Speculation about Janelle Monáe’s sexuality has swirled for years, but the alt-R&B singer has always artfully sidestepped the issue. She used to jokingly say she only dated androids, and has constantly declined to discuss rumors about her relationships, questions which most recently focused on actress Tessa Thompson. However, in a new cover story for Rolling Stone, Monáe has now come 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,” she told interviewer Brittany Spanos. She said she initially thought of herself as bisexual, until she later “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.”
Monáe pointed out that clues to her sexuality were always present in her songs. Specifically, she referred to “Mushrooms & Roses” from 2010’s The ArchAndroid and “Q.U.E.E.N.” from 2013’s The Electric Lady, two tracks which mention a character named “Mary” as a romantic interest. Apparently, “Q.U.E.E.N.” was originally called “Q.U.E.E.R.” and the word is still present in the background harmonies.
Furthermore, Monáe, her new record, Dirty Computer, is very much about addressing sexual liberation. “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” she said. “This album is for you. Be proud.”
Dirty Computer, which features contributions from Grimes, Pharrell, and The Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson, as well as the input of Prince, is out tomorrow, April 27th. To coincide with the release, a 45-minute “emotion picture” will premiere on BET at midnight tonight. In a possible connection to the Mary from “Mushrooms & Roses” and “Q.U.E.E.N.”, the female “dirty computers” that are taken captive in the short film are renamed “Mary Apple;” one of these characters is played by Thompson.