What should white LGBTQ organizations do post-marriage equality?

November 2, 2015 at 11:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

With this June’s historic Supreme Court ruling — Obergefell v. Hodge — that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states many white LGBTQ organizations nationwide have been questioning what to do next.

Last month the Harvard Alumni Association and the Harvard Gender & Sexuality Caucus picked up the gauntlet to answer that very question, co-sponsoring a conference titled “What Should We Do After ‘I Do’?”:Conversations on the Challenges That Remain for the LGBTQ Community. ”

Harvard alumni, students, staff, faculty, and friends came from across the country for a day-long gathering exploring the topic, with hopes of perhaps charting a future course in the unfinished struggle for LGBTQ rights and equality.

The challenge of what to do next among many of the conference attendees appeared daunting- reach out to LGBTQ communities of color. And for good reasons.

Any reaching out to communities of color will, undoubtedly, dredge up the history of how this country’s same-sex marriage debate created much consternation and polarization between LGBTQ communities of color and white LGBTQ communities. With white LGBTQ political and religious organizations now attempting to bridge this historic divide, many communities of color are asking what’s in it for them.

While many LGBTQ communities of color will embraced the larger LGBTQ community’s offers to be inclusive, others feel that the white queer community, in 2015, is coming a day late and a dollar short. And any effort now is seen as disingenuous if not patronizing.

The bitter internecine feuds among LGBTQ communities of color and the dominate community – concerning framing the marriage debate and strategies employed – have left both sides battle worn.

And needless to say, the trip down memory lane is a painful one.

With the passing of Proposition 8 and blaming the African American community for its victory at the ballot box, the struggle for marriage quality showed us all that it would be a state-by-state battle, where the demographics of each state indeed came into play.

Some strategists had felt all along that communities of color – both straight and queer- were liabilities, slowing, if not disrupting, the process, progress and momentum in this nationwide culture war. These activists openly stated and showed in their community strategies and organizing that they didn’t want or need queer communities of color, especially in predominately white states, to win the battle.

And their reason was the following:

With enough successive wins from less heterogeneous LGBTQ and straight communities, like Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, and, yes, even my state of, Massachusetts, these judicial endorsements of same- sex marriages not only increase public acceptance of LGBTQ nuptials, but these endorsements could conceivably push more quickly the issue of marriage equality to the federal level for LGBTQ Americans all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, circumventing our internal wars of class, race, and homophobic faith communities entirely.

Sadly, however, many of our state-by-state battles for marriage equality continued, after being advised otherwise, to be framed as a single-issue agenda, addressing the concerns and values of an elite few, regardless of the size of its LGBTQ communities of color.

And, with the LGBTQ community being the fastest disenfranchised group to touch the fringes of America’s mainstream since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, some contest the only thing holding the larger community back is LGBTQ communities of color.

Communities of color fought back stating we cannot be deployed in the marriage equality battle in a used-when-needed basis, like token moments for photo-ops.

In response to the how the marriage debate initially took shape many LGBTQ communities of color organizations sprung up to address their needs, focusing not only on HIV/AIDs ravaging their communities, but, also, focusing on unemployment, gang violence, LGBTQ youth homelessness, and homophobic clergy, to name a few.

I have been asked by several white activists and organizations post- marriage equality is it now too late trying to reach out to communities of color. It’s a similar questions that was asked of me in 2005 when a board member of a statewide gay organization, who did not want to be identified, wrote to me stating the following:

“The board is interested in looking at its own white privilege as it seeks to work with the African-American religious community. We have realized that most of our communities of faith are predominantly white communities. This concerns us.. We [have] voted to begin a process of understanding white privilege and the ways in which we can seem to be antiracist.”

I cannot speak for all communities of color let along the ones I identify with. However, as one who sits at the intersections of several identities my query to white LGBTQ activists and organizations is the following:

Will efforts to reach out to communities of color be matched by the same agency, urgency, time and dollars spent on marriage equality?

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe of Cambridge is a syndicated religion columnist and Huffington Post blogger. Rev. Monroe is also weekly contributor to WGBH’s Boston Public Radio “All Revved Up” segment.

Que(e)rying Michael Sam’s Timing to Come Out

February 19, 2014 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Michael Sam

When NBA center Jason Collins came out last year, it was the moment the professional sports world had been waiting for —a gay athlete currently playing in a major league who comes out publicly.

And what many may not have known is that the professional sports world had also hoped it would be an African American male.

What the African American community and the professional sports world of football and basketball (which is comprised of a brotherhood of predominantly men of African descent) desperately needed was an openly gay male professional athlete. One who would bravely dispel the myth that there are no queer athletes in those sports, while assisting the NFL and NBA leagues in their attempts to denounce homophobic epithets, bullying and discrimination.

With Jason Collins, the NBA got their Great Black Hope.

And if Collins had any worry of what his coming out moment would do to him career-wise he didn’t say. He was 34 and had been in the sport since 2001 when he came out last year. His was a seemingly easy and accepting public coming out moment. Except for one point, Collins has not been signed by an NBA team.

