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Jennifer Lopez sang “nigga” and the ass worshippers changed religions! White supremacists recorded bigoted punk rock songs and they were exiled to independent record labels. Michael Jackson sang “kike me” and the media whipped him like his bleached skin was suddenly ebony black. Michael re-mixed and apologized more quickly than Roots’ “Kunta Kinte” called himself “Toby”. Gangsta rappers are routinely checked for the sexism and homohatred in their lyrics. Eminem’s (Enema’s) psycho raps are regular front page news. But, reggae musicians have a magical and special privilege globally. Somehow, they are typically allowed to sing hatred without challenge or reprimand.

Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks did catch some flack in the 1980’s. But, it was nominal. Buju sang “Boom Bye Bye”. It was a graphic and murderous song about a Peeping Tom who brutally murders two gay lovers, in their own bedroom, with a shotgun. It does not just condone spying upon, stalking, and killing gays. It celebrates such abuses in syncopation. Shabba often went off on curious gaybashing tangents during interviews. Both “artists” made it clear that their insincere apologies were extended under duress and only temporarily valid, until checks were cashed. Today’s reggae lyricists are colder and bolder with their hateful gaybashing tunes. And, the reggae bands play on as the checks roll in….

At a recent reggae awards show, gay protesters from a rebel organization called “OutRage” were nearly killed by gaybashing reggae music fans, led by macho teens yelling “Kill the Batty Boys & Chi-Chi Men!!!” (Caribbean monikers for homosexuals). Police officers rescued the protesters. Yet, not a single attacker was arrested.

How and why do we homosexuals threaten Jamaica/Jamaicans so? Why is their collective hatred so rabid against us? Why does the world allow this hatred to fuel an entire musical genre? Songs like TOK’s “Chi-Chi Man” celebrate torching and shooting up gay bars, just as Capleton’s song “Bun Di Chi-Chi”. Why is there so much global silence about black on black cruelty, whether it is slavery in Sudan or gaybashing in Jamaica? Why do so few leaders challenge homohatred as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kweisi Mfume and the NAACP, and Jesse Jackson have done?  Why are so few black gay celebrities out and honest like Meshell N’degeocello and Alice Walker? Why are droves of black celebrities living lies by pretending to be heterosexual or bisexual?

It pains me to know that the Jamaican culture, that I love so, blatantly hates me simply because I love women as a lesbian. I am clearly told that I am not welcome as a tourist on Jamaican soil unless I hide who I am. And, I know that reggae lyrics will deliberately offend me no matter how many lesbian dollars buy reggae CD’s or how joyfully droves of lesbian rhythms feel the reggae beats.

The ganja, the jerk chicken, the locks etc….all mesh to mean One Love, except when it morphs into One Hatred for the One Love that we homosexuals share with consenting and kindred adults. If Jah rules, then why are we, who are created by Jah in every living species, always ruled out by this hateful music? Why can’t I and I be Irie too??? Rastafarians are generally scholars on racist biblical lies, yet Jamaicans generally revel in equivalent biblical lies about homosexuality.

All of the “-isms” are related. One cannot be righteous and reject racism while embracing sexism, heterosexism, and homohatred. One cannot divinely enagage humanism while hating humans who are homosexual. One cannot share wisdom about Babylon while spreading lies about Sodom.

One Love…One & All. Nothing is as batty as ignorance, scientific moronism, sexual insecurity, religious fiction, and toxic bigotry! Until then, beware: “Batty boys and girls” like me will be wielding bigger and better bats!!! Like Peter Tosh sang: “Like a stepping razor…I am dangerous!”…Like Bob Marley & The Wailers sang: “You are the big tree…but we are the small axe.” Like Sister Carol sang: “Get it straight Africans….Get it straight!”

Jah know, for all righteous rebels, the revolution soon come. And, it bettamustcome for all who are righteous warriors, irrespective of sexual diversity. None of us will be free until all of us are free…

Originally published at Eloquent Fury

(Originally published July 2002)

This month we celebrate the Fourth of July with rounds of festivities marking America’s 226 years of independence. However, this July 4th will be the first one since September 11. And scenes of hyper-patriotism are to be expected.

