Freedom, Pan-sexuality, and Why Janelle Monae Champions Both
May 23, 2022
Ahead of the release of her latest project – a collection of short stories titled ‘The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer’ – Janelle Monae said casually during an episode of Red Table Talk that she is non-binary. A couple of days later, when asked about her most recent coming- out moment, Monae told the Los Angeles Times, “My pronouns are free-ass motherf— and they/them, her/she.”
Since the moment she appeared on the scene, Monae’s semi-public explorations of her own sexuality have had the bonus side effect of holding space for gender fluidity and self-exploration in mainstream arenas. Long before the expansion of the LGBT initialism, before the idea of confirming and respecting someone’s preferred pronouns became common practice, Monae was normalizing the idea of female-presenting androgyny.
She was never loud about it either; not to say that there is anything wrong with being open and vocal about your identity. But because Monae stepped into the public eye at a time when she was still trying to define herself, she broke tons of barriers by simply being. In fact, she refused to discuss her sexuality, never confirming or denying dating rumors, and she answered questions about her gender by telling the world she was an android.
It took 11 years for Monae to begin sharing with the world what she had discovered. As she prepared to release her Grammy-nominated third album Dirty Computer, she came out as pansexual during a cover interview with Rolling Stone. She also explained that what many had seen as an “act” or some type of creative expression, was actually a coping mechanism. Cindi Mayweather – the android persona she created for her debut The ArchAndroid and who she presented as even in the “real” world – was a cloak of invisibility of sorts.
“It had to do with the fear of being judged,” she told Rolling Stone. “All I saw was that I was supposed to look a certain way coming into this industry, and I felt like I [didn’t] look like a stereotypical black female artist.”
By the time Monae came out as the first bisexual than pansexual, the reaction from most of her fans was a unanimous, “Girl, we know.” What is clear with this latest personal “ah-ha” moment that she has shared so casually with thethere rest of us is that Monae always knew who she was. She was just waiting for the language to catch up.
And that is the magic of Monae: her gender fluidity has always been a quiet part of who she is. She’s evolved in the public eye while being extremely intentional about what she chooses to share with the world and when she does it.
She has not only created space for fluidity in the mainstream entertainment industry, but she has also emerged as a model of what it means to truly be free and unapologetic.
And the best takeaway from the model she’s created for herself is to choose your own adventure.
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