William, Gulf Shores, Alabama
I grew up in a very straight world. I had straight friends, played sports, had girlfriends. I was an Eagle Scout and was involved in all sorts of outdoor activities. Growing up gay in my Alabama town wasn’t an option. I moved to Spain when I was twenty-three for work with a Fortune 500 company. It was the perfect opportunity to come out and begin my life as a gay man. When I returned to the States fourteen years later, I could have reestablished myself in a larger, more cosmopolitan city like Dallas or Miami, but as a native Alabamian, I was drawn to the sugar-white sands and turquoise Gulf Coast waters of my childhood. This was where I learned to swim, fish, and crab, and spent many hot, humid days with family and friends—the loved ones I rarely saw during my years in Europe. After living in Madrid and Barcelona, I decided to trade in the fast-paced city life for the one Jimmy Buffett writes about. As one might imagine, stereotypical gay life here is limited to a few bars and clubs and an occasional pride celebration, but I was positively surprised regarding the social advancements and the acceptance of the gay community, especially here along the coast. I travel frequently for work and do enjoy my time in whichever big city I happen to find myself, but it always feels good to come home to Alabama.