Oprah is NOT gay folks…

December 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Oprah is known everywhere around the world, and has touched nearly everyone.

Her media stardom and public ministry make her omnipresent as well as omnipotent. Her converts would argue she is also omniscient, especially with her monthly oracle — O, The Oprah Magazine— pontificating the principles of self-help, self-love, and self-giving.

Oprah’s principles empower women the world over and derive from her own personal narrative.

And because she has been so public about her life it appears that no topic is off-limits with the queen of daytime talk. But when it comes talking about her private sexual life, the public feels, Oprah is neither honest nor open.

The public no longer queries Oprah about her longtime boyfriend, Stedman Graham, of twenty-plus years: they meet in 1986, were engaged in 1992, and now no wedding is in sight.

And it’s rumored the relationship soured, and that Oprah and Stedman no longer reside together — albeit she denies it — but rather he ceremonially shows up as Oprah’s escort for important photo-op moments, like the Dec. 5 Kennedy Center honors. And according to the recent Star Magazine article titled “O, Please!: Oprah & Stedman Put on a Show,” the “distance between the two isn’t just geographical.”

But the distance, as the public has witnessed, both geographically as well as emotionally between Oprah and her gal pal, Gayle King, editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine, isn’t. And for over two decades now Oprah has denied the rumors that she and Gayle are more than just two sistah-girls being sister-friends.

After 30 years of four-times-a-day phone calls, and frequent sightings of where you see Oprah you also see Gayle, the public continues to question Oprah about their relationship.

“No, I’m not a lesbian, I’m not even kind of a lesbian,” Oprah stated on “A Barbara Walters Special: Oprah, The Next Chapter.”

“The reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I’m lying. That’s number one,” Winfrey told Walters. “Number two…why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life.”

In a culture that constantly sexualizes the coupling of same-gender and opposite-gender consenting age adults, we ignore our own friendships with our “best friends forever” (BFF).

In all human relationships — sexual or platonic — we long for a relational connectedness to spend as much time as possible with, at least, one person in our lifetime who shares our common interests and highest ideals.

The words “friend” and “freedom” derive from the same Indo-European and Sanskrit etymological roots, meaning “to be fond of” or “to hold dear.” When it comes to a having a friendship with someone, the relationship should never be predicated on gender, age, race, or sexual orientation, but rather it should be built on the deep heart-to-heart sharing, accountability, and sustainability that only a good friend can give you.

Feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt states, “Friendship is a relatively rare topic in patriarchal Christian theology, having long taken a backseat to marriage as the normative adult human relationship. This led to the hegemony of heterosexual marriage as the standard. …Friendship is the most inclusive way to describe a variety of voluntary relationships, including women with women, men with men, women with men, adults with children, humans with animals, persons with the Divine, and humans with the earth.”

Oprah explained to Walters her relationship with BFF Gayle:

“She is…the mother I never had. She is…the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don’t know a better person. I don’t know a better person.”

In our culture of constantly labeling same-gender relationships as gay, it diminishes and distorts the romantic relationships we lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have with our significant others. As a matter of fact, constantly labeling same-gender relationships as gay not only wrongly assumes that the only reason for two people of the same gender getting together is for sex, but it also keeps in place the myth of the hypersexual and predatory homosexual.

In the Hebrew Bible, the Ruth and Naomi narrative is an iconic text used in civil unions and weddings of LGBTQ couples.

It reads:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me,” Ruth uttered to her mother-in-law Naomi.

The narrative holds high esteem in my community not because the women are lesbians, but rather because the narrative depicts an unconventional relationship about loyalty and love that crosses the boundaries of age, nationality and religion; thus, by extension embracing a variety of voluntary same-gender coupling — straight or gay.

Oprah is not gay, folks!

And she’s not a closeted dyke either, but rather the world’s beloved daytime talk show diva.

Reverend 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.)

Remembering Trans Heroine Rita Hester

November 19, 2010 at 11:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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A guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

This weekend is the 12th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR,) and many of us across the nation will be memorializing transgender Americans murdered because of their gender identities or gender expressions.

The purpose of TDOR is to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people and to honor their lives that might otherwise be forgotten.