People will be singing the “Star Spangled Banner” or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or reenacting the Continental Congress of 1776 or simply watching reproductions of the “rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air.” All of this and more will be done on a grander and more highly commercialized scale to show ourselves, and the world, our mettle in the face of terrorism.

But America’s need to showcase her indomitable spirit will inevitably come at the expense of the heroism of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. And it will not be the first time America’s Independence Day celebration has overlooked a sector of its population.

I am reminded, for example, of the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ (1818-1895) historic speech, “What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July?” In it he stated to a country in the throes of slavery, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence. . . I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. . . This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.”

As LGBT Americans, our patriotism is not recognized or is seen as anti-establishment and un-American. But what we struggle for in this country are the core principles in American democracy stated in the Declaration of Independence: “That all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

One of our greatest moments of patriotism in this last century was the Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969, in Greenwich Village, New York City, and, hence, subsequent annual Pride celebrations. We do not just commemorate the heroism of our LGBT brothers and sisters every June, but we celebrate their heroism everyday as an out-of-the-closet people who are intentionally visible in various factors of American life.

And because of our continued acts of social protest against heterosexism, we are tied to an illustrious history of fighting for freedom in this country.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his Montgomery Bus Boycott speech on December 5, 1955, “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.”

When patriotism is narrowly defined, however, it can only be accepted and exhibited within the constraints of its own intolerance. With this form of patriotism, demagogues emerge as patriots espousing an unconditional love for a democratic America. But their love is thwarted, if not contradicted, by their homophobic actions toward LGBT Americans.

When demagogues‚ model of patriotism is infused with conservative or fundamentalist tenets of Christianity, this form of patriotism functions like a religion with its litanies of dos and don’ts. And, therefore, Fourth of July celebrations have its commandments that must be upheld in the name of patriotism in the same manner that Sunday worship most be upheld in the name of God.

For the Falwells and Buchanans in our lives, America’s core principles like independence, freedom and justice become desecrated by their religiosity that is fraught with bigotry and hatred, and by a form of patriotism which is only seen within their narrow view of the world.
When people meld religion with patriotism, like the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan, you have a form of hyper-patriotism where the concepts of “God, Guns and Glory” sadly shape the American landscape. For the Falwells and Buchanans in our lives, America’s core principles like independence, freedom and justice become desecrated by their religiosity that is fraught with bigotry and hatred, and by a form of patriotism which is only seen within their narrow view of the world.

But the Falwells and Buchanans are not the only ones since September 11 showcasing their form of hyper-patriotism. America’s acceptance of racially and religiously profiling Muslims or those who look like or who worship like Muslims is all done in the name of patriotism. This profiling shows that America’s love for herself is so fragile and so vulnerable that she hates the “other.” And that hatred makes the “other” not only suspect to racial or religious profiling but also viewed as un-American.

One of our most famous American heroes is Patrick Henry, who we all know for his famous final words, “Give me liberty or give me death,” in his speech on March 23, 1775, in which he explained how he views himself as the “other.” “No man thinks highly than I do of patriotism . . . but different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs.”

As LGBT people, we are unquestionably seen as the “other.” But our patriotism, shown in the form of Pride celebrations and social protests, is not less American than the Fourth of July extravaganzas that many of us will be a part of this month.

In fact, all acts of celebrating America by way of fighting for civil rights and equal justice are indeed very American and are inextricably linked to America’s core values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

(c) 2002, Rev. Irene Monroe. All rights reserved.

No reality is bliss. Some fools think that homosexuals live in same sex nirvanas. We do not. Most of us are just as confused by our relationships as most heterosexuals. There is a thin line between love and hate. There is an even thinner line between discretion and deception.

When homosexuals choose to live in closets, that is suicidal discretion. When they choose to woo one heterosexual while they romance multiple homosexuals on the side, that is deadly deception. Discretion is prerogative. Deception is deceit.

“DL Brothaz” are the flavors of the month. I loathe this new and twisted “DL/Down Low” phenomenon. It promotes deception. It plays down to the hateful myths of homosexuals as sneaky, debased, shameful, and ashamed. It seems to promote closets as weapons rather than sanctuaries.

