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These bisexual swingers shocked their Alabama town. They are now on a mission to spread acceptance.

Scott and April Shirley were stuck in bad marriages. Marriages that seemed restrictive amid their burgeoning bisexuality and quest for sexual freedom.

The two had been friends for years — Scott, 51, was then co-owner of a CrossFit gym in Decatur, Alabama, and April, 45, was a women’s and children’s pastor.

However, in late 2015, the two began a 10-month affair that cost them their jobs. Reputations. All. Now they live happily in a non-monogamous marriage.

Once the affair became public, they were ostracized from their town. And when they opened their business, Naughty Gym, it only added fuel to the fire.

Naughty Gym is an online community the couple created during the pandemic in 2020 – workouts people could do at home with a built-in platform for sex-positive users to connect, similarly that you would speak in a Facebook group. For $20 per month, their 300 members have access to daily workouts. Each core workout comes with a version that requires no equipment (“naked”); one that requires dumbbells (“topless”) and so on.

“These (workouts) have nothing to do with gender,” says Scott. “They’re just playful names.”

Nonetheless, it attracted the non-monogamous community – although you don’t have to be non-monogamous to join the platform – including swingers. Scott and April finalized their respective divorces in 2017 and married in 2020, planning to participate in ethical non-monogamy and embrace their LGBTQ+ identities. They want people to know that it is possible to accept who we are and uplift others – even if it means a middle-age change and judgment from those around us.

“I didn’t know any gay people growing up,” Scott says. “This has been a crazy turning point for me and I know a lot of people in our community would disagree with this, but I feel like I’m a much better person because of all this.”

Naughty Gym is an online community created by April (left) and Scott Shirley (right) during the 2020 pandemic.Naughty Gym is an online community created by April (left) and Scott Shirley (right) during the 2020 pandemic.

Naughty Gym is an online community created by April (left) and Scott Shirley (right) during the 2020 pandemic.

“Isolated from much of the community”

Another Decatur resident eventually outed the couple as swingers, and Scott later came out as bisexual on a podcast in 2021. “It was almost worse than being outed as a swinger,” April says.

Scott adds: “We don’t know in our town what the general public considers to be worse: the fact that we had an affair, that we are now agnostic or atheist, that we are bisexual…or that we are swingers. I don’t know which one is worse, but it’s a mix of issues that keeps us isolated from much of the community.

Swinging is the practice of exchanging partners for sex, according to a 2014 article in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. It’s not clear how many people swing today – some estimates say 2% or less – although a study by the North American Swing Club Alliance indicates that 15% of American couples have tried it at least once in their married life.

Scott and April Shirley are happily non-monogamous in a marriage.Scott and April Shirley are happily non-monogamous in a marriage.

Scott and April Shirley are happily non-monogamous in a marriage.

Their swinging journey went through different iterations. “We don’t have as many rules as we did in the beginning,” April says. “When we first started, I had like a Santa scroll of things that maybe I was uncomfortable with. But the beautiful thing about an open relationship is that “We communicate so much.”

Now it’s more situational. They like to be friends with the people they sleep with.

“The novelty of swing has kind of worn off,” Scott says. “And we realized that for us, it’s much more meaningful and a much more impactful experience if we really get to know people well.”

The two had been friends for years — Scott then co-owned a CrossFit gym in Decatur, Alabama, and April was a women's and children's pastor.The two had been friends for years — Scott then co-owned a CrossFit gym in Decatur, Alabama, and April was a women's and children's pastor.

The two had been friends for years — Scott then co-owned a CrossFit gym in Decatur, Alabama, and April was a women’s and children’s pastor.

Learn more about swingers: They had a loving marriage and their sex life was great. Here’s why they started swinging.

“It’s obviously always optional.”

They have not let the judgment of those around them shake their confidence, in life or in business.

For example, Naughty Gym came from purely an online business.

The Shirleys began hosting small wellness retreats for their members, which have now grown into quarterly trips sometimes bringing together hundreds of participants to resorts like clothing-optional Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica. They hosted a sexual health and wellness summit there in January, attended by psychiatrists and sex coaches.

However, none of the trips have any specific sex party arrangements or practices.

In case you missed: The swinging community has hidden in the shadows. Then came #SwingTok.

“There has been a little change”

Both men hope to make further progress in their local LGBTQ+ community and beyond; Decatur just held its first Pride event last June.

“It’s been slow, but there’s been a little change in our town,” April says. “And we were fortunate to be able to be a part of that.”

April (left) and Scott Shirley's (right) swinging journey has gone through different iterations.April (left) and Scott Shirley's (right) swinging journey has had different iterations.

April (left) and Scott Shirley’s (right) swinging journey has gone through different iterations.

And they have managed to create healthy outlets for swingers. “At least maybe for a few minutes a day, they would have access to other people like themselves and could be open and talk about their lifestyle or non-monogamous issues, while working out and getting better health,” says Scott.

Ethical non-monogamy isn’t for everyone, but it can work for some individuals and couples, Allison Moon, author of “Getting It: A Guide to Hot, Healthy Hookups and Shame-Free Sex,” previously said. TODAY.

“Openness in a relationship works best when the relationship as it is feels stable, honest and communicative,” Moon explained. “Swinging won’t fix a broken relationship, but it can add new adventures and excitement to already strong relationships.”

An adventure indeed – one that the Shirleys cherish.

“I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything now,” Scott says, “because now I have family and friends who support me, authentically who I really am and not who I pretended to be for a long time.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bisexual swingers: The proliferation of non-monogamy in one Alabama town