Rev. Irene


African Americans
Black Panther Party
Civil Rights Movement
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer
Internalized Oppression
Racism/Racial Justice
U.S. History
Violence Against Women
White Privilege
Women & Feminism

The Reverend Irene Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and African American lesbian feminist theologian who speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible.

She is a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in 43 cities across the United States and in the U.K. and Canada. She also writes a weekly column in the Boston LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows.

Monroe describes her columns as an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. She explains: "As an 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 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. She 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. 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 her as one of the city's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and she 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: the 2015 Top 25 LGBT Power Players of New England Award by Boston Spirit Magazine; in 2013, the Cambridge Bayard Rustin Service Award and 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 also 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 her 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.


"I have nothing but positive things to say about Rev. Irene! Thanks so much for an awesome event."

— Andrew Toczydlowski, University of Connecticut


"Rev. Monroe was very personable and approachable and was incredibly engaging with the audience."  

— Women of Color Caucus, Boston College


"Rev. Monroe's active role in the fight against homophobia and her written activism for human rights has truly made an impact on this world, as well as her theories on religion and homosexuality in the U.S."  

— United Nations International School


Making the Connections: The Role Religion Plays in Discrimination
Employing an interdisciplinary approach that draws on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies.  Rev. Irene Monroe’s workshop “Making the Connections: The Role Religion Plays in Discrimination” informs her audiences  of the role religion plays in discrimination against women, people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because racism, sexism and  homophobia is both a hatred of the "other " and it's usually acted upon 'in the name of religion,” Rev. Irene Monroe highlights how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppressions.

The Conceptual Trap of Whiteness
This workshop or talk  will examine the ways in which whites are harmed by a system of institutional racism, even as that system provides immense privileges to them on the basis of 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.

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. 

Debunking the Notion of a Hierarchy of Oppression
This workshop or talk 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.

Homophobia from a multi-oppression perspective
An anti-oppression approach to anti-homophobia leadership training
1. To provide basic awareness of prejudice against sexual minorities;
2. To provide basic information on sexual orientation;
3. To explain stresses on gay/lesbian/bisexual youth and how this impairs educational performance;
4. To explain how prejudice against sexual minorities impairs educational
performance of all students;
5. To equip teachers with some tools and skills to use to reduce prejudice against sexual minority youth and to create an inclusive classroom & school environment.

Diversity Training Workshop
Rev. 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. The specific goals of the workshop are: 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; and To talk with colleagues.

Role play/acting scenarios allow participants to relate to a given situation, talk about issues that have come up in school, witness a situation and learn from it as well as come up with an action plan - learning how to have confidence to deal with these incidents and provide clear resolutions in the moment of the incident as well as setting up objectives for the school to implement.

Work Preferences/Team Building Workshop
Goal and Aim:
 • 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 role playing
• 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:
• Players express, explain, and exchange a wide range of preferences about adult working and learning environments.
•Players work cooperatively and creatively in teams.