Janelle Monae is a leader for “free-a** motherf***ers.”
That’s how the 33-year-old delightfully referred to herself when she came out as queer in a Rolling Stone cover story last spring. This spring, Monae sat down with budding pop star Lizzo to talk more deeply about her sexuality and more for Them magazine’s debut cover story, “Janelle Monae: Living Out Loud.”
“It’s been a journey. For me, sexuality and sexual identity and fluidity is a journey. It’s not a destination. I’ve discovered so much about myself over the years as I’ve evolved and grown and spent time with myself and loved ones. That’s the exciting thing — always finding out new things about who you are,” Janelle Monae said in regards to her liberating journey of sexuality.
“And that’s what I love about life. It takes us on journeys that not even we ourselves sometimes are prepared for. You just adapt to where you are and how you’ve evolved as a free-thinking person.”
When asked if she has any words for people who are struggling with their sexuality or coming out, “Don’t allow yourself to feel any pressure other than the pressure you put on you. And I think there’s so much power in not labeling yourself. That said, there’s also power in saying “This is how I identify,” and having community with the folks you identify with. Everyone is on a journey of self-discovery, and those of us who may not understand others’ journeys should be more empathetic and tolerant and supportive,” Monae said.
When asked how she feels about the state of queer acceptance in 2019, Monae said that one thing that she’s realized even more is that when you walk in your truth, you can inspire and encourage others to do the same.
“I mean, to be young, queer, and black in America means that you can be misunderstood. You can be hated. It also means that you can be celebrated and loved. And I think there’s a lot at stake when you’re living out loud in that way,” the “Pynk” singer said.
Monae said that she was initially scared about coming out. She thought she was going to have backlash for it.
“I thought people were gonna say, “Oh, she’s doing this as a publicity stunt.” I thought I wasn’t gonna be able to go back home and be at all the barbecues. I had anxiety. And a lot of it was just untrue. It was my fear of what people were gonna say. And I’m thankful that I didn’t allow that fear to get in the way of my freedom,” Monae said.
“I think the entertainment industry has not caught up,” she notes. “We’re making some waves, but we can do better.”
“And again, it’s about normalizing and telling more stories, and inviting more LGBTQIA+ folks into the conversation on the front end, and giving us a seat at the table early on. Because we can’t afford to see things in a binary way. That’s not how the world works.”
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist and writer. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism, and her truth. Follow her on Twitter.