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After Pastor's Suicide, a Man Took to TikTok to Explain What It's Like to Be Outed

Ryan Adams Involuntarily Outed
Images: Courtesy Ryan Adams

Former Republican lobbyist Ryan Adams reflects on his own painful experience with being outed in conservative circles in the aftermath of an Alabama mayor’s death.

Cwnewser

In a conversation with The Advocate, a former Republican lobbyist from Mississippi shared about how it was to be outed by his colleagues.

Ryan Adams was a Republican lobbyist and was married to a woman at the time. He now lives in Alabama. Adams took to TikTok after the mayor of Smiths Station, F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, died by suicide after being outed as appearing to live an online life as a transgender woman.

Adams, who has faced his own battles after being thrust into the public eye without consent, expressed a solemn wish: “If one thing could come out of this senseless tragedy, I pray it could be that,” referring to a greater understanding of the harm caused by weaponizing identity against individuals.

Related: Alabama Mayor, Pastor Dies by Suicide After Being Involuntarily Outed as Transgender Woman

Although Adams said he didn’t know Copeland, the catalyst for Adams’ involuntary outing was similarly the product of secret revelations. In Adams’ case, profoundly personal and scandalous: a clandestine affair.

“I was married. I was married to a really great person, and I was outed,” Adams, who got married to his then-wife in 2011, said. He further admitted to the affair being with another man, which starkly contrasted with his public persona at the time.

This revelation was not on his terms; it resulted from a malicious act designed to expose and damage him.

“Someone... sent a very mean-spirited email to legislators in Montgomery [and] to news publications in two different states outing me,” Adams recounted.

“I self-medicated with alcohol,” he shared, adding he eventually found solace in therapy, which became a turning point for him. “I started seeing a fantastic therapist. She was the first person I ever formally said the words, I’m gay to.”

In a TikTok video posted last Friday, Adams addressed the tragic news of Copeland’s death: “Mayor Buddy Copeland of Smiths Station, Alabama, [killed] himself earlier today,” Adams said.

He condemned the actions of 1819 News, the conservative blog that targeted Copeland.

“You have blood on your hands,” Adams said. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The former lobbyist also touched upon the evolution of his political identity in the aftermath of his outing and the current political climate’s hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community.

He said he left the GOP because of the extremism in the party.

“I was always fiscally conservative, socially moderate… Now I don’t know what I am,” Adams said, noting the shift from what he saw as the fringe to the mainstream within the Republican Party.

@bhamryan1

Please pray for Mayor Copeland’s family. And try to excercise some kindess. #alabama #alpolitics #kindness #gay

This ideological dissonance has led him to reassess his political alignment.

“Honestly, if I had to be put in a box, you would say I’m an independent because I don’t know,” he said.

Reflecting on his upbringing, Adams underscored the importance of LGBTQ+ visibility and dialogue in conservative regions like Alabama and Mississippi. “I want to be somebody that makes a change there,” he said.

He said his motivation to speak out is deeply personal, rooted in his role as a father to a six-year-old son and his desire for a more accepting world.

“I never wanted him to feel like he couldn’t be whatever he was,” Adams stated.

Today, Adams serves as the vice president of government affairs for a major trade association, finding purpose in his career and personal life. “I’m a lot better off now… I’m happy now, and I’m dating someone fantastic,” he said.

Adams’ TikTok video further elaborated on the visceral fear he lived with after being threatened with being outed.

“I lived in fear every single day that that was going to get published in a newspaper somewhere,” he said.

This fear, presumably shared by Copeland, underscores the devastating effects of involuntary outing — a practice Adams calls “vicious,” “mean-spirited,” and contrary to the principles of kindness taught by Christianity.

As conservative lawmakers pass laws and school policies that could lead to children being involuntarily outed, the tragic incident involving Copeland should serve as a sobering reminder of the potential harm such policies can inflict.

Adams’ story is a stark illustration of the personal trauma and broader societal implications of outing someone against their will, highlighting an urgent need for policies that protect individuals’ privacy and dignity.

A funeral for Copeland was held Thursday.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).