Feel the Flame: Interview with Flame Monroe
I was first memorably introduced to Flame Monroe while watching a preview of a video on the internet talking about the possibility of her getting a Reality TV Show. The show was based on her living her life as a man during the day to care for her kids and participate in school activities with her young children and being a professional female impersonator at night. This was different than famous drag performers like Tyra Sanchez because Flame had done quite a bit of transitioning and had several breast implants and silicone injections by then. I was immediately intrigued. I knew that she looked familiar then and, after doing a little research, found out that she was a recurring star on Comic View. For me, this was big. There were very few transgender individuals on television, especially black television and even more a black transwoman.
Sitting down and talking to her while she was in town, the same personable, real personality I saw on television and in her pilot episode all those years ago was present in our conversation. The night before I had seen her on stage in my home city of Houston, Texas at a popular drag show hosted by my Gay Mother Alexyeus Paris at Bayou City Bar and Grill. She wasn’t extremely pleased with the “black, gay club experience” because we don’t tip or appreciate the art of female impersonation in her opinion and so hasn't worked in many over the last several years. She prefers to work in bars and clubs with exclusively drag performance nights. She lives in Long Beach, California with her children and works around the country at popular bars and venues doing her drag performances and stand-up comedy and makes a good living doing so.
Still, she feels like the community has changed drastically in the almost 30 years since she started transitioning. First she says emphatically, “RuPaul’s Drag Race has singlehandedly murdered the art of female impersonation.” She explains that with RuPaul trying so hard to keep it strictly for gay men who do drag as a hobby or career and putting them on an Emmy-nominated show, she has made them go from putting on some semblance of girl clothes to hitting the peak of their career within years—and sometimes weeks. Other people like her who have worked hard in their career, have been disadvantaged because of this.
Also, she feels like this big push to be “passable” in the transgender community is played out. For her, she never wanted to be passable. She has always been comfortable in her own skin. As we were sitting there talking and laughing about her experiences, she stopped for a moment and got real serious and said, “With all the transgender murders going on with women of color, some may be people being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The others you have to wonder what those people did to put themselves in those situations. People have to accept some accountability in their doing.”
Even in that harsh moment, I understood. Murder is unacceptable, but accountability for actions—good and bad-- is a real thought. And that, to me, makes Ms. Monroe that much more honorable.
What is the most interesting about Ms. Flame is that she is almost exclusively attracted to lesbians. I know you probably are screaming, “Ian, gender and sexuality are different and they can both be fluid.” I know! But we are all learning sexuality and gender as a concept even living an LGBT life. One of the reasons she says she isn’t interested in men and hasn’t had sex with a man in over 18 years is because she is not a “bottom”. “When men say they want to screw me, I know it’s time to let it go. My ass is just for decoration.” Her children’s other parent was a lesbian and, although they are no longer together, they have a very good relationship. So, to try to put this wonderful person in perspective through known labels she is a transwoman who lives as a man who is heterosexual and only dates lesbians. Interesting indeed.
Ms. Monroe has been in the media for far more than Comic View and her sizzle reel for the Reality Show. For instance, she went viral for calling Caitlyn Jenner a “microwave tranny” and also she was in the Chicago Tribune in 2011 and they misquoted her and said that she said, “I just don’t think marriage between gays is right.” She lets me know that was never her thoughts now or before and that they forgot to include that she didn’t think it was right for her, not the entire community. The most recent thing that is coming up is the Botched Season Finale coming in February where she is the guest getting some things fixed. She has had four breast implants and admits that she has some silicone injections done by a transgender women in the 90’s named Michelle Mahogany who gave real silicone and worked professionally in a doctor’s office but on the black market. That too has changed she admits because she spoke of our trans sisters having horror stories from some of the things they inject into their body during their transition. Either way, you will have to watch the Season Finale to find out what actually happened; all I would say is they feel real nice.
Unapologetically 51 years old and beautiful, she leaves this advice to all the people who have watched some of her journey through our life, “Life is a trade off, all you can do is strive for your best. You never got everything you want—sometimes it’s good sometimes its okay. The thing is you gotta be in the game to know how it ends.” And with that Ms. Flame Monroe “The Queen of Hoe Nasty Glamour” (a nickname one of her former colleagues and good friends who passed away a few years ago) we thank you for all the trails you have blazed and the ability to stand fully in your truth.