Whether this is due to his age and status as a player, or his sexual orientation, or both, is unknown. At any rate, he came out and his playing days ended.

Michael Allan Sam, Jr has come out, and  the NFL has their Great Black Hope.

On the surface, the public support of Sam by the league is overwhelmingly positive.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

In April 2013, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent the NFL’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination and harassment policy to all club presidents, coaches and general managers who made it available to all players and staff.”

But for Sam, the 24 year old defensive end, awaiting the NFL draft in May, his coming out will be the true litmus test if the league is indeed open and accepting of its gay players.

While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has publicly taken a tough stance in stamping out homophobia in the league, stating “not just tolerance, but acceptance” of its gay players, it’s, however, coaches, general managers and the testosterone-infused locker room culture espousing a different tune.

Behind closed doors, turned-off mics, unnamed personnel, and anonymous quotes the homophobic murmurings of the NFL have come out publicly.

Immediately commenting on Sam’s announcement, an NFL assistant coach flat out stated, “that football is still a man’s-man game.”

Another assistant coach fallaciously explained how gay players are a distraction and disruption to the dynamics of team cohesion and locker room morale. This argument is eerily reminiscent of the military’s racial discrimination of African Americans and its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy (DADT).”

He was quoted anonymously, of course, stating the following:
“There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that…. There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality. It shouldn’t be, but it will be.”

The privacy rationale implied in this quote is similar to what the military once upheld. And it’s another argument that advocates for the banning of LGBT athletes. With the military before DADT was repealed this argument stated that all service members have the right to maintain at least partial control over the exposure of their bodies and intimate bodily functions. In other words, heterosexual men deserve the right to control who sees their naked bodies.

According to the privacy rationale argument, the “homosexual gaze” in same sex nudity does more than disrupt unit cohesion. It supposedly predatory nature expresses sexual yearning and desire for unwilling subjects that not only violate the civil rights of heterosexuals, but also cause untoward psychological and emotional trauma.

The hyper-masculine posturing of these NFL players with their ritualized repudiation of LGBTQ people and denigration of women allows these homophobic athletes to feel safe in the locker room by maintaining the myth that all the guys gathered on their teams are heterosexual, and sexual attraction among them just does not exist.

Also, this myth allows homophobic athletic men to enjoy the homo-social setting of the male locker room that creates male-bonding—and the physical and emotional intimacy that goes on among them displayed as slaps on the buttocks (check out comedians Key and Peele skit “slap ass’), hugging, and kissing on the cheeks in a homoerotic context―while such behavior outside of the locker would be easily labeled as gay.

While it is believed that the “homosexual gaze” would be the root cause for the disruption of the team cohesion, it is actually the macho hyper-masculine male heterosexual culture embedded in this locker room milieu.

LGBTQ athletes, like Sam, must constantly monitor how they are being perceived by teammates, coaches, endorsers and the media in order to avoid suspicion. They are expected to maintain a public silence and decorum so that their identity does not tarnish the rest of the team.

Already, rumors have it that Sam has gone down in the draft. Questions afloat if he can play situational pass rusher, or outside linebacker. Or, if Sam is the NFL’s requisite size to play defensive end.

Should no team sign him on, the NFL is sending the message that no time is the right time to be out in this sport.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. 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 oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

How media and research institutions contribute of HIV/AIDs in black communities

December 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Dec. 1 was World AIDS Day!

However, here in the U.S. you would have scarcely known. Much of the focus was, and still is, on developing countries.

There was no reportage of it in key newspapers like the Boston Globe and the New York Times. None of the major television networks ran stories, and neither did many local radio stations nationwide. Either these stations forgot it was World AIDS Day also here in the states or opted out to not report on it from a local angle.

Some contest, in defense of both the New York Times and the Boston Globe, that the demographic groups most impacted and ravaged by the disease—African Americans and Latinos—don’t read these papers in huge numbers, so why waste the ink. And ink, also, wasn’t spilled on this topic in many independent black, Caribbean, and African local newspapers across the country.

PBS’s “Frontline” ran its last year special “ENDGAME: AIDS in Black America,” with 2013 statistical updates. A large contingent of both African Americans and Latinos have not seen this documentary because it ran on PBS channels and not on cable television networks, like “TV One and “Black Entertainment Television,” that successfully reaches this demographic group. But these black cable networks did nothing either.

Each year fewer and fewer public events are being held bringing to public attention that the epidemic is still in our midst.

While clearly racism is one of the contributing factors to the paucity of reportage on this health crisis issue in major media, so too, is the persistence of black homophobia keeping it on the “down low.”

To date more than a quarter of African Americans have died of AIDS. With the latest comprehensive data tracking the virus coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the numbers are staggeringly alarming.  Although African American comprise of now nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, we tragically account for approximately 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2010. But this data doesn’t reflect the wave of recent African diasporic immigrants of the last decade coming from the Caribbean Islands and the Motherland. This demographic group is overwhelmingly underreported and underserved—for fear of not only deportation but also of homophobic insults and assaults from their communities.

