Rev Irene Monroe

Out of my Black Church, Into the Streets

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | October 06, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: African-American, black, black church, lesbian, LGBT, LGBT homeless, LGBT youth, March on Washington, National Equality March

I will not be in church this Sunday, but I will be in a place where my spiritual self will be fed. I will be participating in the National Equality March (NEM) this Sunday, carrying the banner of Faith in America, an organization that is working to stop bigotry disguised as religious truth.

And no faith community knows better than the Black Church how religion-based bigotry shapes prejudicial attitudes in this country. Religious texts have been interpreted to justify some of this country's worst crimes against our community, including slavery, lynching, and the prohibition of interracial marriage. As African Americans, we have continually experienced the harm that religion-based bigotry can cause, but today thousands of our own children live on the streets because they have been kicked out of their homes and their church for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Religion-based bigotry and prejudice are the biggest obstacles lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans face in obtaining full civil equality and equal treatment under the law. As an African American ordained Christian minister and theologian who is also a lesbian, I face religion-based bigotry and prejudice from within my own faith community - the Black Church - and feel it is time to end the harm to our African American LGBTQ youth.

Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924" was upheld with the opinion, "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." There is no clearer example of religion-based bigotry to justify discrimination under law, and it took the landmark Supreme Court decision in that case - Loving v. Virginia - to strike down anti-miscegenation laws in this country.

Sadly, many black ministers today, some of whom even marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960's, use religion-based bigotry to accuse our gay rights movement of "pimping" the black civil rights movement. Such attitudes have resulted in the oppression of our African-American LGBTQ community

Civil rights battles in this country have narrowly been understood, reported on or advocated for within the context of African American struggles against both individual and systematic racism. Consequently, the fight to gain equal civil rights by women, gays and lesbians, Native Americans, and other minorities have been eclipsed, ignored and even trivialized. For example, in the 1970's, women's civil rights were pitted against African American civil rights, which often forced African American women to choose which was a greater oppression for them: being black or being female.

Today, a similar debate is occurring within the Black Church and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities that once again leaves out a population of people who have the most to lose if queer civil rights are ignored - LGBTQ people of African descent.

Because of religion-based bigotry spewing from the pulpits of many black churches, we have a crisis in the African American community: an epidemic of homelessness among LGBTQ youth. They are the black community's throw-away kids, and they need our help. Our community is ravaged by AIDS and HIV largely because religion-based bigotry has kept us from addressing the problem, and now our prejudice is also putting our children on the streets. Their sexual orientation or gender expression do not make our LGBTQ youth children of a lesser God, and they deserve better than to be made homeless.

Discussing this reality publicly might be viewed by many in the black community as "airing our dirty laundry" or "putting our business in the street." But the problem is already in the street - because that's where our LGBTQ kids are. More than 42 percent of the country's homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent of that group are African American and Latino youth from urban enclaves like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. After teaching them that the Black Church is their family, their home - our churches go on to fail these kids and their parents in their time of need.

I have faith - and I have faith in America. That is why I am marching to support President Obama in his goals of creating a more perfect union for all of America - and to support our legislators in passing legislation that will save all of our children from religion-based bigotry.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 7, 2009 9:05 AM

Rev. Monroe,

Although I disagree with the importance of the spiritual side of your message I applaud your enthusiasm and goals.

In that, to me, any religious belief is akin to negating the importance of the individual thereby giving people permission to be a "we group" that discriminates I opt out. Anyone can be discriminated against for being female, minority, young, old, stupid, frail or coming from a disadvantaged family group. People can also be discriminated against or "profiled" for being wealthy, well educated, highly motivated or successful.

This does not mean that I have not added, just recently, a Catholic charity to my will. This particular charity is the only one anywhere near my city that cares for children with physical and mental disabilities. They claim not to "mine for souls" to convert from Buddhism and that is enough for me. Should they begin, I have time, and am involved in their activities now with a watchful eye.

America is in constant formation and reformation on her path to "a more perfect union." I wish you every bit on luck on your path. I would add though, that it is not the presidents path, it is the nations will that makes things happen.

Great article by Rev Irene. I wrote a book about homeless kids - and she is absolutely correct that there are a disproportionate amount of African Americans on the streets - as well as LGBTQ of all backgrounds. Religion based bigotry is a MAIN cause of homelessness - yet one the media is afraid to discuss openly.

Rev. Irene - Please join Facebook! You are awesome...

Mad love,


Rev. Monroe, your life and your actions are an inspiration! I am so glad to read about all you do--you live as a role model, and a true teacher.

Thank you!

Rev. Donna Lee | October 7, 2009 11:38 AM

Dear Rev. Munroe,

I do so hope to meet you Sunday morn at 8 AM at the ecumenical service!!!! I fully agree with your premise. I am a very OUT male to female Transsexual Lesbian Pagan Priestess and it's pretty even about where most discrimination comes from, being T or being Pagan. I am considered an outcast on both counts.
However I knew since I was 5 that I should have been born a womyn. I became a Pagan because that was/is the community that totally accepts me. Native American spirituality calls T's 2 spirits, a term of respect, meaning we understand all ways as we walk in both genders in one lifetime.
It has only been since the advent of Christianity under a Paulist and Augustine tradition of repressed sexuality that Christianity became sexually repressive and broke with the pagan tradition of sexual freedom and tolerance. Until we return to that time period repressed sexual energies will turn to hatred, bigotry, violence, and wars based on what one's relig1on is.
Yes pagans fought wars and had persecutions which were wrong, but they were of a political nature. Muslims, Christians and Jews fight wars over religion. Look at our world today!!!! And they fight each other over who's more right in their interpretation. The 30 years who, sunni's vs. Shit'ties etc. Stop the insanity!!! We are all humans.

Dear Rev Monroe,

I support your efforts in Maine. Good luck with the fight. I saw gay marriage removed in California. I have made a couple of short videos in support of gay marriage in Maine. One in particular, Which Kind of Christian Are You, might be appealing to the African American Christian. However, I've been trying to find a list of African American Churches for Maine online and have found few. If you would send me a list or post these video somewhere where African Americans may see them, I'd appreciate it.

Here are the links:


Chitown Kev | October 20, 2009 6:36 PM

Thank you for all that you do, Dr. Monroe.

I do have a listing of 3 or 4 black churches in Maine, Joe, and that's about it.

I'd be interested in possibly doing outreach to them (it would have to be in my spare time) I'm in Maine now on an extended volunteer vacation and this baby is close!