As an afrocentric, womanist, lesbian in a world that hates Africans, feminists, homosexuals and women, my life is a complex maze of terror. I am too Black for the gays, and too gay for the blacks. These “DL Brothaz” do nothing more than lend credence to African gaybashers’ slander. The “DL Brothaz” justify those who view all homosexuals as enemies and predators, while seeking to alienate us from their communities and churches.

There is absolutely nothing honorable about lying to women. There is nothing courageous or admirable about sleeping with one woman to appear bisexual, while you truly enjoy three male mistresses. DL brothers disgrace homosexuals and bisexuals as they betray heterosexuals.

These peculiar brothers dare not refer to themselves as “gay/homosexual”. They embrace senseless and erroneous semantics. For the record, men who engage in sex with other men, and enjoy it as much as (or more than) they enjoy sex with women are bisexual.

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June is Pride Month for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities across the country, and parades abound.

With advances such as hate crime laws and civil unions, we have come a long way since the first Pride marches three decades ago. Also, with the AIDS epidemic no longer ravaging our community as it once did — an epidemic that galvanized us to organize — and with the Religious Right becoming more of a political liability than an asset to political candidates these days, our backs appear to not be slammed up against a brick wall, like they used to be.

As LGBT people, many of us would argue that we have moved from our once urgent state of “Why we can’t wait!” to our present lulled state of “Where do we go from here?”

With the LGBT community being the fastest disenfranchised group to touch the fringes of America’s mainstream, we seem stuck in a holding pattern. Unlike the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, we LGBT people appear to be residing in a sanguine time; thus, appearing to be rebels without a cause, a context and an agenda.

Jeff Soref, the co-executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda in New York City, told The New York Times last year, “I don’t agree with the people who say there’s no agenda anymore. . . I think it’s an expanding agenda, and maybe it’s more nuanced and subtler because the definition of who is considered part of the lesbian and gay community is now much more complex and much more challenging.”

And indeed it is. Our gift and our struggle are that we are a diverse community. However, our diversity as an LGBT community should not dilute our commitment, but rather our diversity should teach us more about its complexity, and by extension teach the larger society. Racism, sexism and classism run as wild in our community as they do in the larger society, but they should neither destroy nor diminish our prophetic call.

As a prophetic people we are called forth in this time to spread the good news that our bodies and sexualities are an essential part of being human and that God affirms the inherent goodness of all sexualities as part of creation. We have not reached the Promised Land on this issue. And, the fight to live out that affirmation is still going on from our courtrooms to our bedrooms.

For many in our heterosexual communities Pride is viewed as a conspicuous parade of unbridled hedonism. And from this community the event always spawns moral condemnation. Right-wing televangelist the Reverend Jerry Falwell shared his views about Pride with the Associated Press, “There’s a lot of talk these days about homosexuals coming out of the closet. I didn’t know they’d been in the closet. I do know they’ve always been in the gutter.”

But the views on Pride are also mixed in the LGBT communities. For many in our LGBT communities Pride is a bone of contention. Many once thought the celebration was too political and that it had lost its vision of what it meant for people to just have a good time. Others now think of it as a weekend bacchanalia of drinking, drugging, and unprotected sex, where the history of Pride is desecrated.

However, Pride is about remembrance, thanksgiving, and an invitation for community.

As a sign of remembrance, Pride lets us not forget the “reparative therapies” to cure our homosexuality: like testicular castration, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies. Today we have the Exodus Ministries, an ex-gay movement, which aims to “cure” us of our “perversion” with the right spiritual dosages of God and damnation.

During the summer months of 1998 the country was hit with an explosion of “ex-gay” ministry ads that appeared in major newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. The “ex-gay” ministry ads were sponsored by a coalition of 15 right-wing Christian organizations calling all LGBT people, along with our families and friends, to convert us to heterosexuality. The ad stated: “Please, if you, or someone you know or love, is struggling with homosexuality, show them this story. If you truly love someone, you’ll tell them the truth. And, the truth that God loves them could just be the truth that sets them free.”

