The mayor of an Alabama city, who was also a Baptist pastor, killed himself earlier this week after the public learned about his online “fantasy” life as a “Transgender Curvy Girl.”
Until recently, F.L. “Bubba” Copeland seemed like an average guy with a busy life. Aside from his role as a husband and father, the 62-year-old was the mayor of Smiths Station, a city of about 6,700 residents in eastern-central Alabama, just over the state line from Columbus, Georgia. He was also a pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City and the owner of a small grocery store in Salem.
However, a recent article in the nonprofit news outlet 1819 shattered his seemingly wholesome image. The 1819 article revealed that Copeland had developed an online alter ego named Brittni Blaire Summerlin and spent considerable time indulging in the world of fantasy.
A private Instagram account for “brittniblaire,” which was created in 2014 and deleted soon after Copeland spoke with 1819, described her as a “Transgender Curvy Girl.” On that and other social media accounts, Copeland posted pictures of himself wearing makeup, a woman’s wig, and some of his wife’s clothing. Beyond dabbling in transvestism, Copeland also posted sexual photos of himself as Brittni, wearing women’s lingerie and, in at least one photo, cupping his breasts.
Copeland also wrote erotica that references pornography, bisexuality, and masturbation and posted it online. According to the Daily Mail, in one of his stories, the narrator becomes so obsessed with a local woman that he murders her and assumes her identity.
As disturbing as that premise is, it becomes even more disturbing to know that the murdered woman in the story shares the same name as a real-life local businesswoman who is friends with Copeland’s family. The woman, who said she had not read the story, told 1819 that she was “distraught” to learn about its contents, the Daily Mail reported.
When 1819 approached Copeland about the Brittni Blaire Summerlin accounts, he initially denied knowing anything about them. However, he later admitted that they were his.
“Just my wife knows about it,” Copeland told 1819. “It’s a hobby I do to relieve stress. I have a lot of stress.”
“It’s just a bit of a character I’m playing,” Copeland added. “… I don’t go out and seek solicitation or anything like that.”
Copeland also insisted to 1819 that he was not “medically transitioning,” though a bio in at least one social media account about Brittni described her as “Transitioning.” Copeland also apparently encouraged others on Reddit to begin hormone replacement therapy.
Copeland stressed to 1819 that his online life as Brittni Blaire Summerlin was just “fantasy” and the erotic stories “purely fiction.” “What I do in private life has nothing to do with what I do in my holy life,” Copeland explained to 1819.
“Does this have any effect on me being mayor, that I sometimes put on a dress or sometimes put on makeup? Does that have anything to do whatsoever with me being mayor or being a pastor?”
Copeland also asked 1819 not to publish the news about his “transgender” social media accounts to protect his family and his pastoral position, but 1819 declined to honor that request.
Soon after the article published on Wednesday, Copeland issued a statement to members of his church. The following is the version of the statement published by WSB-TV:
The article is not who or what I am. Yes, I have taken pictures with my wife in the privacy of our home in an attempt at humor because I know I’m not a handsome man nor a beautiful woman, either. I apologize for any embarrassment caused by my private and personal life that has (become public). This will not cause my life to change, this will not waver my devotion to my family, serving my city, serving my church.
I’m thankful for the grace of God. … I have nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of things that were said were taken out of context.
Despite assurances that he had “nothing to be ashamed of” and would continue “serving” his city and his church, friends and neighbors became increasingly concerned about Copeland’s state of mind after the story broke. By Friday, some had asked police to conduct a welfare check.
Officers went in the direction of his home that evening but discovered Copeland driving en route. They pulled Copeland over on Lee Road 275, just north of Yarbrough’s Crossroads, with no other reason than to assess his wellbeing.
Sadly, Copeland’s subsequent actions confirmed everyone’s worst fears regarding his mental state. He exited his vehicle, grabbed a handgun, and fatally shot himself in front of the officers. “I can confirm he took his own life,” said Sheriff Jay Jones.
Some in the community are outraged about the tragic turn of events. “I am so angry right now and heartbroken,” former Phenix City School Superintendent Dr. Larry DiChiara wrote on Facebook. “I witnessed a good man be publicly ridiculed and crucified over the last few days…to the point that he just took his own life today…
“I just want to ask you people who thought it humorous to publicly ridicule him, ‘Are you happy now?’ What crime did he commit?” DiChiara’s post continued, according to WRBL.
First Baptist Church of Phenix City held a memorial service for Copeland, and mourners have placed flowers at a cross placed in front of the church in tribute to Copeland. “Despite what has been implied in the media, members of this church remain steadfast with love and concern for their pastor,” Dr. David White, who officiated the service, told the congregation.
Craig Monger, who wrote the original 1819 article, did not comment on Copeland’s suicide. However, 1819 editor in chief Jeff Poor did issue a statement expressing condolences: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Smiths Station, the parishioners of First Baptist Church of Phenix City and the victims and family of Mayor Copeland.”
Copeland’s death remains under investigation.
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