Recent Comments


    Your True Name

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Throughout this year, I have recommended some amazing books that specifically speak to our community: Best Little Boy in the World, Old Turtle, and Everything Possible. Here is another brand-new must-have. On Monday, December 11, a new book will be released: Your True Name: Poems, Songs, and Stories to Find Your Way to You. It is penned by someone you may know, the Bay Area’s own Bobby Jo Valentine. If you don’t know about Bobby Jo, here is a little background.

    In 2018, I wrote an article about a singer/songwriter named Bobby Jo Valentine. I met him in October of that year walking down the aisle of St. Ignatius Church just prior to the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ (SFGMC) 40th Anniversary concert. There would be another aisle some years later. He had just released a beautiful music video, “Dear December.” It was, and is, a poignant letter to the month that carries a wide range of emotions for all of us.

    Bobby Jo Valentine
    Photos courtesy of Tim Seelig

    In early 2019, he performed a benefit concert with the SFGMC ensembles for the Paradise fire fund. Bobby Jo had lost his own home in the Napa fires of 2017. He turned his grief into action and raised over $50,000 for fire victims. He also joined SFGMC in a concert in Los Altos in support of the LGBTQ+ members of the United Methodist Church.

    When he was 2 days old, Bobby Jo was adopted into a very strict Independent Baptist family in Rohnert Park. This was not unlike my own early life, but his sect made my Southern Baptists look like flaming liberals. After attending Baptist K–12 and Baptist college in Lancaster, California, he began a life as a music minister in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was engaged to a lovely young woman with plans to become missionaries in Uganda.

    He just couldn’t do it.

    He came out and decided against a reparative therapy camp his parents suggested. Everything fell apart. So, he began to piece himself back together as many of us have done. This would not be the last time he needed to do that. He delivered pizzas and did magic shows to pay the bills and began to write songs. He moved back to California where he met his first partner and his life changed completely and for the better.

    It was at that time in 2008 he began to pursue his dream of singing and songwriting full-time. And it worked. Now, 14 years later and six CDs later, he continues fulfilling that dream. The pandemic was tough on all performers, but he has come roaring back with more than 80 concerts booked this year from coast to coast.

    From childhood, Bobby loved words. The books he was allowed to read in his school were very limited. His childhood librarian provided him with the tools he needed to ignite an even greater desire to read and learn more. He escaped into words and then music for his own well-being and healing. His gift is evident in his lyrics. His music is filled with deep, thoughtful, often challenging lyrics. Along the way, his fans encouraged him to publish his lyrics in something other than a CD insert!

    Soon, he also began writing poetry that he didn’t set to music. At his concerts, he shares stories of his life, from coming out to losing everything in the fires, and his mental health challenges. His songs and poetry show the depth and vulnerability of a person who has struggled and survived. When you read his words, you will be deeply moved.

    Another dream is finally coming true. Bobby Jo’s first book will be released on December 11. It is available at his website ( ) and will be available on Amazon sometime around mid-January. The book takes its title from one of Bobby Jo’s most poignant songs about our shared experience.

    “Be careful the doors that you open
    With the words that you speak
    Or the people who will hold them
    Cause long ago, someone told me I was broken, and it stuck
    People can call you by so many things
    But I know my true name … .”

    His 2023–2024 tours are themed, along with his new book, Your True Name. We are all challenged throughout our lives by name-calling and the search for our authentic selves and names. He was not only fortunate enough to perform “Strong Enough” with SFGMC, but also with Dallas’ gay men’s chorus, the Turtle Creek Chorale. It has been performed around the country including by Transpose PDX, Portland’s transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming chorus. His “Dear December” has been performed by the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.

    Writing and publishing a book is a huge deal. It takes a team. The book includes doodles by Bobby Jo’s longtime friend Thomas Kinsfather. The design and layout were done by San Francisco graphic designer Alejandro Magyroff.

    Don’t take my word for it. I’m biased. Here are some other folks’ thoughts about the book.

    “Hearing Bobby Jo Valentine’s voice is like finding a coat at the far edge of the closet and knowing immediately that this one was made for today’s weather. He knows you, because he knows himself. Bobby has listened to life deeply, and out of that listening, a better humanity has revealed itself to him. Slip these poems on like that coat, and then go out into real life—where even if it’s cold, or dark, or rainy, there’s also warmth, and light, and shelter.”

    —Kathi McShane, Co-Founder of The Changemaker Initiative

    “Some people leave their broken pieces scattered on the floor. Bobby Jo Valentine has picked his up, found new and creative ways to piece them together, and then held them up to the light. This poetic stained-glass window into his soul is a sacred piece of literary art for the rest of us. Don’t just read it. Sit with it. Gaze at it. Enjoy the beauty.”
    —Dr. Jim Dant, Co-Pastor of the 19th Avenue Baptist Church, San Francisco, and Best-Selling Author

    “Bobby Jo Valentine is an artist in every sense of the word. This latest addition is a living testimony to his art, his passion, his commitment to live life within the call of God. Do yourself a favor, sit back, relax, and bathe in the words of grace and healing, light and love.”
    —Rev. Dr. Neil Thomas, Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope, Dallas

    Finally, back to the reference in the second paragraph about “walking down the aisle.” Well, we did just that—sort of. In October of this year, Bobby Jo and I got married! We didn’t walk down the aisle because we eloped to the stunning Oregon coast at Cannon Beach. The proverbial aisle was made of sand and was the culmination of a 5-year path to that “altar.” Our backdrop was not a church or a hotel ballroom, but the magnificent Haystack Rock. We are both loving settling into our Portland home. We live close to the airport so Bobby Jo can easily get in and out as he travels the country. Stay tuned for a concert in the Bay Area in the spring.

    Life is good on “our” river. I’m a lucky man.

    I know you will love the new book.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    TLC: Tears, Laughs and Conversation
    Published on December 7, 2023