Pride is an act of thanksgiving. It allows us and our heterosexual allies to commemorate the Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City where two nights of rioting sparked the advent of our queer liberation movement. On the last day of the street riots, crowds gathered outside the Stonewall Inn to assess the damage, and to read the graffiti sprawled on its bricks — “Legalize Gay Bars” and “Support Gay Power.” Such were the earliest expressions of queer public theology.

Pride is also an invitation for community. It is one of the loci of the ongoing battle in the LGBT community for inclusion into mainstream society. And because of the ongoing struggle, Pride challenges society’s exclusion of us by inviting everyone to join in the parade.

Pride need not be viewed as either a political statement or a senseless non-stop orgy. 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 dances in our fight for our civil rights.

The Bible is replete with examples of oppressed groups parading in the streets while struggling for their freedom. For example, “The Song of Miriam” in Exodus 15:19-21 is in celebration of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea while they are still journeying in the Wilderness toward the Promised Land.

Pride binds us all as Christians to a common history, struggle and celebration for acceptance. Pride affirms our uniqueness as individuals and communities as well as it affirms our commonality as the varied expressions of the life of God’s people. In other words, Pride helps us to create a multicultural democracy where no one is left behind, and every voice is lifted up. Pride is about social transformation; thus, it is a symbol of the incarnation of the risen Christ.

In the midst of our journey as Christians through a homophobic and heterosexist wilderness, Pride is our Passover symbol from total intolerance to gradual acceptance.

Pride is a reminder to us all of how far we have come down the road as the people of God, but it is also a reminder of how far down the road we still must travel.

(c) 2001, Rev. Irene Monroe. All rights reserved.

I have been silent about Donnie McClurkin’s increasingly boring and blatant gaybashing. For a while, I pitied his tragic childhood so much that I excused his misguided venting. But, I can be silent no more. His recent interview in a gospel magazine is my last straw! (See it in its entirety at a favorite web site owned by one of my favorite brother warriors: www.keithboykin.com.)

Donnie says that he was raped by an uncle as a child, and a cousin as a teen. I hate that these horrible acts violated his youth and wounded his spirit. I never condone any act of sexual violence or pedophilia. But, I also never blanket my hatreds. Why does Donnie feel the need to bash all homosexuals and curse us all in the name of God in order to detail his individual and uniquely tragic homosexual experiences? Why is he blaming all of us because he fell down? Why drag us all down with him and his molesters? Many of us are proud to stand and proclaim our homosexuality and our divinity. And, we dare to do so simultaneously and eternally.

Donnie says that he was not born a homosexual. He says his homosexuality was caused by his traumas. This may be so. It is also true that millions of girls and boys who are homosexually raped as children never become homosexuals. It is also true that millions of homosexuals are born gay. Millions of homosexuals are like myself. I was blessed with an idyllic childhood. I was extremely sheltered and never sexually molested by anyone. Yet, I am and I have always been a lesbian.

Why is Donnie unable to separate his own tragic experiences from droves of homosexuals who have never experienced anything nearly as tragic as his miserable and pathetic life? Why is Donnie’s gaybashing getting more venomous? Could there be some irresistibly sexy new choir boy in his midst? Could his alleged heterosexual bliss be waning? Why is his gaybashing becoming more and more blasphemously toxic?

Maybe he should stop singing for a spell and actually study a bible. He will find the magic of redemption in biblical truth. He will be truly healed by the revolutionary rebellion of self love. He will find that God does not hate him, even if he is still a homosexual.

Donnie needs to take a break from his studios, and visit the biological sciences section of a library where he may research precisely how God creates homosexuals like me in virtually every living species. Unlike Donnie, we are proudly being who we are born to be. We are free of trauma and confusion. And, we refuse to be damned or slandered by any quasi-illiterate pseudo-christians. We refuse to be cursed by spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and sexually inferior humans with god complexes as huge as their biblical fables.

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Oprah is everywhere.

