by Angel Huracha

It’s been four years since I traded in my life for textbooks as I left San Diego’s gay mecca area of Hillcrest to a neighborhood about 600 miles up north called Chico. I can still remember my first day here with such clarity. It’s not like I was doing anything of consequence that day, it’s just engraved in my mind.

Perhaps one of the biggest cliche stereotypes is that if you are gay, the answer to all your problems is moving to a big city where you can live a free life in an accepting environment. The sentiment isn’t always formulated so blatantly, but it’s made the rounds.

My approach was the opposite. I did not flock to a liberal university in a free-spirit city, I came here. I left a flashy city that embraced and accepted a culture I was a part of, for a town that acknowledge its existence but mostly stayed stagnant on the matter. No rainbow flags, the gay bars became non existent or quietly turned into a mere few gay nights, and in my eyes the Pride parade was so minuscule that it looked like it was held in a YMCA banquet room with a bowl of spiked punch. Oddly for me, it wasn’t my gravest concern. That would be the sad realization that I couldn’t get a fucking burrito anywhere in town after 2am.

As time went on I realized that looking for genuine intimacy one mattress at a time was no different here than back in my hometown; this was simply a place with less matches to my OkCupid profile. Compatibility and chemistry would not matter, I would be carrying the same wallet sized collage of dick pics as I did anywhere else. There were some differences, sure: I learned what it was like not to be free with my impulses. I once tried to kiss a guy I was dating at The Bear and he pulled away and cautiously looked around and said “we’re in a straight bar,” it felt like years of suppression came knocking down my throat.

Perhaps this town’s biggest reward to me is the level of acceptance it has blessed me with. Such a confidence it has bestowed upon me that I sometimes feel like my own Ryan Gosling.

I am grateful for the great periods of lust that came my way: Beginning with the stud who sold smoothies, followed by the intellectual high school teacher, that lead to the sci-fi nerd, who introduced me to the artist and coffee connoisseur, which finally landed me with a guy who loves his cat more than he does me.

Please understand that I’m not trying to feed you any Eat, Pray, Fuck revelations. Truth is you’re not going to gain more tolerance or acceptance by moving yourself to enclaves far removed from other Grindr accounts and Tinder profiles.

Sometimes you just have to take notice of the scenery and the benefits thereof. Of course, some rural places are better than others for us gay folks. But the judgement of all smaller, rural communities and the assumption that you will mostly blossom in big cities is not true.

Thus concludes notes from the guy who has no shame admitting that Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die album is the soundtrack of my college career. A guy who likes to write, eat fried chicken, and enjoys Jennifer Aniston rom-coms.