Days before Christmas, I was sitting in a nearly empty newsroom looking for a story. I scrolled somewhat erratically through social media until I came across a post by Meghan Lewis.

Lewis had bright blond hair and wore big red glasses. She was inviting people who are queer — in a phone interview with The Baltimore Banner, she called them “queer babies” — for a meal, a night of games and fun at her little condo in Bel Air for Christmas Day.

“Why: it makes me happy, and I like offering a stress-free option for some of my fellow queers who need to be fed and loved,” the post read. Then came a long menu: turkey, roast beef, mashed potatoes, so many casseroles, mac & cheese, pies, cookies. She was a “queer gen x mama to older teens”; her housemate is a grandmother — their “kitchen game is not weak,” she promised.

She hosted strangers, friends and neighbors that night, after spending a week meal prepping and cleaning. They talked activism, queer rights and her past in the military, all while listening to Christmas music. Two days later, Lewis was fatally shot in front of her home.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Bel Air police responded to reports of a shooting Wednesday evening and arrested 47-year-old Brian Delen of Bel Air, who was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Court documents say that Delen was delivering food and that led to a confrontation, WBAL reported. Delen had asked, “Are you waiting for food delivery, sir?” and Lewis believed he was misgendering her. The court documents say Delen drove away and Lewis walked up to him in the parking lot of her condominium building. The dispute escalated, and Delen got out of his car and fired at Lewis, hitting her in the left abdomen. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Delen has since been released, and his court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25.

Dozens of friends who knew Lewis in childhood, who met her through her activism, and strangers who knew her through her social media presence posted on Facebook speaking of her “generosity” and “light.” They shared messages that they had exchanged with her — a poem by Mary Oliver, her plans for the next year.

Lewis told me she worked for over two decades in the enterprise technology space, rising to the position of vice president of strategic alliances at OpenText, an information management software company. She traveled a lot for her job and constantly worked overtime. It all started to make less sense to her, simmering with the loss of two family members in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What am I doing with my life?” she asked herself.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“I had this big dream, finally being in the right body, what I would do with it — I’d go see places, I would go do things,” she added.

So, in November of last year, Lewis told her co-workers she was going on a sabbatical: “I’m gonna walk my dogs, and I’m gonna go walk trails and go to the dog parks. And I’m gonna go save little queer babies and get in little adventures.”

She wanted to do more regular dinners, said her friend Iya Dammons, executive director of Baltimore Safe Haven. Like Sunday family dinners, make it “pasta Sundays” or “barbecue Sundays.” She told Dammons she wanted to find a bigger place where she could host people.

“I like meeting people and making them feel loved,” Lewis told Dammons.

And Dammons felt loved. She has known Lewis for years, when Dammons had just founded her nonprofit organization. Lewis supported her from the beginning. She became a steady donor; she sent food baskets for Thanksgiving and cooked dinner for her. She talked to Dammons about her transition and gender-affirming surgery.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“She breathed life into me to be this incredible woman that I am today,” Dammons said. “She gave me pointers and told me what I should be doing and how I should be doing, just keeping me afloat.”

“I just want the world to know that hatred like this will not be tolerated. We stand in solidarity with community members,” she added. Dammons said she wants to host a vigil for Lewis.

When I talked to Lewis a few days before Christmas, she told me that her nana’s kitchen in the United Kingdom, where Lewis’ mother was from, was her happy, safe space as a child.

“Because I got to wear an apron,” she laughed softly, almost giggly. “As a young trans kid who hadn’t come out yet — are you kidding me?

“That was a home run,” she added.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

She changed her mind over having a reporter over, though she stressed that I was welcome as “Clara, the Latina Terp.” She told me she could try to make farofa and arroz natalino, staple Brazilian dishes in any Christmas party. I had told her that this would be the first Christmas I would be spending alone, away from my family in Brazil.

Whether I decided or not to come, she told me: Stay sparkly.

Clara Longo de Freitas is a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities. Before joining the Banner, she interned at The Baltimore Sun as an emerging news and community reporter. She also has design and illustration experience with several news organizations, including The Hill and NPR. 

More From The Banner