She is omnipresent, and she’s 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. Although national television has programmed her to be in our lives for just one hour a day, Monday to Friday, her influence is ever present. Her image floods newsstands showing her face on just about every magazine cover including her own. Bookstores stockpile their inventory with her choice of the book of the month. And presidential hopefuls genuflect before her to win voters. And just when you have run out of breath trying to keep up with her — or trying to run away — her ever-recurring image pops up either to resuscitate you or to asphyxiate you with her new cable show Oxygen. In exhorting America to rise to its higher moral ground, Oprah has not only altered the content of television talk shows, she has drastically changed the the venue where spirituality is normally discussed and worshipped.

With television seemingly a more welcoming venue for worship and inclusion of all people, especially for the ecclesiastically shy or abused, by just flicking on a TV switch from the comfort zone of home, Oprah’s show appears to offer hope for those banished from the church’s purview. While Oprah is certainly no Dr. Laura-who depicts lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as “deviant” and “biological errors” — she is surely no savior either. Although her show is devoid of the traditional church dogma, doctrines, and denunciation of us as God’s children, Oprah’s gospel harms LGBT not only in its silence about us, but also in her amorphous construction of spirituality that is devoid of sexuality, gender, race, and power.

In speaking about the spirit, Oprah wrote in her premier issue of O, “Beneath the surface of all physical encounters and experiences is the extraordinary and the ordinary, as well as a deeper meaning. That deeper meaning is spirit. Spirituality isn’t something we create. It just is. It exists in all things, all the time. It is the essence of who you are. You are spirit expressing itself.”

As spirit expressing ourselves we inhabit physical bodies. While the spirit is transcendent and “other worldly,” it is the body that is firmly grounded in this world. Our bodies are the physical and spiritual manifestation of human existence. To talk about our spirit as separate from our bodies maintains the millennial long abuses of racism, sexism and homophobia that African Americans, women, and LGBT people are still struggling against today. And, with its origin in Western Christian thought demonizing the body as inferior to the spirit, this false dichotomy and erotic phobia just adds another damnation to Christian disdain for bodily pleasure.

As Pauline Albrecht, a lesbian seminarian at Andover-Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass. posed to me, “In Oprah trying to bring a spiritual message down to us, and in trying to promote a higher good what is she really feeding us with? In developing herself as an authority on moral values what theological frame is she using and what are the underlying principles? Is it Christian? Is it ecumenical?”

One of Oprah’s disciples who frequents her show is the Zen-like guru Gary Zukav, author of the bestseller The Seat of the Soul. Zukav desperately wants to include all people in the struggle for human acceptance by naively emphasizing that we all are on a level playing field. “There is no such thing as a tragedy in this life; no such thing as unfairness. . . There is no such thing as a victim,” he read from his book on the show. Oprah followed with her response, “I love that.”

In a spiritually starved culture — where the centrality of American churches now give way to the burgeoning plurality of expressions and venues that we see with the influx of Eastern and New Age religions — spirituality has become a cottage industry. In turning spirituality into a commodity, we have set up a marketplace where we pick and choose from religious traditions to please our spiritual palate. Where we may divorce these religions from the traditions and communities which they were created in, thrived in and struggled in, we have not divorced them from their abuses and powers of domination that continue to choke the spiritual lives of oppressed people; thus maintaining the status quo.

Oprah has good intentions, and she has put together a palatable spirituality that America is devouring. However, as she tries to take America on the high road, Oprah reminds me of the old adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” For LGBT people not included on that road, it is hell nonetheless.

(c) 2000, Rev. Irene Monroe. All rights reserved.

(I dedicate this column to young homosexual warriors who are out and proud everywhere. You all are my greatest inspirations. I live for you…AB}

It is an undeniable and historically proven fact that those who are oppressed often become the most cruel oppressors. The United States were founded by slave masters who wanted to be free from British rule, even as they simultaneously stole, enslaved, dehumanized, and forcibly ruled captive Africans for centuries. As fellow hostages on plantations, mulattos were often the most rabid overseers and treacherous house niggers, and often crueler than many white slave masters. In Nazi death camps, Jewish and Polish SS officers who passed as Germans were far more brutal than their actual German Nazi peers. During America’s genocide against Native Americans, Native American scouts and African-American Buffalo soldiers legendarily assisted white men as they robbed and slaughtered red, brown, and black people who looked like them. White gays are usually more blatantly racist than any of their racist heterosexual peers, especially those who control gay media. Closeted gays and gays who feign at being “healed heterosexuals” gaybash more rabidly than any homophobic or sexually bigoted heterosexual…

