Janelle Monáe is the name on everybody’s lips at the moment. Following the release of ‘Dirty Computer,’ her brand new visual-concept album (defined as an ‘EMOTION PICTURE’ – think Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade,’) she has recently appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, coming out to the world as Pansexual for the first time. But what does it mean for us when a celebrity comes out as queer - especially the kind of queer that maybe not everyone is so au fait with?
From what we can see, Monáe’s admission has certainly made an impact. According to Junkee.com, online searches for the term ‘Pansexual’ rose by 11,000% following release of the Rolling Stone interview. Even just seeing lesser-known queer terminology have this kind of reach is pivotal for the community. The more people that can understand what it means to be queer in any way, shape or form, the more we can create tolerance and acceptance in a world where, in reality, everyone just wants to be loved.
No celebrity has come out so publicly as Pansexual before. But having someone such as Monáe flying the flag for Pan identities seems like the most perfect fit. She is a fierce and talented woman of colour, unafraid to fuse genres and sounds or blur the lines between the gender binary. In fact, Janelle Monáe challenges what it means to ‘identify’ as anything, really. Throughout her career, she’s taken on various bold characterisations, and now, in ‘Dirty Computer,’ she speaks up for anyone who is different, in any kind of way. She covers the bases of gender, sexuality, race and so much more, and given that Pansexuality is defined as sexual attraction to people of all or no, or any gender identities, it’s pretty ideal that she’s becoming a champion for the community. In her Rolling Stone interview, she emphasises that the identities of people of all genders and sexualities ARE valid. ’I want … people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracised or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you.’ She says. ‘This album is for you. Be proud.’
As someone who identifies as Pan myself, this is a huge, HUGE deal. Just the same as I did, Janelle Monáe found out about the word ‘Pansexuality’ much later on in life. She goes on to explain in the now-famous interview that she had been identifying as Bisexual but realised that the notion of Pansexuality fit perfectly with the way that she felt about herself. Now, with her profile growing and growing, it’s so important that she’s using her place in the public eye as a platform to educate others, spreading messages of love and acceptance.
Another upshot of the curiosity that has been sparked by her interview is that many have taken to the internet to try to define Pansexuality and make it more understandable for everyone. It’s as if Monáe is leading the masses – she educates them, they educate others, and so on. It’s a beautiful and organic thing.
Lately, I’ve seen and heard a lot of people (indeed, perhaps the ‘older generation’ or people online with certain viewpoints) branding evolving queer terminology as something ‘new’ ‘trendy’ or ‘millennial’ – but this is simply not the case. Hearing words like ‘pansexual,’ ‘transgender,’ or ‘non-binary’ and stating ‘we didn’t have that in my day’ or ‘people are out here identifying as whatever they want these days’ isn’t exactly progressive. If anything, it’s stifling – are we not all humans with freedom of expression? Do we really need to be put into tiny little boxes? And if we find one box that fits us better than our current one, is there anything wrong with that? Humanity cannot continue to move forward without the use of previously unknown terminology, so instead of resisting, people need to regain a sense of understanding.
What we can all take away from this, I think, is that Janelle Monáe is a massively talented artist, paving the way for innovation and authenticity; not just in music but also in the way we all see ourselves and the world. And although ‘Pansexuality’ might sound like a new term, I believe it’s something many of us have felt for ages; we just didn’t know there was a word for it yet.