Yep, that’s my friend’s legal name!
Bobbee tells yours truly that a transgender person has the right to change their name. Her family called her Bobbee while growing up and her surname is an extension of her birth name, Moore. Since she was raised in the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormon), Bobbee added the “mon.” (Just for the record, Bobbee is no longer affiliated with LDS.)
Her middle name is a nod to her activism within the LGBT Mormon community.
She liked how “Trans Mooremon” blended together, plus she’s proud to be a Trans-person! There ya have it…an original lady.
My darling friend has a tale to tell.
Nearly a decade ago, a potential roommate raped Bobbee, after she came out to him as
trans. Several months later she was diagnosed HIV-positive, began treatment and, fortunately, has been undetectable ever since. Bobbee credits San Francisco AIDS Foundation for its major support and guidance.
Raised near Salem, Oregon, Bobbee now resides in the City by the Bay. When she was one and a half, her parents relinquished custody of Bobbee and her older brother to her grandmother. She has not had any contact with them. Because she is autistic and suffers from chronic back pain and numbness in her legs, she identifies as a “Queer Disabled HIV-Positive Transgender Woman.”
The soon-to-be thirty-nine year old, Bobbee has been an activist ever since she was diagnosed! She has worked to promote HIV education, outreach, research, and is an advocate on behalf of the Trans community. For three years she has volunteered as a “Roadie” for the AIDS/LifeCycle.
One Sunday, following a matinee at the Castro Theatre of the Barbra Streisand film Hello,Dolly! (love my Babs), Bobbee’s favorite movie of all time, we meander down Castro and hunker down on a sidewalk bench. Straightaway I am transported to a different time, with memories swirling in my head of this legendary thoroughfare: parading down the street in drag (yes, as a man!—dressed in Cary Grant garb a la North by Northwest) celebrating Halloween, having brunch with friends who have now passed on, and witnessing the dynamic Harvey Milk at a rally, captivating a brimming audience—standing shoulder-to-shoulder, sidewalk to sidewalk, a sea of people.
Bobbee nudges my shoulder as I have lapsed into a daze.
Ruby Comer: Oh, sorry. Just pondering on the past. [I inhale profoundly, glancing up at the billowy clouds.] Say, my dear, have you known anyone who’s died of AIDS-related causes?
Bobbee Trans Mooremon: I had an uncle who passed away from AIDS-related causes in the nineties [she says in a resigned voice], but unfortunately, I was not close to him and only met him once or twice. My conservative Mormon family stopped allowing him to visit or attend events when they found out he had AIDS.
Oh wow. That’s really the Christian way, right? I’m being facetious.When I hear the word “Christian,” I run the other way, Bobbee! [Her head wobbles and her piercing sky blue peepers flit upward.] You’ve been a Roadie for three years now. Tell me about it.
This was my first year as a Bus Liaison, which means I was in charge of one of the SAG buses. If a Rider is tired or injured we take them to the next camp. We try to make the bus a fun experience to lift the Rider’s spirits who are disappointed that they cannot continue that day.
I see, yes. So it seems Roadie’s do all kinds of things to serve the Rider?
Roadies do everything from serving food, directing the riders where to go, cleaning up the camp, to medical services. Roadies do everything so that all the riders need to just focus on getting up in the morning and riding to the next camp.
What grand support! What was your impetus in volunteering?
I originally signed up because in 2013 a friend of mine from Washington, D.C. was doing the ride and I was following his journey via FaceBook. On Day 6 of the ride I received a message from him saying he was dedicating this ride to me. I was the only person he knew who was out as being HIV-positive.
Awww. Sweet. Did you ever think about biking it, instead of being a Roadie?
In 2014, I originally signed up as a cyclist. I bought a bike and all the things needed to ride but after riding about a mile I could tell my body would not be able to do it.
Looking back on your three years, is there one moment that stands out?
Yes! [she thunders enthusiastically.] Every year on Day Three of the ride it’s theme day called Positive Pedalers Day, which is an organization born out of the AIDS/LifeCycle. During that night’s stage program they ask all HIV positive participants to stand and be recognized. It is always a very moving moment that makes me cry. (Bobbee takes a breath.) I will never forget the feeling my first year. I stood in the back of the room watching one hundred people stand up, clap, and cheer for us. It was so powerful and every year since, I have made sure I’m there for that program.
