ACTIVIST JAIME COMBS TALKS ABOUT PRIDE, PFLAG AND WORKING WITH JENNIFER NETTLES
by Rocky Vy | photo courtesy Joe Hacker of Conography
The LGBT+ rights movement in Tennessee is in good hands with people like Jaime Combs at the helm.
Currently serving on the board of directors for ConnectUs Health – a community healthcare organization – and Nashville Pride, Combs has been involved in advocacy work for nearly 11 years. She was motivated to become involved after a fatal terrorist attack that took place on July 27, 2008, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was witness to a mass shooting, and lost her friend and community ally, Greg McKendry, to the politically-motivated act.
“When this event happened, I knew that I could no longer be silent,” she recalls. Soon after, she became the Knoxville PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Chapter President, and went on to be their first-ever transgender South-Atlantic Regional Director. She may now be the first out trans person to appear in a mainstream country music video as well.
Jennifer Nettles – lead vocalist of the celebrated band Sugarland, LGBT+ ally, and recent HRC honoree – released a music video in March 2019 for her solo single “I Can Do Hard Things”. The video’s message centers around a diverse group of powerful women, including Combs, who serve as an inspiration to viewers.
Nettles shares this on her Medium.com blog post: “This song for me is a truth-telling … a real-life heart opening to what it means to be a grown woman.” The message in the lyrics and in the video communicates to women everywhere that their stories are worthy of being heard, that it’s okay if they don’t have all the answers, that being a nurturer or caregiver is both challenging and rewarding, and that women are resilient.
Combs, who is a mother of two and grandmother to three, was a natural inclusion for this video. She says that the #ICanDoHardThings project is “groundbreaking in my opinion, and to be included among these dynamic and amazing women was an honor and a joy that I would have never imagined.”
She goes on to discuss the importance of media representation of trans people, especially growing up in East Tennessee. She says, “I would have given anything to have known that trans women exist, that they could create the life they want, and that a trans woman would be included in a project like this.”
Now, she serves as an inspirational figure for other trans people and LGBT+ youth out there. She currently stays active with PFLAG in Nashville and Franklin and has worked with both the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) and GLSEN — a group that advocates for LGBTQ+ identifying students – where she also encourages other people to fight and get involved.
“It is important that we get outside our own personal spaces and comfort zones if you really want to make a difference.”
In addition to being a motivating figure within the community and a family woman, she is also certified in hypnotherapy, which she attributes to helping her overcome the many challenges she has faced in her life. She said that counseling and books, especially ones authored by Brené Brown, were important in dealing with PTSD from the mass shooting and the many years of abuse, neglect and mistreatment that many trans people have also experienced.
Much like the #ICanDoHardThings message, she also understands the conflict of duality in emotions and in life.
“We are built for the good things and the bad things; we are resilient. Sometimes the flame of hope glows brightly and sometimes the flame is nearly a glowing ember, but I have always been committed to that hope.”
When she is not out advocating for the LGBT+ community in Tennessee, you can find her and her wife in their Nashville home playing with their three parrots and rescued Papillon. She’s worked on several YouTube video projects and is working on a project that will be pitched to Netflix very soon.
“Hope to see you soon on the stream screen, queen.”