According to the CDC in 2010, 1 in 22 African Americans will be diagnosed HIV-positive in their lifetime. And, it’s the leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25-34 and African American men between the ages of 35-44. Good news is that HIV infections among African American women only in Massachusetts has decreased for the first time. And this decline in numbers has much to do with the indefatigable outreach by local organizations like AIDs Action Committee while operating each year on a diminishing state funded grant.

According to the Black AIDS Institute’s August 2008 report titled “Left Behind” the number of people living with HIV in Black America exceeds the HIV population in seven of the fifteen focus countries in the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative, an initiative helping to save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world in countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, to name a few.

In other words, if black America were its own country, standing on its own like Haiti or Nigeria, black Americans would rate 16th with the epidemic in the world. And the epidemic is heavily concentrated in urban enclaves like Detroit, New York, Newark, Washington, D.C and the Deep South.

There are many persistent social and economic factors contributing to the high rates of the epidemic in the African American community—racism, poverty, health care disparity, violence, to name just a few—but the biggest attitudinal factor still contributing to the epidemic and showing no sign of abating is homophobia.

While we know that the epidemic moves along the fault lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, and that HIV transmission is tied to specific high-risk behaviors that are not exclusive to any one sexual orientation, homophobia still continues to be one of the major barriers to ending the AIDS epidemic.

And although famous HIV-positive heterosexual African Americans, like tennis great Arthur Ashe, news anchorman Max Robinson, and rapper Eazy all died of AIDS, and basketball giant Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who is still living with the virus, highlight the fact that anyone can contract the virus, many still see the epidemic as a “white gay disease,” suggesting being gay or having sex with someone of the same gender puts you immediately at high risk.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, is how data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is read and reported on the epidemic that perpetuates the confusion.

For example, “MSM,” is the CDC clinical control-coined acronym for “men who have sex with men,” but it should not be used to depict openly gay or bisexual men individually or collectively. And the controversial term “Down Low” (DL) wrongly accusing black MSMs for spreading the virus throughout the African American heterosexual community should not be used to depict openly gay or bisexual men individually or collectively.

But many conflate the subgroups to be a synonym for “MSMs.” So when the CDC puts out the data that MSM of all races remain the group most severely affected by HIV, and white MSMs account for the largest number of annual new HIV infections of any group in the U.S., followed by MSMs of African descent, many in the African American community still think of the epidemic as a “white gay disease.” And with more than 18,000 people with AIDS still dying each year in the U.S. where gay, bisexual and MSM represent the majority of persons who have died, the homophobia stays in place.

While the data may be accurate about this subgroup of men in the African American community, the story is, at best, incomplete, and, at worse, intentionally skewed. Although awareness of HIV/AIDS in anemic throughout communities of the African diaspora, it is gay, bisexual and MSM who are more easily identified with having the virus because they have been and are continually tracked in CDC studies; thus, there is more data on these groups.

But the truth is this: while over 600,000 African Americans are now living with HIV, and as many 30,000 newly infected each year, there is still within the black community at least one in five living with HIV and unaware of their infection; and, they are disproportionately heterosexuals.

Clearly, as long as we continue to think of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease, we’ll not protect ourselves from this epidemic.

But we will also continue to not protect ourselves if media don’t report on it and research institutions skew its data on it.

Rev. Irene Monroe Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. 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 oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

Matthew Shepard and Trayvon Martin: Bigotry knows no boundaries

July 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

The nation is once again divided alone the fault line of race. In a perceived 2013 post-racial society, however, William Faulkner’s prophetic quote “the past is never dead. It’s not even past” of the last century have come back to haunt us in this century.

Faulkner’s quote haunts us because of the recent verdict of the George Zimmerman trial.

The story, as you well know by now, of how George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchmen of a Florida community, was acquitted of all charges—murder and manslaughter—related to Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s actions resulted in the fatal shooting of Martin, a 17-year unarmed black teenager. Martin was perceived to be a suspect because he was wearing the signature piece of clothing that some associate with violent young black males—a hoodie. And he was not only wearing it but also “walking while black” in a gated community.

With no one of African descent—male or female—serving on the jury the nation sadly, once again, has shown to be neither colorblind with an all-white jury nor post-racial with one. And the notion that an all-white female jury would render a fairer outcome than an all-white male jury assumes racial bias is gender-specific.

Just as racial bias isn’t gender-specific, it is also not race-specific. Zimmerman is of a mix ethnic descent (mother’s Peruvian, and father’s Jewish) who identifies as Hispanic.

The question, however, many are still asking even after the verdict is whether Zimmerman was motivated by racism because he, too, is a person of color; therefore, was Zimmerman racially profiling Trayvon?

Racial, gender, gender-expression, and the all the other biases float freely through society—landing on all. Just because you’re a person of color or a member of an oppressed group it doesn’t mean you don’t buy into stereotypes and racial and cultural attitudes. These themes inform our judgments and actions toward others as well as your own group. (Case in point: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.)

