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Irene  Monroe

Irene Monroe

Writer, Theologian & Gay & Lesbian Activist

Biography

The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, religion columnist and motivational speaker. As an African American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Read More >

Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), a Boston member station of National Public Radio (NPR), that is now a podcast, and a weekly Friday commentator on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in 23 cities across the country and in the U.K, Ireland, Canada.  And she writes a weekly column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper BaywindowsCambridge Chronicle, and Opinion pieces for the Boston Globe.

Monroe stated 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.”

Monroe is a Visiting Scholar in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology, and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail. Monroe’s syndicated religion columns appear in Bay Windows, Cambridge Chronicle, Dig Boston, and in several cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada.

In inviting Monroe to speak at The United Nations International School at the UN they wrote "Rev. Monroe, your active role in the fight against homophobia and your written activism for human rights has truly made an impact on this world, as well as your theories on religion and homosexuality in the U.S."

Monroe is a founder and now member emeritus of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). She is also one of the founders of Equal Partners of Faith, the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry (RCFM) and Christian Lesbians Out (CLOUT).

Monroe sat on the advisory boards of several national LGBTQ organizations. Monroe served on the Religious Advisory Committee of HRC, NBJC and LGTF. Monroe was a board member of the Cambridge Family YMCA, and a Cambridge LGBTQ Commissioner.

Monroe was chosen in October 2009 by MSNBC as "10 Black women you should know." Monroe has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine, being described as “a phenomenal woman who has succeeded against all odds.” She was also profiled in the Gay Pride Episode of ""In the Life" TV" where the segment on her was nominated for an educational Emmy.

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She is in the film, "For the bible Tells me so," an exploration of the intersection between religion and homosexuality in the U.S. and how the religious right has used its interpretation of the Bible to stigmatize the gay community, and her coming out story is profiled in "CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited me as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism.

As an activist Monroe has received numerous awards: in the 2015 Top 25 LGBT Power Players of New England Award by Boston Spirit Magazine and the Open Door Award for work with HIV/AIDS, Black Church and LGBTQ community; in 2013 the Cambridge Bayard Rustin Service Award and the James Hardy Legend Award from the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition; in 2012 GLAD’s Spirit of Justice Award, and in 2011 the YWCA Outstanding Women Award. Monroe have received the Cambridge Peace and Justice Award, the Boston Certificate of Recognition for continued leadership and dedication to Boston's Gay and Lesbian Community, and in 1998 Monroe was the first African American lesbian to be bestowed the honor of being grand marshall in the Boston Pride Celebration. Monroe has also received the Unitarian Universalist Feminist Theology Award for my project on an African American queer community, a commendation from Cambridge Councilor Brain Murphy for receiving the Sistah Summit Gay Pride Spirituality Award.

Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

LGBTQ Issues in Religious Communities| PBS: Amanpour & Co

Speech Topics

Intersectional Activism as a Spiritual Practice

This talk or workshop provides spiritual guidance to help promote social action. Read More >

It looks at holistic and inclusive approaches of working on multiple issues- misogyny, xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or homophobia, to name a few- by doing the following:

  • addressing their complexities and intersectionality,  
  • action occurring in balance with each other,
  • developing Strategies and tactics that are just as important as understanding the issues.

The above-mentioned objectives will allow for broader solutions to social justice problems that address multiple movements simultaneously and different dimensions of intersectional activism that single-issue organizing failed to recognize. Read Less ^

Justice Begins in the Bedroom

All relationships are relationships of power. Our understanding or lack of understanding about power is reinscribed in both your social and sexual relationships. Read More >

We will explore how abuse of power is integrally tied to sexual, racial, class and religious stereotypes and misinformation we act out in bed. As a site of subjugated knowledge, we will gather to examine our bedroom politics as a lens   to critique our actions with one another and in the world as religious activists aimed at doing social justice work. Read Less ^

Debunking the Notion of a Hierarchy of Oppression

This talk or workshop works toward the goal of a participatory and multicultural community by examining the intersection of race, gender, class and sexuality, and how they impact identity, identification, and community building.

Diversity Training Workshop

Monroe's prejudice reduction workshop serves as a vehicle in shaping awareness of systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other “isms” within institutions and an analysis of the specific barriers to change.  Read More >

The specific goals of the workshop are: Read Less ^

  • To explore a common understanding of the “isms” and their individual, institutional, and cultural manifestations;
  • To begin to apply a common understanding of the “isms”to specific situations within the classroom, and institution;
  • talk with colleagues
  • Role play/acting scenarios – which allows participants to relate to a given situation, talk about issues that have come up in school, witness a situation and learn from it
  • Action plan - learning how to have confidence to dealwith these incidents and provide clear resolutions in the moment of the incidentas well as setting up objectives for the school to implement.

Work Preferences Workshop

Goal and Aim: team building workshop has a one simple goal and aim. Read More >

  • The goal is to achieve improvement in the way staff and faculty view and do their jobs. This brings about the productivity improvement benefit that all desire
  • The aim is to inspire action that improves the way the department operates and the way staff interact.

Key Benefits:

  • Demonstrably better, more relevant and practical team building methodology that is easy to organize and deliver.
  • Content is relevant, interesting, challenging and rewarding, because it taps into real world workplace experiences of employees
  • Makes use of the people with experiences at all levels and utilizes this diversity of interests and experiences to shape solutions and improvements for the department
  • Identifies the challenges faced by the department, internally and externally
  • Gains consensus through roleplaying
  • Encourages self-criticism.
  • Can identify hidden talent and talents within the group
  • Develops trust, responsibility and loyalty.

Work Preferences Workshop is an application of a flexible small-group activity to enable players to express, explain, and exchange what they need, want, or like in a work and learning situation.

Work Preferences Workshop has two important outcomes: Read Less ^

  • Players express, explain, and exchange a wide range of preferences about adult working and learning environments.
  • Players work cooperatively and creatively in teams.

The Conceptual Trap of Whiteness

This talk or workshop will examine the ways in which whites are harmed by a system of institutional racism, even as that system provides immense privileges to them based on skin color. Although people of color are the targets of racism, whites, ironically, become the 'collateral damage' of the system that bestows such privileges upon them.  Read More >

Specifically, the workshop will look at the ways in which racial privilege "traps" whites, mentally (in terms of encouraging racist mindsets and internalized beliefs in supremacy), culturally (in terms of requiring "whites" to relinquish their actual cultural/ethnic/national identities for the sake of 'becoming white'), economically (in terms of forcing allegiance to an economic system that disempowers most whites too), politically (in terms of encouraging whites to support public policy that is against the best interests of most persons, including most whites), and even spiritually. 

This workshop also examines the ways in which systemic privilege "sets up" whites for a fall, by encouraging dysfunctional notions of entitlement that lead to a host of destructive and pathological cultural tendencies among the dominant group.  Read Less ^