Bonnie Tinker, Rest in Peace

Kristin Teigen

Bonnie Tinker, the head of Love Makes a Family and a member of Seriously P’Oed Grannies, was killed today in a bike accident in Virginia, where she had been attending a conference. This is horrible news. More of the story is here.

I met Bonnie Tinker when I was a staff person with a GLBT organization in Portland. She didn’t make much money. She’d been doing the work a lot longer than me. Her office, above the train station, was either really hot or really cold and always crowded. These realities seemed to matter little to her. She worked so very hard, and there was no doubt that she cared deeply, passionately and thoroughly about what she did. She devoted her life to the work of queer rights and peace.

Her death resonates further for me – she was hit and then run over by a huge truck, just as I was nine years ago. I lived. She did not. So many people in Portland (and elsewhere) have experienced serious bicycle accidents or know someone who has. These “accidents” stay with you, and remind you that bicyclists must forever contend with something that is larger, more powerful and more destructive than they are. It is not as it should be.

The loss of Bonnie Tinker is tragic, heartbreaking and will be felt by the progressive, radical, and queer communities for a long time to come. Please honor Bonnie by doing your most envelope-pushing, authority-challenging work to make our community a better place. She deserves it.

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    This is stunning, horrible news, and I am searching for a way to make this not real.

    Bonnie has been stable as a rock for the GLBT community for decades. She always pushed the envelope for LGBT equality and waited, if somewhat impatiently, for the progressives to catch up to her. Her advocacy for marriage equality never wavered; she testified in opposition to domestic partnerships - To Bonnie, separate but equal was never enough.

    Gently and fearlessly, Bonnie never backed down - whether clashing with the likes of Lon Mabon and the OCA a generation ago, or arguing strategy with those on her side, who, in her view, were too timid in their efforts.

    Bonnie lived and breathed her values, committed to her partner Sara, her kids, and her part in the universal struggle for justice and for peace. Soft-spoken, but ferocious, she would never let any of us down.

    Her memory and the results of her work will be with us as we move forward, and as the larger community eventually recognizes the equality to which Bonnie devoted her life.

    In the end, we will catch up to where Bonnie was all along.

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    This is terrible, sad news. I didn't know Bonnie well, but first heard of her in the 1990s from a former student who worked with Bonnie at Love Makes a Family, and was deeply affected, supported and mentored by Bonnie's commitment, passion and loving character.

    The simple, straightforward, positive and uncompromising statement that named her organization speaks volumes.

    According to The Oregonian, the Virginia conference Bonnie was attending was of the Religious Society of Friends, i.e. a Quaker conference. As a champion for the value of love in several senses, Bonnie was also a committed non-violent activist against war. She was one of the relatively few Portlanders to commit civil disobedience to oppose U.S. aggression and occupation in Iraq.

    This past year amid all else she supported the effort to give the Governor the authority to refuse deployment of the Oregon National Guard to unconstitutional conflicts overseas, helping different elements of Portland's fractured peace/anti-war movement to find common ground.

    To my mind her work with Love Makes a Family and her work for peace form a seamless whole. I suspect she worked for equality and against violence in still other areas, informed by the same light.

    I mourn her death, regret that I did not get to know her better, and extend deep sympathy to the many she loved and who loved her. It must be a hard loss.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    RIP. I met her in the 90s when she gave a workshop for Washington Fairness Coalition to defeat the spread of Mabonism into Washington. She was the best of the organizers and very inspiring.

  • Barbara Ford (unverified)

    Bonnie was a wonderful mentor and friend to my daughter, who worked at Love Makes a Family as an intern several years ago. She has been a stalwart and heartfelt activist for decades, and will be sorely missed in our world.

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    Tragic news. And all too common. If any good comes out of this, it would be renewed efforts to create realistic, comprehensive plans to integrate bike traffic more safely into city streets originally designed exclusively for motorized traffic. Blocking all but local motorized traffic from designated bike routes and banning bikes entirely from primary car roads would go a long way toward this goal, and lower the incidence of similar headlines in Portland and elsewhere. RIP...again, unfortunately.