As a matter-of-fact, the bombardment of stereotypes has proven to have both subtle and unintended consequences toward people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, class and religions, to name just a few. It’s not just regular people who succumb. Geraldo Rivera, a renowned Latino, stated that Trayvon wearing a hoodie was “as much responsible” for his death as Zimmerman’s pistol. Of course, Rivera later recanted.

A young man has become the symbol of the horrific result of such stereotyping, and is fast becoming the symbol for a movement. Just as Matthew Shepard’s death galvanized a nation, Trayvon Martin’s death is doing the same.

In 1998 both James Byrd Jr., and Matthew Shepard were victims of bias-motivated crimes. Byrd, an African American was murdered by three white supremacists who chained him to the back of their pick-up truck at his ankles and dragged along a three mile asphalt road until he was dismembered. Shepard was tortured, tethered to a fence and left to die because he was gay.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, was passed. The measure expanded the federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived race, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, to just name a few.

With Florida’s Stand Your Ground permitting Zimmerman to walk without charges, the Shepard-Byrd statute not only reminds us of how bias-motivated crimes links gays and blacks together but that it’s the best hope for Trayvon Martin and his family seeking justice.

 

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. 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 oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

 

Black Pride: Distinct and Emblematic

June 3, 2013 at 9:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Black Pride reaffirms our identity. And it dances to a different beat.

What started out in Washington D.C. in 1990 as the only Black Gay Pride event in the country has grown to over 35 gatherings nationwide. Each year celebrations start in April and continue to October. Over 300,000 LGBTQ people of African descent rev up for a weekend of social and cultural events celebrating their queer uniqueness. In 2007 alone over 350,000 attended Black Gay Pride events throughout the U.S. The largest events are held in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Atlanta, and smaller Black Pride events (like Boston’s) provide an important sense of identity
and cultural heritage.

Sunday gospel brunches, Saturday night Poetry slams, Friday evening fashion shows, bid whist tournaments, house parties, the smell of soul food and Caribbean cuisine, and the beautiful display of African art and clothing are just a few of the cultural markers that make Black Pride distinct from the dominant queer culture.

Just like in the mainstream of American society, cultural acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ communities of color in larger Pride events is hard to come by. Many can experience social exclusion and invisibility in the big events. Segments of our population will attend separate Black, Asian, and Latino Gay Pride events in search of the unity that is the hallmark of Pride.

The themes and focus of Black, Asian, and Latino Pride events are different from the larger Pride events. Prides of communities of color focus on issues not solely pertaining to the LGBTQ community, but rather on social, economic, and health issues impacting their entire community. The growing distance between our larger and white LGBTQ community and these LGBTQ communities of color is shown by how, for an example, a health issue like HIV/AIDS that was once an entire LGBTQ community problem is now predominately a challenge for communities of color.

Also, with advances such as hate crime laws, the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states, and with homophobia viewed as a national concern, the LGBTQ movement has come a long way since the first Pride marches four plus decades ago.

Many note the perceived distance the LGBTQ community has traveled in such a short historic time—from a disenfranchised group on the fringe of America’s mainstream to a community now on the verge of equality. But not all members of our community have crossed the finish line. Some are waving the cautionary finger that within our community to note that not all are equal. Pride events can be public displays of those disparities.

Mainstream Prides have themes focused on marriage equality for the larger community where Prides organized by and for LGBTQ people of African descent have focused not only on HIV/AIDS but also unemployment, housing, gang violence, and LGBTQ youth homelessness. After decades of Pride events where many LGBTQ people of African descent asked to be included and weren’t, Boston Black Pride was born. Boston Black Pride this year will neither be a formal gathering of folks nor will there be a display of scheduled festivities. But it will groove on as it always has for the community, with more individual and impromptu events.

By 1999 Black Pride events have grown into the International Federation of Black Prides, Inc. (IFBP). The IFBP is a coalition of twenty-nine Black Pride organizations across the country. It formed to promote an African diasporic multicultural and multinational network of LGBTQ/ Same Gender Loving Pride events and community based organizations dedicated to building solidarity, health, and wellness and promoting unity throughout our communities.

Also in understanding the need to network and build coalitions beyond its immediate communities, IFBP created the formation of the Black/Brown Coalition. Black Pride is an invitation for community.
Like the larger Pride events that go on during the month of June throughout the country, Black Pride need not be viewed as either a political statement or a senseless non-stop orgy of drinking, drugging and sex. Such an “either-or” viewpoint creates a dichotomy, which lessens our understanding of the integral connection of political action and celebratory acts of songs and dance for our fight for our civil rights.

While Pride events are still fraught with divisions,they, nonetheless, bind us to a common struggle for LGBTQ equality. Black Pride contributes to that struggle for equality, demonstrating an African diasporic aspect of joy and celebration that symbolizes not only our uniqueness, but it also affirms our commonality as an expression of LGBTQ life in America.

Happy Pride!

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. 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 oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

Jason Collins: The Great Black Hope

May 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

NBA player Jason Collins recently announced he is gay. (Kwaku Alston for Sports Illustrated.)

NBA player Jason Collins
(Kwaku Alston for Sports Illustrated.)

