Trans Minister Mourned
As they mourn the loss of BobbieJean Baker, a transgender minister who was killed in an auto accident in Oakland early New Year’s Day, many are recalling the advocate, woman of faith, and gifted singer’s sense of love and laughter.
But what also stood out to friends and co-workers was Baker’s lack of fear in telling them the truth. That was exemplified in a biographical account that the Oakland resident gave to San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center. Baker worked there as part of a transgender community health program aimed primarily toward women of color.
"My purpose is to help you break whatever it is that had you bound so that you can move to better yourself," Baker said of her work with clients. "... I’m willing to hold hands and walk you through every phase, but I am not willing to be your babysitter. There comes a time when you need to really step up and do the work for you."
Yvette Flunder, 58, was with Baker and others for New Year’s Eve Watch Night worship services in Oakland just before Baker died. Flunder, who’s the bishop of the national Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, said Baker, 49, seemed to understand that she didn’t have much time left.
"She gave best wishes to everyone, wonderful, kind words," said Flunder. "She went way out of her way speaking to everyone and wishing them the best for the coming year. It was incredible the space that she was in."
It was almost as if Baker knew "that something was coming, because she was so unusually specific in many of the ways she was going around talking to different people and encouraging them through their own struggles," she said.
After the services, Baker went to Bobby Wiseman’s home for a traditional meal that included corn bread and black-eyed peas.
Wiseman, 42, a gay deacon with City of Refuge Church, said at about 2:30 a.m., he was driving his 2000 Ford Expedition west on Interstate 580 in Oakland to take Baker home.
He said they were "remembering the good times and the friends that we’ve lost over the years" when a silver and black car came up on the left, bumped his SUV, and "fishtailed off the front," "swerving" before it drove away.
Wiseman’s vehicle fishtailed, then rolled "two to three" times before landing upside down on the Park Boulevard exit, he said.
Wiseman, who suffered only "some scrapes and abrasion," got out through a window. He called Baker’s name "but she didn’t respond," he said. They had both been wearing seatbelts.
A bystander "tried to get her out" but was unsuccessful, he said. Baker died at the scene.
Wiseman said he didn’t catch more descriptive details of the other car or how fast it had been going. He said he’d been driving his SUV about 65 to 70 miles per hour.
Officer Daniel Hill, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said Wiseman hadn’t been able to provide a description of the other car, and investigators had been unable to find any damage to the Expedition to substantiate Wiseman’s claim that someone had struck him. Hill also said witnesses had only seen his SUV "losing control" and couldn’t verify the other car’s presence.
Hill said Wiseman underwent DUI testing and "was not determined to be under the influence" of any substances. The crash investigation remains open.