Murderous gaybashers exist and are religiously sanctioned in every human race. Yet, I remain convinced that racism and sexism combine to create a uniquely hot hatred of homosexuals within most black gaybashers globally. I have penned many columns, hosted countless talk radio shows, and engaged in heated debates with diverse friends on the subject of black gaybashers for decades. I have elaborated ad infinitum about precisely how racism and sexism combine and degenerate too many black men who regard themselves exclusively as life support systems for penises, and too many black women who regard themselves exclusively as concubines/breeders for these aforementioned black macho men.

This toxic combination of psychoses fashions turbo gaybashers in blackface, who passionately regard homosexuals as literal nullifiers of their very existences. Their twisted insecurities are expressed as fatal gaybashing/self-defense mechanisms in the paranoid and insane wars that their hatred fuels against sexual truths in general and homosexual persons in particular. Combine those toxins with the additional madness created by the oceans of blood awash upon the hands of droves of black pastors, who continue to preach lies about God and the bible to their mindless and robotic flocks. These evil and bigoted pseudo-christians truly regard gaybashing and murdering homosexuals as divine acts!!! Also, blend in the arrogant ignorance of uneducated masses who know and desire to know absolutely nothing about the universal scientific nature of homosexuality in literally every living species. All of these ancient ingredients mesh into a perfect and pervasive recipe for social poison that festers deep within the core of global black cultures and ferments into a potent emotional and psychic venom that is spewn by a diaspora of African gaybashers like legions of deadly cobras.

When these misogynist morons lash out, they often do so with deadly force. As more young black homosexuals refuse to live lies and dare to live honestly and openly within black communities, their death tolls are rising at the bloody hands of black gaybashers. Sakia Gunn is only their most recent casualty…

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Look Within

guest post by by Being True

When one thinks about religion and sexuality as something that can intertwine it becomes a conversation that can be never ending. Especially in very religious homes. There is not a faith, that I know of, that welcomes homosexuality with open arms. Growing up in a strict Christian home it was made very clear to me that a man and a woman is the only way that God meant it to be. Our purpose in this life was to procreate. Anything else was a sin and earned you an immediate seat in hell. It was something that never really set well with me. Even as a young child. I could not understand how a God that loved everybody and was all about forgiveness would exclude a whole group of people.

I believe that my conflict with this made the first of many steps that I took away from believing in one specific religion. The next was my mother marking a cross on my head with holy water when I came out to her. It was like I was out of the “godly” club and because of this she had to change me before I became an embarrassment for her. She turned her back on me. Disowned me really when she realized tat I would not follow the rules of her religious ways. What would make a mother act like her daughter did not exist. Surely this “God” that she worshiped did not believe in treating family like this. I had committed no crime in my eyes. I was just being the only me that I had ever known.

When I realized that I was indeed attracted to women I searched for a religion that would embrace me without me having to lie about who I really was. I found that many places of worship had the policy of the military, “don’t ask, don’t tell”. This was very discouraging to me. feeling comfortable in other churches until I disclosed my sexuality became a cycle. I could no longer take the looks of pity and disgust. I realized that I could not be around the hypocrisies anymore. I left the church.

Never did it enter my mind to become a atheist. Not at all. I just felt at a lost. I still believed that there was a spirit out there that was looking over me and the rest of the world. I just felt that there was not a place were I could be with people who were like me. Spiritual but not religious. Where were we supposed to worship? I questioned myself many times. Was there such a thing as believing in God without being part of one of the godly clubs? For a while I decided to just stop thinking about it. I knew that I was a bisexual woman and if that meant, to some that I could and would never be seen in a good way in the eyes of the Lord then so be it.

