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Irene Monroe

Rev Irene Monroe was discovered abandoned in a trash can as an infant ("I call it a miracle day because normally they didn't clean that side of the park"). Monroe, 42, grew up in Brooklyn, won a scholarship to Wellesley, and came out as a lesbian. She later attended the Union Theological Seminary to challenge "deep-rooted homophobia and misogyny" in the black church.

Irene Monroe is a columnist, public theologian, and motivational speaker. As an openly lesbian African American theologian, she speaks passionately for a sector of society that is frequently invisible.

Monroe has written extensively on African American sexuality, gay and lesbian history, and anti-Semitism in both the Christian and Muslim black communities. She has also written, spoken, and educated on topics such as classism, separatism, "gangsta" rap, and gang violence. Recent publications include, "Louis Farrakhan's Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia" and "The Ache Sisters: Discovering the Power of the Erotic in Ritual."

In December 1997 Monroe was named by Boston magazine one of that city's 50 most intriguing women. She was also a nominee for the 1998 Bishop Carl Bean Spirituality Award, presented by the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum. Rev Monroe lives with her partner in Cambridge.

Presently, Rev. Monroe writes for a biweekly column, "The Religion Thang" for Newsweekly, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) newspaper that circulates widely throughout the New England states and that has received a commendation from the Boston mayor's office; a monthly column online "Queer Take" (www.thewitness.org/agw/agw-monroe.html) for The Witness Magazine, an Episcopalian journal that examines church and society in light of faith and conscience.

As a creative and critical thinker, Monroe is not afraid to tackle complex and controversial topics. Through teaching, speaking, writing and workshop leadership, she has presented topics from African American gay and lesbian history and anti-Semitism in both the black Christian and black Muslim communities, to women's issues including "Women's Ways of Reading Biblical Text: Subversive and Empowering Strategies for Marginalized and Oppressed People" to "Debunking the Notion of a Hierarchy of Oppressions" and "The Conceptual Trap of Whiteness."
As a doctoral candidate in the Religion, Gender and Culture program at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and a Ford foundation Fellow, she is also the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University and the author of The Good Book.

Monroe attended Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African American church in New Jersey before going to Harvard.

Queer Take

Regular "A Global Witness" columnist Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. As a self-proclaimed 'public theologian,' one of her outreach ministries is this column, which tries to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As Monroe notes, "Because homophobia is both a hatred of the other and it's usually acted upon 'in the name of religion,' by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppressions such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism."

Bush's faith-based initiatives fall short on social justice
by Irene Monroe
Special to Gay.com