Janelle Monáe has officially come out as nonbinary.
The musician and actor opened up about their gender identity publicly for the first time on the latest episode of Red Table Talk with host Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris. “I just don’t see myself as a woman solely. I feel all of my energy. I feel like God is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she,’" she said. “And if I am from God, I am everything. But I will always, always stand with women. I will always stand with Black women. But I just see everything that I am, beyond the binary.”
Related | Janelle Monáe: Trans Folks to the Front
A representative for Monáe would later go on to confirm to Rolling Stone that the artist still continues to use she/her pronouns. Monáe went on to add that she tries to see people's "energy first" before their gender expression, explaining “that opens you up to fall in love with any beautiful spirit."
Monáe's comments on Red Table Talk echo similar sentiments she expressed in a 2018 Rolling Stone cover story where she came out as pansexual. “Being a queer Black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker,” Monáe told the publication. The artist had initially identified as bisexual, “but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
The Dirty Computer singer had been dropping hints over the past few years that they were exploring the idea of identifying as nonbinary. In January 2020 Monáe tweeted out the hashtag #IAmNonbinary which she later explained in an interview with Roxanne Gay was more about supporting the community than a de facto coming out. “I retweeted the ‘Steven Universe’ meme ‘Are you a boy or a girl? I’m an experience’ because it resonated with me, especially as someone who has pushed boundaries of gender since the beginning of my career,” Monáe told Gay. “I feel my feminine energy, my masculine energy and energy I can’t even explain.”
At one point fans noticed that Monáe's Wikipedia page had been changed from she/her to they/them pronouns but later clarified in a Variety interview that she was not the one responsible for it, "people can call me whatever it is they want to call me. I know who I am. I know my journey. And I don’t have to declare anything.”
When asked by Willow Smith why now was the time they decided to come out, Monáe said “somebody said, ‘If you don’t work out the things that you need to work out first before you share with the world, then you’ll be working it out with the world. That’s what I didn’t want to do. So I thought I needed to have all my answers correct, I don’t want to say the wrong thing.”
She also added that it was important to have conversations with her family about gender identity before they went public with it. “I wasn’t ready to have my family question my personal life or get calls from people who still look at me as Little Pumpkin — that’s what they call me back home,” she said. “I needed to talk to my dad, who was just great. My sister knew already because I’ve been in monogamous relationships; I’ve been in polyamorous relationships. But I knew that I couldn’t be Little Pumpkin. I couldn’t be little Janelle.”
Photo via Getty/ Axelle/ Bauer-Griffin/ FilmMagic
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