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.