The professional sports world has been waiting for a Jason Collins moment— a gay athlete currently playing in a major league to come out publicly.  What you may not know is that the subtext is that it was hoped the moment would star an African American male.

The African American community, let alone the sports world, desperately needed an openly gay current male professional player.

Collins, who deliberately wore the jersey number, “98,” to honor slain gay student Matthew Shepard during the 2012 – 13 NBA season, is a 7′ 0″ center for the Washington Wizards,
a former Boston Celtics, and is also African American. Closeted for all of his professional playing life, until now, Collins told “Sports Illustrated,” why he finally came out.

“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy….I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore.”

LGBTQ athletes must constantly monitor how they are being perceived by teammates, coaches, endorsers and the media in order to avoid suspicion. They are expected to maintain a public silence and decorum so that their identity does not tarnish the rest of the team.

In what will now hopefully become the last closet where LGBTQ hide their sexual orientation, thanks to Collins, the sports world’s hyper-masculine and testosterone-driven milieu might actually begin to loosen its homophobic hold, especially among black athletes.

Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics and African American, is revered among black athletes.

Having coached Collins for 32 games before Collins was traded to the Washington Wizard, Doc Rivers remarks help spread a message of acceptance.

“I’m really proud of Jason. He still can play. He’ll be active in our league, I hope, and we can get by this— get past this. I think it would be terrific for the league. More than anything, it would just be terrific for mankind, my gosh.”

In terms of when and how you come out personally, timing is everything. So, too, in coming out professionally.

The statement, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay” by Collins in the  May 6
issue of Sports Illustrated is as momentous as when renown comedienne Ellen DeGeneres’ quote “Yep, I’m Gay” appeared on the cover of the April 14, 1997 issue of “Time Magazine.”

Although the time span between the two statements is 16 years, and many more advances and civil rights have been afforded to us lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans, we now see we’re still a nation grappling with the issue.

While both Collins and DeGeneres give a public face and personal testimonies of their struggle of being closeted about their sexual orientation, their messages reaches and resonates within only certain pockets of the American population and not others. And within those pockets of the American populace, the reprisal and applause they also receive for coming out still fracture alone several fault lines, with profession being one of them.

When Ellen so boldly came out in 1997 she received a torrent of praises from the LGBTQ community and our allies. But “her career puttered and stalled out for the three years following her coming out,” and her impact did little for both the world of sports and for many-straight and LGBTQ- in the African American community in understanding the deleterious effects of homophobia. (It was still being argued, as now, in many African American communities that homosexuality is a “white disease” and not a civil rights.)

In the sports world most women athletes, even today, are assumed to either be lesbians and/ or unfeminine.

For example, in many African American communities Olympic basketball player Lisa Leslie was perceived to be a “girly- girly;” therefore, not a lesbian, but certainly a weak and non-aggressive player. Tennis phenoms the William Sisters are aggressive players but too muscular, especially Serena, to be seen as feminine.

LBT women in professional sports have come out of the closet while playing, at least, two decades before the “Jason Collins watershed moment.”

While race plays a factor in the African American community coming to grips with its homophobia, especially in the world of sports, so, too, does gender.

Case in point: Just last month, Brittney Griner, also an African American like Collins, is a 6-foot-8, three-time All-America center and was the number one pick in the WNBA draft announced she was a lesbian. It wasn’t considered a big news story.

In 1997, a pregnant Sheryl Swoopes— three-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time MVP of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)— promoting a heterosexual face for the WNBA was the cover-girl for the premiere issue of “Sports Illustrated Women.” At the time Swoopes was married to her male high school sweetheart. That was considered a big news story. But so too in 2005, when Swoopes came out as a lesbian, becoming the second in the WNBA, and endorsed the lesbian travel company “Olivia.”  She was at the time partnered with Alisa Scott, an assistant coach for the Houston Comets that Sheryl played for from 1997-
-2007. And in 2011, it was another big new story because she was with a male.

To incurable homophobes, especially of the fundamentalist Christian variety type, who pedal their “nurture vs. nature” rhetoric that homosexuality is curable with reparative therapies, they saw Swoopes as the prodigal daughter who had finally found her way home to Jesus.
Many of my heterosexual African American brothers, Chris Unclesho, the man Swoopes was then engaged to marry, was the MAN! A bona fide “dyke whisperer” who had turned Swoopes out to the sexual joys of what it is to be with a man.
But long before Swoopes, Griner and Collins, both tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova came out in 1981.
Martina was publicly taunted for not only being a lesbian but for also not bringing femininity and beauty to her game. Her muscular physique and supposedly masculine appearance killed not only sponsor endorsements but also attempted to kill her spirit in playing the game.

With the sports world celebrating Collins news, Navratilova has joined in voicing her joy in an op-ed she wrote for SI.com.

“Now that Jason Collins has come out, he is the proverbial game-changer. One of the last bastions of homophobia has been challenged. How many LGBT kids, once closeted, are now more likely to pursue a team sport and won’t be scared away by a straight culture? Collins has led the way to freedom. Yes, freedom— because that closet is completely and utterly suffocating. It’s
only when you come out that you can breathe properly.”

