Sitting down for coffee, Pamela Jones opens up about her life, beliefs, roles in advocacy and her hope to play the violin one day. The weather hangs above the shopping center, promising rain. She breezes into the coffee shop modestly dressed. She wears a long black leather coat, black scarf, red sweater. A small chain accented with pearls wraps around her neck. A silver charm bracelet with tarnished hearts curls around her wrist. Her long fingers extend out.Jones, a Charlotte native who has been an advocate for LGBT issues for nearly 40 years, draws from her faith to fuel her activism. “To whom much is given much is expected,” says Jones.
She has been elected to a position on the board of directors of Equality North Carolina (ENC). “It is an honor that I thought that I would never have,” she says.
Her appointment to the ENC board comes after 10 months of work with the organization’s transgender task force, formed to bring specific attention to issues facing the transgender community. She hopes to share her perspective regarding these issues in her role on the board.
Jones is co-founder of the Charlotte Gender Alliance, a discussion group focusing on issues affecting the transgender and transsexual community. The group meets on the first Saturday of each month at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, where she is on the board of trustees.
In 1969 Jones came out — six months before the historic riots at the Stonewall Inn. In 1970 she co-founded a cross-dressing support group. It started as a modest gathering of five who would meet, talk and take pictures of each other. Many of her photos taken in the ‘70s are posted on her website — pamrenee.com. She keeps the photos of her past in a filing cabinet, along with every letter she has received through the years. She hopes to one day write a book.
In the pictures, members of the suppport group are shown huddled together smiling, arms around each other. One shows friends sitting together on a floral upholstered couch. Among the collection of 27 photographs is the first picture Jones took as a woman.
“I’m sure there’s a book somewhere in there,” Jones says, emphasizing her point by tapping her nails on the table causing the hearts on her bracelet to jingle.
Nearly 40 years later, Jones attended a workshop at Wake Forest Divinity School, “Building an Inclusive Church,” where she met Charley Faulkenberry. When Jones and Faulkenberry returned from that workshop they wanted to know, “what do we do now?” They worked together to form the Charlotte Interfaith Connection (CIC). The mission of CIC is to connect LGBT people with inclusive faith communities.
“I think the biggest problem facing the LGBT community is ostracism from the church,” Jones says. “People sometimes confuse faith and religion.”
Within her she knows she has a book to be written, violin lessons to be learned and jewelry to be made. Her faith inspires her work within the LGBT community and keeps her focused on the tasks at hand: “Without my faith walk I lose my passion.” : :
This article was published in the Feb. 20 – Feb. 19 print edition.