As the youngest of six boys and the only gay one, Chris Copley knew from an early age he was different from his siblings even if he couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
He remembers his next oldest brother — only 11 months older — noticing it when they were about 10 and 11.
“He said, ‘Chris, you’re different. You feel sorry for people more than most.’ He was saying it in the best way an 11-year-old could say that I seemed to have more compassion,” the 26-year-old Plato, Miss., native says. “That and what they always called my swish, my fabulous walk. It’s become a family joke.”
But the compassion isn’t just a gay thing — Copley says a life of volunteerism and service was instilled in him early on. It’s played out in his career choices. He came to Washington in 2010 after earning a master’s in non-profit management in Georgia to work at Volunteer Fairfax. In March he became communications director at Food & Friends, which has its annual Dining Out for Life event on Thursday (find details and participating restaurants at foodandfriends.org).
“I think any fundraiser that is able to bring so many members of a community together for a common cause is a huge benefit for an organization,” he says. “A lot of the people we serve don’t have family or friends to take care of them … it really takes a community to come together. We’re all sharing this world together so we need to take care of each other. Can you imagine facing cancer or HIV by yourself and having no one to rely on?”
Copley moved to D.C. to be with his boyfriend, Justin Jarrell, whom he’d met in graduate school. They live together in Alexandria. Copley was born in Germany where his father was stationed in the Army. From age 6 until college, he was in Missouri. In his free time, Copley enjoys running, working out, family time, cooking, eating, hiking and camping. (Blade photos by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out four years ago to my mom who jokingly said, “Chris, I love you still and nothing changes in my eyes, but good luck telling your brothers.” I have five older brothers, all who have served in the military and who are fairly conservative. It was very difficult coming out to them because I assumed that their reactions would be negative. However, I was very lucky because all of them reacted with only love and support.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Tina Turner. Her life is a true testament to overcoming the odds and fighting for what you want. At the age of 72, she still looks amazing! If I could only be so lucky!
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Describe your dream wedding.
The two of us at a courthouse with our closest friends and family. Then a massive party!
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Volunteerism and community service
What historical outcome would you change?
9-11. My father was killed in Iraq in 2004 in a war that was initiated, in part, by the 9-11 attacks. My father was an amazing individual and I wouldn’t mind if he was still around.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
YouTube. I can spend hours watching stupid videos!
On what do you insist?
That people get out and volunteer or find a cause and support it. There’s not a better feeling in the world. Regardless of who you are, there is something that you can be passionate about. Find that and get out and make a difference.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Take a stand by sitting down and dining in. Make a reservation at your favorite restaurant for Dining Out For Life on April 26. Nearly 130 restaurants will be donating 25-110% of their proceeds to Food & Friends!”