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    Bonnie Tinker was a giant in the Oregon community. I am deeply hurt that she has passed -- and killed in a horrible traffic accident at that. She was a person of tremendous integrity (despite the calumnies uttered by a certain person of the cloth)and I miss her already. My condolences to Sarah and the children. I hope there will be a memorial so that we can pay our respects.

  • JulieJ (unverified)

    We die daily and, less than respect, we can't even post on "progressive" blogs like BO without being called "free loaders" by people like Terry Parker, and "dangerous" by people like James K arlock.

    The sad fact is that we see people everyday that are proud to run us over, yet a blog like this can have T.A's "Today I Got Run Over" posts bandied about as sophistry, while renaming Broadway Blvd causes outrage. Cheney and his cronies have won a lot more hearts and minds in the everyday life stakes than major party "progressives" have to advance their way of thinking.

    Gee. I wonder why our transportation situation sucks? (Sorry I couldn't work in bloated Tri-Met middle management, but I'll get to that another time. Ditto the elephant that's always in the room.)

  • Cris Land (unverified)

    I appreciate the comments about Bonnie here. I guess I'd describe her as a "bad-ass"-- somebody who walked her talk, had conviction, didn't mince words too finely. I so enjoyed arguing with Bonnie-- she was a friendly debater in my experience, and once or twice a year we'd have a go at it. Always intense, sincere, heart-felt, and passionate, those debates were. They always ended with a hug, or, if on the phone, with praise for each other.

    I hope that, as we remember Bonnie and the work she did for social justice, we also look to each other in the social justice community and take a moment to appreciate the gifts that we each share in our struggles, even if we don't always agree. Maybe, especially if we don't agree. Perhaps we can find a greater gentleness for each other if we are mindful that our time together is limited.

    Anyhow, Bonnie was a shining star and I'll miss her.


  • Vincent (unverified)

    From the story, it sounds like the guy driving the 1978 Mack truck had some dirt on Bonnie. Maybe she should have taken public transportation.

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    Bonnie worked for the GLBT ocmmunity, for peace, and for children. It was hard to find a meeting for a progressive cause where you didn't bump into her. She set a standard for what it means to be a citizen. All of us who knew and worked with her were proud to call her friend.

  • Susan Shawn (unverified)

    I met Bonnie Tinker in the early 1970s, when, as I recall, she was helping to set up a house for battered women. My memory is sometimes very flawed, but that's what I recall. She was, then, a star in my mind. She took on huge jobs, was fearless, and went where others said we could not go.

    Rest in peace, Bonnie. God knows, you've earned it. Thanks for such a fine example.

  • Assegai Up Jacksey (unverified)

    Posted by: JulieJ | Jul 3, 2009 3:54:00 PM

    We die daily and, less than respect, we can't even post on "progressive" blogs like BO without being called "free loaders" by people like Terry Parker, and "dangerous" by people like James K arlock.

    Posted by: Vincent | Jul 4, 2009 10:34:43 AM

    From the story, it sounds like the guy driving the 1978 Mack truck had some dirt on Bonnie. Maybe she should have taken public transportation.

    Thank you for performing on command, Vincent!

  • Kimber P. (unverified)

    Very sad news to stumble upon.

    As the new group facilitator for Portland Lavender Womyn, a lesbian social group, I was just visiting the Love Makes a Family Website to link it on our Yahoo! group. There, I stumble upon the tragic news.

    It's clear from previous posts that Bonnie Tinker was a very special individual and accomplished a great deal for our community.

    May you rest in peace, Ms. Tinker.


    Kimber P.

  • Jake Leander (unverified)

    Bonnie Tinker was a powerhouse with a loving heart and a highly developed sense of responsibility. She will be missed.

  • Fireslayer (unverified)

    This is deeply saddening and a loss to us all.

    <h2>at a shocker.</h2>

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