Navratilova is correct in stating that Collins is a “game-changer,” because he stands on all the LGBTQ shoulders in sports before him.

Truth be told, Collins is not the first professional gay or black athlete to come out. He’s not even the first professional athlete to come out while playing.

But in a sports world that has become overwhelming shaped by African American male players and masculinity, Collins coming out celebration has everything to do with timing, gender, race and many more straight brothers embracing their gay brethren.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. 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 oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

Was Marco McMillian killed because he was black or gay?

March 7, 2013 at 11:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Marco McMillian

Marco McMillian was a trailblazer, and the pride of the Mississippi Delta.

Just in his twenties Ebony magazine in 2004 hailed him as on the nation’s 30 leaders under the age of 30. And in his thirties the Mississippi Business Journal hailed him as one of the “Top 40 Leaders under 40.”

But at age 34 McMillian’s life was mysteriously cut short.

As an openly gay African American candidate running for the mayoral seat in Clarkdale, Mississippi, McMillian was quietly signaling that neither his race nor his sexual orientation would abort his aspirations. On McMillian’s campaign Facebook page is a photo of him posing with President Obama. His campaign motto: “Moving Clarksdale forward.”

If there were anyplace to challenge the intolerant conventions of Mississippi, Clarksdale, the Delta’s gem—known as “a place where openness and hospitality transcend all barriers and visitors are embraced as family” and the birthplace of the blues—would be that place.

Police discovered McMillian’s body near a levee just a 15-minute drive outside of Clarksdale. Mississippi’s unforgettable sordid history of lynching immediately rose up when his family reported that Marco’s body was beaten, dragged and “set afire.” And the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till came roaring back, reminding me of Mississippi’s native son William Faulkner who wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Till was a 14-year of African American child from Chicago who was visiting relatives down in the Mississippi Delta. He was brutally murdered and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman. When his body was discovered it was reported that Till was severely beaten, nude, shot in the right ear, had an eye gouged out from its socket, and a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with a barbed wire before his body was dumped into Tallahatchie River.

While thoughts of racial hatred first erupted as the probable motive for McMillian’s murder, they were quickly erased when McMillian’s assailant, Lawrence Reed, 22, an African American male was found and apprehended in McMillian’s wrecked SUV.

Did Reed murder McMillian or did he just steal his car? Or might there be another tale here, one of a “down low” tryst gone awry?

Being openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) is no easy feat for African Americans, even in 2013 with a LGBTQ-friendly president like Obama having your back. Being from the South just complicates the matter. For McMillian, his family might also be one of the complications in ascertaining the truth behind his death.

Case in point—it is unfathomable to McMillian’s family to think that the motive for his murder was his sexual orientation. His mother, Patricia McMillian, told CNN that only family and friends knew of her son’s sexual orientation. “He did not announce in public that he was gay,” she said, adding, “I don’t think he was attacked because he was gay.” McMillian’s sexual orientation, however,was an open secret.

According to state investigators, little is known about Reed or how, if at all, he knew McMillian. To the McMillian family Reed is an enigma. McMillian’s mother stated she never knew him, and McMillian’s stepfather, Amos Unger, speaking for the family, told CNN that “We never heard of him.”

Although the family states that the cause of McMillian’s death was because he was “beaten, dragged and burned” the Coahoma County Medical Examiner Scotty Meredith stated otherwise.

But just as McMillian’s family might be one of the complications in ascertaining the truth behind his death so too might be the state that’s investigating the case.

In Mississippi LGBTQ couples cannot marry and they cannot jointly adopt. There is no hate crime bill protecting a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The state does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In other words, an assault on a LGBTQ Mississippian might very well be ignored as a personal matter.

Meredith told CNN the following about his findings:

“There were signs of an altercation but that didn’t kill him…Beating is not the cause of death. He was beaten, but not badly. This was not a targeted attack. This was more of a personal dispute.”

According to the Associated Press, The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute, which supports gay and lesbian candidates for political office, tweeted, “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi.”

And according to Denis Dison, VP of Communications of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, in a HuffPo Live interview there are “approximately 600 openly LGBTQ elected officials at every level of U.S. government, with about 80 openly elected officials in the entire South.”

Had McMillian won his mayoral challenge he would have been Mississippi’s first—the pride not only of the Mississippi Delta, but also of the entire state.

 

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. 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 oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

A walk around the web…

October 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Picking up headlines from around the web…
Editor: Valerie Linson

Random image from my office because I like the colors…

 

Obama, Romney face similar debate test: Staying cool under fire
By Amie Parnes and Justin Sink, TheHill.com – 10/02/12
President Obama and Mitt Romney face a similar test heading into Wednesday night’s presidential debate: staying cool while under your opponent’s fire.

At their first debate in Denver — when tens of millions of voters will tune in to see the competitors clash in Denver — each candidate will have to do his best to keep calm despite the other’s best efforts.
Read the entire article here…

7 of History’s Most Racist Political Ads
The Root, 10/2/2012
This election has produced its own share of memorable ads, among them one that is being touted as potentially effective by some, but racially charged by others. The controversial Romney campaign ad attempts to depict President Obama as the welfare president.