I accepted my place in Hell. I could not change my sexuality so it seemed like the only logical thing for me to do at the time. I lived my life and did my thing. I walked this earth for years with my spirituality in the back of my mind. I know know that I was a ticking time bomb. I was losing myself. Youth cannot only make you rebellious towards your immediate authority but can reach far beyond that. I don’t remember the exact time or the incident but I realized that my life was going in a downward spiral. I was losing focus and hope fast. I wanted to pray but I felt that because I had turned my back on faith that I was not worthy of any help. I fought with myself night after night. I’m in the group that is said to be sinful. Hell bound. Would HE listen to my cries.

I got on my knee’s one night and I prayed like no other. I wanted to know why HE made me the way that I was. WHY! I said that I never stopped believing but I could not hold true to one religion. I had many beliefs and I took a little something from each religion and put my opinion in the middle of that. Was I too opinionated? I needed guidance. Could HE guide me? After I finished I felt cleansed. I had never cried while praying. It was a feeling of nirvana.

After that night I put my spirituality in first place. Whatever I did and whoever I became to be would be between me and my maker. I was not going to let other’s interpretation of the books of of faith deter me from embracing the way I felt. Even thought the struggle with myself seemed to be ending it took a long time for me to voice how I felt to others. I am around people who of are many faiths and even though they seemed to love me regardless my choice could be a problem. Some see not focusing on one religion makes you a non believer and therefore not worthy.

I opened up about the way I felt and I luckily received good response. Even so, religion is still a hard topic for me to bring up because there is always going to be someone who is going to make me feel like I have to defend myself and my belief. It is a sore topic in my current relationship. Especially because we have a child together. The fact that I am bisexual and do not follow one particular religion is looked at as if I will be steering my child in the wrong direction. Which of course is ridiculous. As long as you have a concrete feeling on what you feel and are leading your life in a way that is happy for you there is no problem.

People should realize that religion is like eye color, you can change it if you choose but to be spiritual is within. It is your definition of life. Your meaning.

This Easter, like all my Christian sisters and brothers, I long to celebrate the resurrection and new life. As a child of the Black Church, I long to hear on Easter morning the inimitable way that black gospel choirs sing my favorite hymn, “Because He Lives.” Yet as a lesbian, it’s not always easy to know where I can worship and not have to leave my sexual orientation at the door.

I recently asked Mickey N. Medlicott, a lesbian from New Jersey active in the welcoming church movement, how she understands the meaning of the cross for LGBT people in these times. She said: “The cross is always with us LGBT people. Sure, I can see and sometimes feel the light, but I never feel like I really arrive at the resurrection. Just when I feel comfortable in a job — to let a little of myself out, to let my guard down a little — someone will tell a gay joke, and I am forced to focus on the cross again. Trading `How was your day?’ stories with my partner sometimes leads to lessons on how little things have changed. It makes us cautious, fearful, and makes us live a certain way to avoid ending up on the cross ourselves.”

Despite the centrality of the cross within our tradition, many Christians pay little attention to the reasons for Jesus’ death and the systems of oppression that brought it about. This is tragic, since the forces that crucified Jesus on Good Friday have everything to do with the physical, spiritual, and emotional violence faced by marginalized people today.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus was unquestionably a threat to the social and political status quo. Viewed as a religious threat because of his iconoclastic views and practice of Jewish law, and as a political threat to the Roman government because of his popularity among the poor and oppressed, Jesus was nailed to a cross, an attempt by those in power to eliminate him.

Today, we live in a world where some individuals feel free to re-enact such a crucifixion, to destroy any whose existence threatens their own way of life. We’ve seen a recent rise in social intolerance and hate crimes, the worst since McCarthy’s witch hunts and the lynching of 14 year-old Emmett Till in the 1950s.

In June of 1998, the remote east Texas town of Jasper consumed the nation’s attention because of a heinous crime against a 49 year-old vacuum cleaner salesman named James Byrd, Jr. Walking home after a party one night, Byrd was offered a ride by some passersby. Little did he know that he would soon be chained by his ankles to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged to his death — because he was black.

Later that same year, after an explosion of ads in major newspapers from right-wing Christian “ex-gay” ministries, we heard the deadly news from another remote place: Laramie, Wyoming. This time, the victim was a 21 year-old first-year college student named Matthew Shepard. Under the guise of friendship, two men lured Shepard from a tavern, then bludgeoned him with their rifles and tethered him to a rough-hewn wooden fence, like a hunting trophy — because he was gay.

