On Moving Out and Moving Up

Probably many of us that have been with NOSHA for a while are living the curious wisdom of the unforgettable and more counterintuitive of Shakespeare’s quotations: Parting is such sweet sorrow. 

William Gautreaux’ friendship with NOSHA began in the mid-2000s, and evolved into a relationship of dedicated participation in all things NOSHA, including writing articles for this blog, volunteering for any project that needed bodies (and minds!), including the  planning and organization of social events and banquets, leading the discussion group Fika, being a prolific and thoughtful contributor on our Facebook discussion page, and serving on the NOSHA’s board of directors for over a decade.

In early January, William will be flying out of New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana, and the U. S.of A. to a new life in Portugal, and the city of Setúbal, just miles away from Lisbon and the eastern shores of the Atlantic. 

So how could his departure be anything but sorrowful for those in our close community? Or for his family of five siblings? or for those in other circles of his association? And what alchemy could turn this leaden emotion of sorrow into anything you might call sweet?

Putting together a little background history of William’s life, along with a feel for his modest and peaceful character was the aha moment for me. 

Born into a stagnant, if not dying American micro-culture of Creole and Cajun French Louisiana in the Houma region, William bucked the  trend and became interested in the French language, which was soon bolstered by The Council for Development of French Language in Louisiana (CODOFIL) by setting him up in an exchange program to visit France while in high school. Later, as a teacher, he returned to France to hone his profession.

In addition to his day job as teacher of French, Spanish, and Latin in various school systems, he was destined for a second life of immersion into world-spanning travel and cultures, visiting 35 countries on five continents including his half-dozen or so visits in France.

He was  an anomaly in the wild west oil-patch working class culture in which he was raised, “singing  and acting in over 50 theatrical shows, concerts, musicals, and operas with the New Orleans Opera, Baton Rouge Little Theater, Jefferson Performing Arts Society, Tulane Summer Lyric, and various other small venues and theater companies, did background acting from 2014 to 2022 in New Orleans in over 40 TV shows and movies, and had a small speaking role in the movie Where The Crawdads Sing in 2022,” Willam recalls. He is an accomplished pianist. He doesn’t follow “sports ball.”


William seems to check all the boxes of someone who could be called an europhile: solid background in languages, interest and participation in the performing arts, avid reader, and extensive travel through the region being a few; in other words, someone who would not surprise you if he were to emigrate from south Louisiana and the U.S.

But not many that have similar skills and interest as William—not many “cultural” Europeans—even contemplate picking up and moving to a far-away country, much less doing it.

Understanding Williams’ unassuming and sensitive character helps in understanding a life-changing move like this. The once slow political drift to the right of local and national psyche has quickened, and it appears that each day witnesses another degradation of our liberal ideal of the respect of every human born as having equal standing among all others, and that toleration of individual expression is  fundamental. But these are fragile covenants . The gay identity has always been one of derision among the general population–primarily from the homophobic “morals” taught in the Bible and other religious texts— and even after several decades of gradual  acceptance among Americans, that acceptance seems now on the precipice of retreating, in law and spirit.

Factors like quality of life, cost of living, and climate also went into the decision to move on. There seems to be no comparison with those conditions in south Louisiana, or even (or especially) in New Orleans.

With a moment of reflection on the ambiguity of sweet sorrow, you might conclude that it is the thought, or the anticipation of meeting the person again after their absence, as was likely Juliet’s sentiment; or maybe in our relation with William, with his departure comes the hope that his search to be at ease with himself and his surroundings is successful. For us, his well-being and flourishing  should be more important than our own selfish desires to have him near, and that knowing his arrival will be a treasure for his new family as he was for us…. that could be the sweetest of all.

Safe travels and a great future, William!




December 30, 2023

Marty Bankson, for The Humanist Advocate