Janelle Monáe Is Queer: Star Comes Out in Rolling Stone as Bisexual/Pansexual “Free-Ass Motherf*cker”

In her new cover feature for Rolling Stone, Janelle Monáe has something she’s finally ready to share with the public. She takes a deep breath in. On the exhale she comes out once and for all.

“‘Being a queer black woman in America”, Monáe tells Brittany Spanos, her interviewer, “someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker’”.

She goes on to explain that she identified as bisexual, but has been reading more about pansexuality and felt “Oh, these are things that I identify with too.” She’s open to learning more about herself in life’s journey.

Monáe has been discussing queer sexuality in her music for most of her career. In the Rolling Stone interview she shares that the original title for her 2013 hit single with Erykah Badu “Q.U.E.E.N.” was “Q.U.E.E.R.”, and that you can still hear the word in the track’s background harmonies. Q.U.E.E.N. asks, “am I freak because I love watching Mary?” and “is it weird to like the way she wears her tights?”

Most heartwrenching is the song’s refrain: “Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven? Say, will your God accept me in my black and white? Will he approve of the way I’m made?”

Dancing to that song, barefoot in my kitchen, until I worked up a sweat, was one of the first moments I knew — Janelle Monaé saw me. Her music has been the soundtrack for a lot of queer women, particularly queer black women and women of color, for the last eight years. We found kinship in her sci-fi fantasy of androids who fell in love with robots beneath the cosmos.

We’ve been having a lot of fun covering Janelle Monáe at Autostraddle this year, but Monáe has never spoken publicly about her sexuality before now (and when asked about her rumored relationship with Tessa Thompson in the Rolling Stone interview, Monáe declined to discuss her dating life). She’s one of the most fiercely private musicians currently in the public eye; hell, she created an entire fictional Android persona to keep herself safe from the glare of paparazzi lights. That is part of what makes this moment so brave and so sweet.

In the feature, Monáe talks about her struggles with perfectionism and the years she’s spent in therapy. A lot of queer people can relate to the drive of hiding yourself behind a mask — of keeping your loved ones at arms’ length, of being afraid that if you exposed the soft side of your underbelly, it wouldn’t be enough. We’re taught to hide. We’re taught to overcompensate.

Today, Janelle Monáe is facing those fears. She’s letting us see her, in all of her vulnerability. Five years after dancing alone to her music in my kitchen, she’s asking if she can come dance with me. She’s asking if she can come dance with us. Under the cosmos and in our real life, the way she always intended.

In talking about her new audio-visual album Dirty Computer (which drops TONIGHT!! At MIDNIGHT!!! What a coming out party!!!), Monáe has a message for her fans, “I want young girls, young boys, non binary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being heir unique selves, to know that I see you… This album is for you. Be proud.”

Be proud, indeed.


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Carmen is a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but has left large parts of her heart in Detroit, MI, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow at night. She believes that the revolution is coming, and it’s going to be wearing really awesome eyeliner. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 57 articles for us.

63 Comments

  1. When I lived in Halifax, Canada, I was at a party full of queer friends when Ellen Page came out and it turned into an Ellen Page is Gay Party. Today is now the Janelle Monae is Queer Party. 🎉

  2. This further supports my belief that representation is SO IMPORTANT. We’re in a time where we’re consumed by media and celebrity, and young people especially look up to celebrities and characters/plot-lines to see themselves. If you know the Fun Home musical, it’s really a “ring of keys” moment for many folx. Seeing yourself in someone in the public eye can literally save your life. It shows that it’s okay to be queer/poc/Jewish/mentally ill/fat/any minority or oppressed group. Thank you, Janelle, for sharing your identity with the world. You are such an inspiration. We’ve always supported you, and now you’re supporting us.

  3. your post on twitter was the first one i saw and i scREAMED in the middle of talking to my sister i just finished reading and what a wonderful article and this! and this! im so happy in this moment thank you, carmen!

  4. I read the Rolling Stones article before I even got out of bed this morning and knew this was going to be a great day. Thank you Carmen for covering this so well and lovingly!!! This feels like such a joyous moment in trying times. xoxoxox

  5. I found out at work when some of my coworkers (I’m out at work) who know I’m a Janelle stan came over to tell me and I SCREAMED in my office. YAAAAAAS

    And “bisexual/pansexual free-ass motherfucker” is pretty much exactly how I identify, so….***FEELS***

  6. I seriously gasped aloud and put my hand to my heart when I read this, crowded bus be damned. I have the Electric Lady album cover as my phone’s lock screen (it’s an android, after all) and now I can look at her and say awww you’re queer, I’m queer, us bisexuals can take over the world!

  7. So tomorrow(I guess now technically today) is my birthday and I thought that Dirty Computer’s release was already the best birthday present ever but THIS has just made it perfect. PERFECT. 20GAYTEEN, you have blessed us so.

  8. My wife texted me at work yesterday to tell me this and I legit jumped out of my chair. I mean, we all already knew but to see her define herself in her own terms is so so great. Happy Janelle Monae Day!

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