Whether or not the ad is appealing to racism in the electorate may be up for debate, but there’s no doubt that is a timeworn strategy in American politics. Plenty of campaign ads over the years have been undeniably racist. The Root looks at the worst of the worst, in no particular order.
Read entire article here…

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Ruling: Judge Halts Enforcement Of Law For Election
Marc Levy, The Huffington Post, 10/2/2012
A judge is postponing Pennsylvania’s tough new voter identification requirement, ordering that it not be enforced in the presidential election.

Tuesday’s ruling comes just five weeks before the election. An appeal is possible. The 6-month-old law requires each voter to show a valid photo ID.

Democrats and groups including the AARP and NAACP mounted a furious opposition to a law Republicans say is necessary to prevent election fraud. Critics have accused Republicans of using old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics to steal the White House and have highlighted stories of registered voters struggling to get a state photo ID.
Read entire article here…

Can Social Media Kill Homophobia?
Michael Arceneaux, Ebony, 10/2/1012
Recently, like everyone else of color who has ever written anything online, I was sent a study from the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta in Canada chronicling the various forms of homophobia found on social media.
Highlighting how pervasive anti-gay sentiments remain, the study revealed that the word “faggot” and all its variations have been used over 2.5 million times on Twitter. Those variants include words and phrases like “dyke” (300,000 tweets), “no homo” (800,000 tweets) and the increasingly proper “so gay” (800,000 tweets).
Read entire article here…

Everything you need to know about Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native American heritage
Washington Post (The Fact Checker) Josh Hicks, 9/28/2012
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has focused his campaign’s attention back on the self-proclaimed Native American heritage of his Democratic challenger, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, who listed herself as a minority in professional directories commonly used by recruiters.

The controversy had faded in recent months while Brown maintained a steady lead in the polls. But Warren overtook the Republican incumbent in more recent polls after delivering a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention this month.
Brown brought Warren’s lineage back into the spotlight with his remarks during a debate last week and with an ad that uses old news accounts instead of his own words to renew skepticism about his opponent’s ancestral claims — cleverly avoiding direct accusations. Warren responded with an ad of her own, saying: “Scott Brown can continue attacking my family, but I’m going to keep fighting for yours.”
Read entire article here…

Southern Baptist Convention Elects Its First African American President; Will He Push Anti-Gay Agenda?

June 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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GUEST EDITORIAL BY REV. IRENE MONROE

Rev. Fred Luter, president, Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA.

African American voters are President Obama’s largest and steadfast supporters. They are also one of the largest and steadfast opponents of marriage equality. So, when President Obama finally made publicly his support of same- sex marriage, one group wondering how they might parlay their support against him with African American voters are white Southern Baptists—a huge denomination comprising the Christian Right.

For over two decades, white Southern Baptists have been trying to make inroads to the African American community, particularly black urban community, to not only increase their dwindling membership but to also promulgate an aggressive anti-gay agenda.

With just months to the November election, the Southern Baptist Convention’s elected Rev. Fred Luter this past Tuesday as president. This may pave the way to their goal of promoting an anti-gay message.

Rev. Fred Luter, a native son of New Orleans, ran unopposed and was unanimously elected. He is the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). But Luter’s ascendency to the highest office of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination (and the world’s largest Baptist denomination) raises the query—is his post a symbol of honorific tokenism?  Will he have any real power with a predominately white denomination.

While minorities make-up a new worshipping contingent in a shrinking membership body, it is this group the SBC is wooing. And ministers of color are now the front persons evangelizing for the denomination.

“We cannot expect to reach this do-rag, tattooed, iPod generation with an eight-track ministry. We have to somehow change how we do things,” Luter told reporters, expressing shock and utter surprise that his proposed descriptor could be viewed as offensive.

At present the SBC is approximately 20 percent people of color with about 7 percent African-American, 6 percent Latino, 3 percent Asian, 4 percent other. And African-American congregations have grown by 85 percent, up from 1,907 in 1998 to 3,534 in 2010.

The paltry number of people of color in the SBC is rooted in its once upon a time unabashedly racist history. Notoriously known to have filled the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan, Southern Baptists have been vociferous defenders of anti-miscegenation laws, Jim Crows edicts, lynching mob justice, to name a few. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 in defense of slavery.

“We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest,” the Southern Baptist resolution on racial reconciliation stated, acknowledging that some congregations still excluded African Americans but promising to “commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry.”

Sadly, Luter was unaware of the SBC’s dark history.

As a huge denomination comprising the Christian Right and its anti-gay agenda, Luter may also be unaware of how the Southern Baptist Convention may actively recruit him, during this election period, to reach African American voters to unseat Obama by exploiting black homophobia.

Since 1995—when the SBC held a conference on racial reconciliation in Dallas, and it generously donated $750,000 to rebuild Southern black churches that were recently burned—the once non-existing relationship between the SBC and black churches has now become wedded in an unholy matrimony.