How lovely. How touching. I can see why people are attracted to this Ride. Maybe one year I will join in. [Bobbee confidently smiles then lightly pats me on the back.] When did you first hear about the epidemic?
I actually don’t remember hearing about it until I was living in Portland, when I was in my twenties. Growing up Mormon I was sheltered from all of this. People never talked about it.
Wow, astonishing how some people can be so out of touch. It’s a choice of being in denial. You’ve always spoken highly of your grandmother. Tell me a little anecdote.
Growing up, my grandmother and I watched many films together, but we both loved the film Hello, Dolly! [I nod earnestly.] We watched it so many times that we wore out the VHS tape and had to buy several new ones. [I giggle; she pauses.] I have so many great memories of singing the songs from the movie with her. We’d sing with the movie or sing while listening to the soundtrack on a vinyl record.
Oh, gosh, yeh! Vinyl records. What a joyful memory I have of those days. Now in some fashion, they are making a comeback. Not to make you relive a nightmare, but can you elaborate a bit on the rape.
After it happened, Ruby, I don’t remember much. I don’t even remember getting home. For weeks after, it was a blur. I did not tell anyone as I had so much shame. I thought maybe I did something that made him feel it was okay, even though I said “No” and fought back. I also thought no one would believe me….
[There’s silence between us.] So…sorry…Bobbee.
I went through a lot of depression and moved to Utah a couple months later. I needed to get away and just escape. [She stops. A homeless person appears and Bobbee gives him a couple of dollars.] Today I tell my story, Ruby, to let others know they’re not alone. As a transgender woman living with HIV, I want to put a face on a segment of the LGBTQ community that’s at high risk of becoming exposed to the virus.
Indeed you are doing just so. A brave soul you are. What’s the number-one stigma surrounding HIV and the trans community today?
I think the number-one stigma around both communities is that many people think HIV-positive people or trans people are not meant to be sexual human beings. Many people just don’t see transgenders as sexual—or even possible partners. There’s also a huge problem with many cisgender men who fetishize transgender women, only seeing them to use for their sexual needs.
Hmm, good point. Anything else?
[She ponders, sweeping her amethyst tinted locks through her fingers.] I also welcome the day when studies, education, research, outreach around HIV and AIDS are transgender-inclusive.
Hear, hear! Ever since your rape and diagnosis, you have been out there helping others. Bless your heart. What motivates you to continue your work?
Being raised Mormon, we are taught to give back to our community and do what we believe is right. I feel that this is the foundation of my activism. In my life I have had so many people help me, including amazing organizations and groups. It’s my purpose in life to give back and help others.
Bravo, sister! What’s your focus these days?
The leather community. I try to be as visible as possible, like attending their events and educating others that transgenders are also a big part of that community. Earlier this year, I won the title of “Ms. San Francisco Leather 2019.” [She clears her throat and in a boastful voice declares] I’m the first transgender woman to win!
Congratulations! You should feel proud.
[Bobbee adjusts her cute little pink retro Angora sweater then continues.] I’m also trying hard, Ruby, to raise $4,000 this year for AIDS/LifeCycle, in honor of my fourth year as a Roadie.
[I grin, my eyes moist with tears.] I’m so happy for you, Bobbee! You’ve come a long way, baby. Look at you. You are content and cheerful. Who do you look up to?
I look up to many people. Marsha P. Johnson has always inspired me. ACT UP is another and in all my activism for the past ten years, I try and maintain the power, teachings, and spirit of that iconic group. I look up to all the amazing people involved in AIDS/LifeCycle, Black Lives Matter [Bobbee breaks, straightens her torso and reaches upward, as if she’s lighting the heavens on fire, and announces]…and all the amazingly fierce women who stand up and refuse to be silenced or invisible!
Take a spin with Bobbee, crowned Ms. SF Leather 2019 recently, at her Roadie Fundraising page: www.tofighthiv.org/goto/bobbee4.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].