Janelle Monáe Is This Week’s Modern LGBTQ Trailerblazer #WCW

This post is sponsored by HBO and Gentleman Jack.


It would be absurd to publish a Modern LGBTQ Trailerblazers #WCW series and not feature Janelle Monáe, but it feels almost impossible to quantify her impact on, well, the entire world. Yes, sure, you could talk about the Billboard success and the box office success and the Academy Award-winning movie (Moonlight) and the Grammy-nominated album (Dirty Computer), but even those impressive accolades hardly do her justice.

During Black History Month, Autostraddle staff writer Reniece Charles said of Monáe: “Her music has been fuel to my black resistance for years and will be for years to come.”

About her “emotion picture” that accompanied the release of Dirty Computer, Autostraddle staff writer Natalie wrote, “Monáe has always been an exquisite storyteller, crafting an afrofuturistic world long before any of us knew what Wakanda was, but she’s also willing to live in ambiguity, allowing an android, Cindi Mayweather, to be her stand-in. But this time, there’s no android, only her — the real Janelle Monáe — grappling with what it means to be a black queer woman in today’s world.”

And when Monáe came out as a bisexual/pansexual “free-ass motherfucker” in Rolling Stone last April, Autostraddle Associate Editor Carmen Phillips wrote: “Dancing to that song [2013’s “Q.U.E.E.N.”], 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… 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.”

For every other Modern LGBTQ Trailerblazers #WCW, I’ve found a way to tie their stories in with Anne Lister’s. For Janelle Monáe, I thought I might write about gender-bending fashion. The suits! The hats! The cravats! But the truth is, even though she was a revolutionary woman and the UK’s “first modern lesbian,” and even though she left behind four million words in her diaries, Lister — like every other modern day artist — cannot compare to the queen.

Janelle Monáe is, quite simply, peerless.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 890 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. There’s nothing that she can’t do, excited to see what comes next. Seeing her perform at ACL last year (and the Dirty Computer Emotion Picture) was honestly the highlight of my entire year. I also love how much free-er she seems since coming out. She was so coy about her orientation and always covering everything up in those suits, now she’s letting it all hang out, which I appreciate.

  2. Listening to Q.U.E.E.N. and Tightrope (and oh my god watching that Yoga video!), I always knew Janelle Monae was queer–it was like she was peeking out of the closet to wave hello. And I was excited as the singles from Dirty Computer starting showing up and being gayer than ever. But none of that prepared me for the emotional experience of the full Dirty Computer album. I hope she’s getting back all of the love and encouragement and honesty that she put into every song.

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