Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Last week, a giant in the local transgender community passed away even though she would not see herself as such. Pamela Jones gave and lived more during her final years on this earth than anyone I've known. During a time when most people are thinking about retiring, she was beginning a new. Her ability to communicate the very basics of integrity and human dignity went beyond labels like transgender. Pamela is truly one of the most remarkable people I have ever known, and her effect on me will last a lifetime.

I will admit I've had a difficult time dealing with Pamela's death. I've known her over 14 years back even before I went out as Stephanie for the first time. We met online via our Geocities websites (remember those?) and emailed for a couple years. We finally met in person in 1999. In recent years, she became a confidante. Pamela was someone I could run thoughts and ideas by without feeling I was being judged. We thought a lot alike about many issues running the gamut from religious to the LGBT community to the Carolina Panthers. Pamela was one of the most principled, centered people I have ever met. It was that genuineness that I think attracted people to her even if they vehemently disagreed with her.

This allowed Pamela to bridge so many gaps stretching even into mainstream circles. She became active with the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, Equality NC, Sean's Last Wish, and her church, Hold Trinity Lutheran Church. In February 2008, Pamela met Elke Kennedy of Sean's Last Wish at an education initiative about ENDA outside the HRC Gala in Charlotte. This is one example of how putting herself out there opened other doors. I was inspired by her to begin making baby steps into mainstream groups. Contra dancers can credit Pamela to some extent for me being out in that community.

I think of a story Pamela told about being in a church float during the Pride NC parade one year in Durham, NC. A short part of the parade route was open to protesters. While screaming and yelling some very un-Christian things, she smiled, looked at one of them, and mouthed, “God loves you, and so do I.” That story has stuck with me as a way Pamela helped our community by not lashing out or retaliating. She related as a fellow Christian and human being.

Pastor Nancy Kraft delivered a touching memorial to Pamela. Hearing Nancy speak, I felt like Pamela was once again with us. Her words of wisdom have often been quite comforting. Only when Nancy stopped speaking did it really hit me that Pamela was gone.

I miss Pamela dearly. Already several times I have caught myself wanting to email her about something. I went through a job loss back in early June. Even then, she emailed me with encouraging words. She even let me vent a bit. Above all, she told me to take care of me and not to worry about her. That's just how she was. I'm thankful for those who did worry about her until the end. She knew she was not alone.

Some of Pam's websites are still up. I would encourage you to pay them a visit:

http://pamela1nc.blogspot.com/
http://pamrenee.com/