Re: Change I Can Believe In; Irene Monroe speaks

The following is a guest post from the Rev. Irene Monroe, published in response to Brian’s earlier posting, “Change I Can Believe In.” Her writing has been posted on and is syndicated in papers and LGBT websites across the nation, including the Carolinas’ Q-Notes.

Obama is on the ‘down low’ with the LGBTQ community
by Rev. Irene Monroe
Special to

Obama has “barack’ed the vote” by getting disinterested and disenfranchised Americans involved in his campaign for the presidential bid.  His promise to cease partisan politics and the old beltway boys’ bickering has not only raised the hope of the American public, but also brought out untold numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans  to cast our vote for him.

Obama’s South Carolina primary victory last month and his inspiring speech “Yes, we can change” proved that not only can he reach across this nation’s dividing lines, but we as Americans can too.

“This election is about the past vs. the future. It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity….

“Don’t tell me we can’t change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future.”

But as Obama helps the nation to seize a better future, “the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today” concerning  LGBT Americans’ civil rights seem to either haunt him or come out of his campaign closet.

According to some news outlets, Obama asked to not have his picture taken with San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004, citing the Newsom’s support of same sex marriage. As Obama challenged us in his speech, we must now ask, “Can he change?”

“I gave a fund-raiser, at [Obama’s] request at the Waterfront restaurant. And he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin” former Mayor Willie Brown told The San Francisco Chronicle.

Four years later, with a denial from the Obama campaign, Newsom told Reuters, “One of the three Democrats you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me, even though I’ve done fund-raisers for that particular person — not once, but twice — because of this issue.”

Newsom’s a staunch ally to our community. He has neither publicly veered away from photo-ops with us nor from our allies promoting marriage equality.

Many LGBT supporters of Obama, however, will argue that in order to win Obama must tactically do what he has to do to shave off the vitriol of religious conservatives.


But how is he then the candidate of change? And how does Obama’s political strategy reconcile with the words he spoke in South Carolina?

“We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics. This is why people don’t believe what their leaders say anymore. This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.”


While it is true, in Obama’s case, that a picture with us would perhaps now say more than his eloquent equivocating words on behalf of us, Obama  can’t risk the political fallout.

Matt Comer, owner and editor of, stated in his blog article “‘President Obama’ — Why Gays need to worry” that “If Obama wins the presidency the LGBT community is in for four (and possibly eight) years of being subjected to a dangerously employed ‘big tent’ strategy that places an oppressed group of citizens at the same table as their oppressors. Obama’s presidency would see James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Donnie McClurkin and other anti-gay leaders sitting down with LGBT community leaders telling them how much they are evil and going to hell while Obama sits back and says, ‘We should work together and hope for change.’”

And while many of us will rationalize and embrace Obama’s  “big tent” strategy, in truth, Obama is on the “down low” with the LGBT community.  He has repackaged a softer and more gentler anti-gay platform than the Republicans, which is perhaps why so many of us uncritically and defensively come to Obama’s defensive.

An avid critic of mine wrote and said, “You and the white gay establishment are holding Obama to a double standard that is ridiculous and disingenuous. What about Hillary Clinton? If you’re going to judge people by the company they keep, it should be across the the board and not selective condemnation.”

The argument that Hilary isn’t and Bill wasn’t any better on LGBTQ issues is true. However, that’s not the issue here.


Because Obama is the new guy on the block challenging the old establishment. He’s allegedly espousing a different political platform, one where he says if ”we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words — yes, we can.”

But Obama’s “big tent strategy” to ascend to the White House and his elusive and “down low” promises to the LGBT community play us like pawns on a chess board. And, consequently, if we neither hold him to his promises nor have him expound on them,  then we will have participated in the closeting of ourselves — the disenfranchisement of our full and equal rights when he’s elected.

So, the real question on the table is can we get Obama to change. I am going to throw caution to the wind and say, “Yes, Obama can!”

Check out Irene Monroe’s writings regularly in Q-Notes, the premier source of LGBT news in North and South Carolina:

2 Responses to “Re: Change I Can Believe In; Irene Monroe speaks”
  1. Brian says:

    Thank you for posting this. Diversity of opinions and perspectives is one aspect of InterstateQ which I value most. We are right to ask the tough questions and continue to push Obama on the hard areas.

    I hope, as my friend Evan does, that “Yes We Can” will extend beyond the primaries, beyond the general… that Obama will inspire us to get involved and speak up and then that we will inspire Obama to lead us that much stronger.

    But he is not a perfect candidate.

  2. Bungy32 says:

    I’ve been reading the Rev. Monroe’s essays a lot lately, re-printed in the political forums of gay on-line communities. Who’s been posting them? Uh, McCain supporters, actually.

    I’ve tried to point out on those sites that Rev. Monroe is no McCain supporter — that she has essays quite critical of McCain. I’ve even used this essay to note that she implicitly critiques Clinton as having a similarly problematic stance on GLBT/Q issues to Obama. I’ve pointed out that many of her essays, like this one, end not with a rebuke of Obama but a (dare I say it?) “hopeful” call for Obama to change. But still, the GOP queers appropriate her analysis for their own campaign of Obama bashing.

    I don’t hold Monroe at all responsible for such appropriation. But as I look over the collection of her regular writing, I am struck by how often she criticizes Obama and how silent she remains about Clinton and, to a lesser degree, McCain. As a gay man, I appreciate the queer-platonic ideal she holds Obama to and join her in her openly expressed desire that Obama change. I have written more than one letter to the Obama campaign pointing out missed opportunities and the ways he is not including or referencing GLBT/Q issues when he should. Even so, there is a danger in continuing to assess Obama in a vacuum, in not assessing his stance on queer issues against that of the other viable candidates. Surely, Monroes’s voice and insights are up to the task of sustaining her critique of Obama while situating it within the options at hand.

    I like to think Monroe mobilizes her challenge to Obama from a place that sees his nomination as more or less assured. But as I watch the GOP exploit the struggle between Clinton and Obama, as I watch GOP supporters exploit Monroe’s critique of Obama, I wonder if something more is needed.

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