Jaime Combs is the most appropriate and perfect person to be our first LGBTQ+ hero that we recognize, especially given that it's time for Pride month. Jaime is fierce, funny, resilient, and couragous. She is an amazing role model. Please read below to learn about her life and to find inspiration:
Jaime Combs grew up in Elizabethton, moved to Knoxville to attend Johnson Bible College, and then moved to Maryville. She worked as a stylist and owned her salon for several years. Jaime met the love of her life, Carla Lewis. They raised two children together and are now the proud grandparents of three grandchildren and one French bulldog. Jaime and Carla were attending service at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church when an armed male committed a mass shooting at the church. Seven were injured and two people were killed. Greg McKendry, one of Jaime’s friends was unfortunately one of the individuals who was killed during this shooting.
This horrific event compelled Jaime to become an advocate for the transgender community. She became president of the Knoxville chapter of PFLAG and then was the first transgender South Eastern Regional Director of PFLAG. Jaime and Carla then moved to Nashville where she became a Connectus Health (https://www.connectus.org/) board member, and she serves as Chair of the Personnel Committee as well as a member of the Quality Committee. Jaime has acted as a volunteer with the Transbuddy program at Vanderbilt's Transgender Health Clinic (https://www.vumc.org/lgbtq/trans-buddy-program).
Jaime appeared in a music video by Grammy winning artist Jennifer Nettles, where she was featured as the first openly transgender woman to be in a nationally released music video. She is featured in the Trans ilient docuseries, "Climbing Every Mountain," which was produced to reveal struggles many face when trying to receive transgender healthcare in Appalachia. Jaime appeared in a training video that is being used by Vanderbilt Hospital to educate their staff about working with our transgender community. Jaime has devoted much of her time at Legislative Plaza in response to Tennessee’s anti-transgender legislation. She is one of the plaintiffs challenging Tennessee's Birth Certificate law, which prohibits Tennesseans from changing gender markers on their birth certificates. Tennessee is the only state in the nation that has this law against their citizens.
From Jaime to the world: “For young people who are transgender, I want to tell them that they know themselves better than anyone else. Believe in yourself and find others that believe in you, develop a support system for you, especially if your family is not supportive. You can create the life that you choose, you can overcome obstacles, never give up and never let your heart become hardened. There is beauty in the world, choose to see it, and see as much of the world as you possibly can. For parents of transgender youth, I would advise you to listen to your child and educate yourself on trans issues. I would advise parents to find support among their friends or parents of other trans children. I would advise parents to let go of any guilt if you were hesitant to accept your child or even if some small part of you feels like it's your "fault" that your child is trans. Remind yourself that you are figuring this out just like your child is figuring it all out. LOVE YOUR CHILD.”
“I love you! I want young people to know that they are loved and lovable exactly as they are, that there will be days that appear to be very dark but they don't last and always keep looking for the light. I want young people to find their passion, the one thing they can excel at. I hope young people will pursue their education so that many opportunities will be available to them. I want young people to know that they are not alone. And I want parents to know although their child will have struggles, that their child can still have a wonderful life and that they have the ability to find love and happiness, and can achieve many of their dreams.”
Jaime is a mature (we never tell a woman’s age) Transwoman who started her transition in the 1990’s. She is also a survivor of the Knoxville Church Shooting that took place in 2008.
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