Coming out for me has been an ongoing process. It started some thirty years ago. When I came out to my family it was not by choice. I was outed, accidentally and not maliciously, by a close family member. I will never forget that day. I had a twenty minute drive home to figure out what I would say to my weeping mother and heartbroken father. It took some time but the love my parents and family had for me never wavered.
Even now, thirty plus years later, I am still coming out. Each time I get a Facebook friend request from an old schoolmate or former colleague from work, I come out. You see, as out as I was to my family and very close friends, I still was closeted to the world. It wasn’t until my last few years as a construction electrician that I began to come out to all who needed to know. I don’t believe it is necessary to introduce myself as Nicholas Coppola, Gay Man. I have found that the words “I’m Gay” need not be said. I simply live my true authentic self, no shows and no lies.
It wasn’t until recently, as an adult, that I experienced my first real negative, coming out, experience and sadly it was at my church. It wasn’t so much about coming out that was a bad experience. Most parishioners knew I was gay. I never told them, they just knew. The way they knew was simply by hearing about my life and family through friendly conversations.
The problem began when my husband David and I married. Since many of the parishioners were our friends, most attended our wedding. David and I had the wonderful blessing of sharing our wedding celebration with close to three hundred friends and family. It was when an anonymous person penned a letter to our bishop complaining that a “gay man married to another man is teaching at St. Anthony’s” that the bad experience began. Rev. Nicholas Lombardi, the pastor, called me into his office to inform me that he had no choice but to remove me from all public ministry. It was the first time I had ever directly been discriminated against, and it hurt.
Parishioners, family and friends rallied to my side. GLAAD was instrumental in getting out the word of this tremendous injustice. Petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were delivered to Bishop Murphy, which he returned. I am no longer a member of St. Anthony’s. I have found a very welcoming and affirming Catholic parish in Chelsea, New York named The Church of St. Francis Xavier where I am active in ministry and I don’t need to hide my sexual orientation or my marriage to David. I have not given up on St. Anthony’s and never will. I continue to hope for change.
What I learned from my removal is that it is important to stand up for who you are no matter what the situation. Never let a single person stand in the way of you “living your authentic self”. I am a happily married man who just happens to be Gay and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.