Irene Monroe on Prop 8 and Black Homophobia

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2009

Rev. Irene Monroe, Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School, has a short guest opinion in the January-February 2009 issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide about  Prop 8 and Black homophobia. This op-ed reworks and consolidates some of the themes she expressed on  November 11 when many in the LGBT community were scapegoating African-Americans for Prop 8’s passage.

Rev. Monroe’s G&LRW opinion piece isn’t available online, but I thought these few short paragraphs were good food for thought. She dismisses religion as a justification for the Black vote, pointing out that “as African Americans we have always been willing to disregard damning passages from scriptures about us, such as those that cursed all people of African ancestry (‘the curse of Ham,’ Genesis 9:18-27) or advocated slavery (Ephesians 6:5-8).” She also acknowledges the issues of racism in the broader LGBT community, but she doesn’t see that as an excuse for Black homophobia either:

While it is true that the whole GLBT community needs to work on its racism, white privilege, and single-issue platforms that thwarts efforts for coalition building with both straight and queer communities of color, the African-American community needs to work on its homophobia. No more excuses.

But there’s something else about Prop 8 she finds troubling:

In the end, much of the blame for the passage of Prop 8 rightly belongs not to the voters themselves, whether black or otherwise, or even to religion, but instead to the government apparatus that allowed a basic civil right to be put to a popular referendum. If my enslaved ancestors had waited for their slaveholders to free them predicated on a ballot vote, we wouldn’t be living in the America we know today. And Barack Obama would not be our new president.

Rev. Irene Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not-So-Everyday Moments.


January 18th, 2009

is it a combination of the two pieces that she has posted on her website? I’m glad you’re featuring her opinion here.


January 18th, 2009

This statement “While it is true that the whole GLBT community needs to work on its racism, white privilege, and single-issue platforms that thwarts efforts for coalition building with both straight and queer communities of color,” indicates that Ms. Monroe has a lot of work to do herself in the homophobia and racism departments.

Without knowing every single GLBTQ person she has declared that everyone – that’s what ‘the whole’ means – is deficient in treating people of color as equals. She cannot know that, so her statement assumes, with insufficient evidence, a negative generalization about an entire group of people.

Just shows the dangers of lecturing other groups of people about their perceived flaws.


January 18th, 2009

I should add, I know personally a number of people who consistently disprove her “the whole GLBT community needs to work . . .” declaration.


January 18th, 2009

aren’t we asking the whole african-american community to work on its homophobia? it takes everyone in a community to affect change. i would think that she includes herself in the whole of the LGBT community, as well.


January 18th, 2009

We need to do what we can to promote voices like Irene Monroe who are trying to bridge gaps between white LGBT people, non-white LGBT people and non-LGBT communities of color.

LGBT persons come from every community whether it’s an African American from Harlem or a former debutante from the most exclusive suburb you can think of. People often listen to people they know and can identify with. Outsiders are much less effective.

If we can cultivate and promote the various voices that represent the actual diversity of LGBT people, we can more effectively counter the lies and propaganda of groups like the Mormon dominated and funded Prop 8 crowd.

We have resources we haven’t even begun to tap.


January 19th, 2009

Reverend Monroe needs to have a nice long, sit-down, come-to-Jesus meeting with Jasmyne Cannick. She could strike a major blow against homophobia AND racism in one swoop just by enlightening this one angry, racist, homophobic individual who unfortunately has a big platform and an even bigger mouth.

It’s always so refreshing to read commentary by Rev. Monroe. Even when I disagree with some of the things she says (which is rare) I always appreciate the thoughtfulness, kindness and respectfulness with which she shares her opinion.

We need more people like Rev. Monroe to lead us forward as we try to heal the wounds and hard feelings that have developed and festered between the gay and African-American communities. We need to remember that these two minority communities have for the most part been pitted against each other by people who dislike or hate both blacks AND gays.

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