This event is held every November honoring Rita Hester, a 34 year old African American transsexual, who was mysteriously found murdered inside her first floor apartment outside of Boston on November 28th, 1998, because it kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project.

Rita is another one of our black civil rights martyrs, but sadly, too, few African Americans know of her or even care how Rita was murdered. But if Rita were heterosexual and the news was that her alleged killer is a white male, my community would still be on the hunt for him.

Many transgenders, because of transphobia and anti-trans violence in this society, feel most comfortable moving about their lives in the night and out of the view of the general public. In urban enclaves known for their gang violence, crimes against transgender people often go unnoticed or are seen as lesser crimes.

It’s not easy for any person of African decent to be LGBTQ in our black communities, but our trans brother and sisters, are the most discriminated against among us. With misinformation about transgender people in our country still rampant and egregiously offensive, its impact is deleterious. And because of how transphobia, in this present-day, has taken shaped in black communities, most of our trans populations not only have much higher rates of suicide, truancy, HIV/AIDS, drugs and alcohol abuse, and murder, than we already have among our queer populations in black communities, they also have much higher rates of homelessness.

For example, today forty-two percent of the country’s homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ, and, tragically, approximately ninety percent within this group comprise of African American and Latino trans youth from urban enclaves like New York City,Boston and Los Angeles.

But homelessness and residing outside of their communities have not always been the case with our African-American transgender communities. Black drag balls and then “drag houses” or “drag families,” as seen in Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary film “Paris Is Burning,” comprised of primarily African American and Latino transgenders who lived in their communities. Their performance at drag balls illustrate how race, class, and varying ranges of gender identities and expressions, deconstructs notions of masculinity, and redefines what it is means to be a diva.

During the 1920’s in Harlem, the renowned Savoy Ballroom and the Rockland Palace hosted drag ball extravaganzas with prizes awarded for the best costumes. Harlem Renaissance writer, Langston Hughes, depicted the balls as “spectacles of color.”George Chauncey, author of “Gay New York,” wrote that during this period “perhaps nowhere were more men willing to venture out in public in drag than in Harlem.”

And with constant harassment by white policemen patrolling the neighborhood, making the trans community their conspicuous target along with public denouncements of them by black ministers, like the famous Adam Clayton Powell Sr. of Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem’s trans community was, nonetheless, unrelenting with their drag balls, because they were wildly popular and growing among its working class. And these drag balls were reported in the black press:

“Of course, a costume ball can be a very tame thing, but when all the exquisitely gowned women on the floor are men and a number of the smartest men are women, ah then, we have something over which to thrill and grow round-eyed,” reported the gossipy black weekly tabloid The Inter-State Tattler.

Although, today, African American and Latino trans are relegated to the margins of our communities, if not expulsed from them, they, nonetheless, force their way into being a visible and powerful presence in our lives, leaving indelible imprints while confronted with not only transphobia but also “trans-amnesia.”

For example, the inspiration and source of LGBTQ movement post-Stonewall is an appropriation of a black, brown, trans and queer liberation narrative and struggle. The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969, in Greenwich Village started on the backs of working-class African-American and Latino queers who patronized that bar. Those brown and   black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but are also bleached from its written history. Many Black and Latino LGBTQs argue that one of the reasons for the gulf between whites and themselves is about how the dominant queer community rewrote and continues to control the history of Stonewall.

I won’t forget Rita Hester. It’s why we have TDOR.

And I won’t forget the vigil we held for her in 1998 because I am still haunted by the words of Hester’s mother.

When she came up to the microphone during the Speak Out portion of the vigil at the Model Cafe where Rita was known, Hester’s mother repeatedly said in a heartbroken voice that brought most of us to tears, including myself “ I would have gladly died for you Rita. I would have taken the stabs and told you to run. I loved you.” As the vigil processed from the Model Cafe to 21 Park Vale Avenue where Rita lived and died, Hester’s mother again brought me to tears as she and her surviving children kneeled in front of the doorway of Rita’s apartment building and recited, and many of us joined in unison with them “The Lord’s Prayer.”

In remembering Rita, let us keep vigil – its Latin root “vigilia” means “night spent watching” – against hatred and violence.

Reverend 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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