Singer Janelle Monáe revealed she was ‘terrified’ when she came out as queer last year.
Monáe was honored as the first cover star of the digital Condé Nast LGBTI publication them. Fellow artist and rapper Lizzo interviewed Monáe and they spoke about queer identities, acceptance, Monáe’s career, and more.
When Lizzo told Monáe people were ‘lit to know that you were queer as fuck’, Monáe responded simply: ‘I was terrified.’
Last April, she came out in Rolling Stone.
‘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 the publication at the time.
Though many people celebrated her coming out and welcomer her into the LGBTI community with enthusiasm and open arms, it was still a anxious time for Monáe.
‘I thought people were gonna say, “Oh, she’s doing this as a publicity stunt,”‘ she told Lizzo.
‘I thought I wasn’t gonna be able to go back home and be at all the barbecues. […] 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.’
A journey to acceptance
Monáe said discovering new parts of herself is a journey, and not a destination.
‘That’s what I love about life. It takes us on journeys that not even we ourselves sometimes are prepared for,’ she said. ‘You just adapt to where you are and how you’ve evolved as a free thinking person.’
After growing up in the midwest, she said she had to have many conversations about her sexuality.
‘After I had those conversations with myself and I saw a therapist, I had to be able to talk about what it meant to identify as bisexual.’
She continued, explaining the questions she asked of herself: ‘What does that mean? How would discovering that impact the relationship I was in at the time? How do I talk about it with my family […] go back to my church? The bottom line is I had to have conversations with myself and the folks that love and care about me, and realize they may not understand what it means for me to be a person who identifies as queer in this world.’
In the most recent season of Queer Eye, one of the season’s heroes was a young, black lesbian named Jess. In the episode, Jess said Monáe was an inspiration to her.
Monáe told Lizzo what hearing that meant to her: ‘Man, the fact that my album has reached another young black woman like her, and it’s helped her in her life, it makes me feel like I’m walking in my purpose and it’s really what I’m supposed to be doing.’
She added: ‘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.
‘One thing I’ve realized even more was that when you walk in your truth, you can inspire and encourage people to walk in theirs’.’
Monáe also gave advice to young people discovering themselves, including having patience and not making decisions based in fear.
‘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,’ she said.
‘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.’