These modern-day crucifixions — one because of race, the other due to sexual orientation — raise serious questions about the classic Christian understanding of the cross as the locus of God’s atonement for human sin. For marginalized persons who want to avoid hanging on their own crosses, questions of how we understand Jesus’ crucifixion are not mere theological conundrums, but matters of life and death.

Within Christian tradition, the cross has too often been used to justify suffering and abuse, especially in the lives of the oppressed. The image of Jesus as the “suffering servant” has served to ritualize suffering as redemptive. While suffering points to the need for redemption, suffering in and of itself is not redemptive. Furthermore, the belief that undeserved suffering is to be endured through faith can encourage the powerful to be insensitive to the suffering of others and forces the less powerful to be complacent to their suffering — maintaining the status quo.

It is sometimes said in the church that “Jesus died for our sins.” Such language masks the reality that Jesus died because of our sins — our intolerance, our hatred, our violence. Jesus’ suffering on the cross because of these sins should not be seen as redemptive any more than the suffering of African-American men dangling from trees in the South during Jim Crow America. The lynchings of African-American men in this country were not restitution for the sins of the Ku Klux Klan, but a result of those sins.

As many liberation theologians have pointed out (whether they be feminist, womanist, African American, or lesbitransgay), the cross can be a valuable lens to examine the connections between Jesus’ suffering and the suffering of marginalized people today. The same abusive institutions and systems of domination at work in Jesus’ day now shape our current reality.

Suffering is an ongoing cycle of abuse that remains unexamined and unaccounted for. If we unmask the powers that create suffering, the powers that led Christ to the cross, we begin to see they are manifest in our everyday lives in systems of racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism. Because the cross reveals how suffering victimizes the innocent and marginalized, it can extend to us all a promise of liberation.

When the Christian community looks to the cross, we must see not only Jesus, but the many other faces of God that are crucified with him today. In so doing, we deepen the church’s solidarity with all who suffer; those who are Christ in our midst.

(c) 2001, Rev. Irene Monroe

(For my dear friend Claudine O’Leary, and to all my fellow afrocentrics who love me as I love them)

I am proud to be a regular contributor to a superior journal entitled “Rain And Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Discussion and Activism”. Claudine O’Leary is my dear friend, fellow warrior, and editor of that outstanding journal.
(For more information, contact Rain and Thunder c/o P. O. Box 813, Northampton, MA, 01061).

In a recent column, which also appears in her special zine: Suicidal Ideations: Writing and Art by Wimmin on Suicide, Claudine recently penned a magnificent moving, and simultaneously sincere tribute to both her eternal soulmate, Terri Lotz, and to her new friend Jonna. Claudia wrote:

“We can only go so far with our struggles alone…it is in community and through love and connection with someone else that we can go deeper…”

As always, I share Claudine’s passions and pains. We share missions as activists, lesbians, and comrades who have both lost wimmin we adore to suicide.

Unlike Claudine, I do not share the special grief of losing a lover to suicide. But, I have recently severed all ties with an emotionally abusive lover of three years, which required an intensely painful emotional divorce. The virtual death of my ex was mandatory to embrace my own life, and welcome my own new soulmate into my life and heart.

However, there is a kind of emotional death which I must die repeatedly. Being an afrocentric lesbian requires that I walk a constant tight rope among the types of persons I prefer to allow inside my social space. Inevitably, many who embrace Africa will always embrace its sexism as tradition (See columns on Gays in Africa and Female Genital Mutilation.) Gaybashing is intensified by sexism in any culture. Gay men are despised for being womanly. And gay women are despised for daring to be manly. Not just physically and sexually. Primarily, it is a political and financial problem.

Brothers who revere polygamy can never accept that two wives may enjoy each other more than they enjoy being in stables/harems. Brothers who adhere to the sexist edict that “The only position for a woman in The Revolution is prone”, truly loathe the control of both our posture and our revolutionary roles which lesbians demand. And, so many sisters gaybash simply in order to please and obey the brothers. Most brothers just do not know how to relate to a woman unless she is a lover/mother/chef/maid.

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