money don’t fit in.

Comment by Wry

Perhaps avoid using the term “flamer”? I’m sure you mean well, but this word carries a lot of weight. It’s origins, like the word “faggot”, come from prosecution of gay people by way of burning them to death and, in more modern contexts, it’s often used as a derisive term.

Comment by Anonymous

Perhaps avoid using the term “flamer”? I’m sure you mean well, but this word carries a lot of weight. It’s origins, like the word “faggot”, come from prosecution of gay people by way of burning them to death and, in more modern contexts, it’s often used as a derisive term.

Comment by Willow

I agree. This post was made years ago when kids were afraid to admit their sexuality to anyone. I won’t change my post, That’s not honest, I deserve the criticism. I don’t look at this blog anymore. It was a different time and place in my life, and it hurts me to look at it. Your comment deserved a response though.

Comment by wryexchange

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