The Magic of Being Your True Self: Reflection on the life of Minister BobbieJean Baker

by Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

There are people you meet who are larger than life; their presence and energy just fills the space when they enter a room. Minister BobbieJean Baker was one of these.

Over the past years we had met a number of times at events that brought together transgender people of faith. Our paths crossed in Cleveland, Minneapolis, Charlotte and San Francisco.

I heard her testify; I heard her sing. She did both with an amazing, powerful voice filled with great beauty.

Her testimony was about the life that she had led – a convicted felon and a former crack addict is how she described herself – and then the path that brought her to City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco and to Transcendence, the church’s transgender gospel choir.

BobbieJean became an ordained minister at the City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco and served as the West Coast Regional TransSaints Minister of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, and Lay Minister at Transcending Transgender Ministries of City of Refuge UCC.

She also ended up a lead singer for Transcendence, the nationally recognized groups, and found great satisfaction in her role.

“If any message of any song I sing helps someone get out of their inner locked-up cage, that’s what I’m for,” Baker said, in a San Francisco Chronicle article, “because it took me a while to get free.”

BobbieJean Baker died suddenly early New Year’s Day 2014 in a car accident after leaving a church service. The driver of the car she was in was also injured but is recovering.

So, now BobbieJean is truly free; “homegoing” as friends would say in preparing for her memorials service last week.

Her vibrant, irrepressible presence will be missed, both by those who knew and loved her and also by those who have lost the chance for her loving, no-nonsence mentorship. BobbieJean knew troubles in her life and worked tirelessly to help others avoid pitfalls that she had experienced.

Minister BobbieJean Baker found herself as a transgender person; she became fully her true self and that brought joy and satisfaction to her – and magic to the world for which she cared so deeply.

BobbieJean, may you rest joyfully in the arms of Jesus. You have so earned a place of honor in his presence.