April 19, 2012 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Queery: Chris Copley

Chris Copley (Blade photo by Michael Key)

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?

Barcode

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!”

If your life were a book, what would the title be?This one is hard. I feel like my life isn’t interesting enough for people to read. So maybe something that at least makes them open the cover like “100 Ways to Be a Millionaire.”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Keep on walking…

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I’m hoping for a heaven full of fried southern food.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

We cannot expect change overnight. Slow is not bad, it’s progress.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My mom and family.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That all LGBT people are self centered and selfish.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Steel Magnolias.” “Drink your juice Shelby”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Using silverware properly.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

A T-shirt one of my brothers made me when I was 5. It has Bart Simpson on the front saying, “Cool, dude.”

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

The best has yet to happen!

Why Washington?

It’s not the reason I moved to the area but the food in D.C. is amazing. In D.C. people can get just as opinionated about food as they do about politics.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

2 Comments
  • Chris, what a great job on your article.I am so proud of you and even prouder to have you as a nephew.You are such a caring person who would do anything for anyone who needed it . And youre an angel to me you have been there beside me from my surgery to my chemo and beyond, I Love You and dont want to run this race with cancer without you. love Aunt Terry

  • Kevin Ellerbruch

    I had the fortune of knowing Chris while he earned his Master’s at UGA. He is an inspiring, caring person with a big heart and great spirit. The world could benefit from more folks like Chris! I wish him the best in his endeavors!

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