The first sign I saw here in Boston was back in 1998 when an editor called me to solicit my opinion about an African-American minister named Rev. Jackson, who had joined with Ralph Reed’s Christian Right movement to funnel $5 million to $10 million to Black Churches to help them rejuvenate African American urban communities nationwide; it was called the Samaritan Project.

While the culture of many faith communities and denominations (that were once upon a time helplessly homophobic) are changing, a preponderance of these black churches will not (and sadly to say they won’t in my lifetime).

And its this homophobic faith tradition that Obama—in his first presidential run to the White House—unabashedly wooed and won votes from.

Although many African American clerics came out in support of Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage, so, too, did many decry it.

With right wing organizations like National Organization for Marriage (NOM) courting black churches for their strategic 2012 election game plan to drive a wedge between LGBTQ voters and African American voters, the question is will Luter fall into their hands—either as the SBC’s titular head or simply as a misguided Christian homophobe?

Either reason Luter would wield enormous influence in pushing a right wing agenda.

While we don’t know what Luter will do in his post, there is enough data to predict with certainty how African Americans will vote in this 2012 election as it was predicted in 2008- irrespective of the President’s views on marriage equality or right wing anti-gay agendas.

Rev. Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker, and theologian.  She  has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Black ministers follow Obama

May 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

African-American ministers have come out for, and against, Obama’s stance on marriage equality.

LGBTQ activists of African descent have pondered what would be the catalyst to rally those African-American Christian ministers to support same-sex marriage and engage the black community in a nationwide discussion.

Last week the answer arrived in President Barack Obama’s support of marriage equality.

“We are both practicing Christians, and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others, but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know: treat others the way you would want to be treated…I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts…” Obama told Good Morning America’s news anchor Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview.

Just as Obama could no longer shrewdly fence-sit on the issue while winking a stealth nod to LGBTQ voters, black ministers, who quietly professed to be an ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, could no longer stay closeted from their congregations.

For these African-American ministers, the liability of Obama losing his 2012 re-election bid is far greater than being publicly outed for not being in lockstep with their homophobic brethren.

“The institution of marriage is not under attack because of the President’s words,” Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago told his church on Sunday. Moss is the successor of President Obama’s former and infamous pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.

But for many African American ministers in opposition to Obama’s stance on marriage equality the institution of marriage, at least within the black family, is under assault, and LGBTQ people further exacerbate the problem.

These ministers, some who are allies for LGBTQ civil rights, but draw the line on same-sex marriage, espousing their opposition to same-sex marriage as a prophylactic measure to combat the epidemic level of fatherlessness in black families. In scapegoating the LGBTQ community, these clerics are ignoring the social ills behind black fatherlessness such as the systematic disenfranchisement of both African-American men and women, high unemployment, high incarceration, and poor education, to name a few.

In his homily Moss also stated, “Gay people have never been the enemy, and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of all our problems, we lie on God and cause tears to fall from the eyes of Christ… We must stay in dialogue and not allow our personal emotional prejudices or doctrines to prevent us from clearly seeing the possibility of the beloved community….”

Immediately following Obama’s public support for marriage equality, a coalition of African American civil rights leaders signed their names to an OPEN LETTER affirming their solidarity with President Barack Obama on marriage equality. Signees include Dr. Joseph Lowrey, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Melanie Campbell, of the National Coalition for Black Civic Engagement; Julian Bond, of the NAACP; and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Since Obama has come out with his support many in the black community are working tirelessly to counter the barrage of attacks the he has received from opposing black clerics.

For example, Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, Associate Dean of Community Life and Lifelong Learning at Boston University School of Theology has a petition going around the country asking African American clergy and scholars  for their support on behalf the president’s stance to counter the stereotype that  “black folks are against homosexuality and gay marriage.”

Another petition going around the country aimed at reaching and informing  African American voters, particularly black Christian voters, about wedge strategies to divide the community this 2012 election year is NoWedge2012.com.

In stressing that the black religious community is not theologically monolithic the petition states “There is a great diversity in Black America on the cultural and theological understanding of sexual orientation than the media or popular culture give credence (recent polls show that African Americans are equally divided on marriage equality). We acknowledge that it was President Obama’s faith that guided his shift in embracing marriage equality. Our community has the ability to hold different positions and not demonize what is perceived to be the “other.” In light of this complexity Black America should hear from candidates with policy positions that are holistically beneficial for our community as a family.”

Right wing organizations like National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which support presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, are actively courting black churches for their strategic 2012 election game plan to drive a wedge between LGBTQ and African American voters. And the black community mustn’t fall prey to.

And the thought of the first African-American president losing his re-election bid because of homophobic views on marriage equality led by black pastors will be tragic. And their action that will be remembered through history.

Obama is president of the United States and not pastor of the United States. He’s president of all the people, not some of the people.

And as African-Americans who have battled for centuries against racial discrimination, we have always relied on our president and his administration to fight for and uphold our civil rights, because too many pastors across the country and throughout centuries wouldn’t.

Rev. Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker, and theologian.  She  has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

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