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Janelle Monáe Opens Up About Being Non-Binary

The singer-actress received the SeeHer Award at the Critics Choice Awards on Jan. 15.
Janelle Monae.

Janelle Monae.

Janelle Monáe has had a stacked career. The recipient of eight Grammy Award nominations, she has gone above and beyond her dreams of being a singer and has starred in critically acclaimed films like HarrietMoonlight, Hidden Figures and most recently, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Last night the 37-year-old will receive the seventh annual SeeHer Award at the Critics Choice Awards. The SeeHer Award honors a woman who advocates for gender equality, portrays characters with authenticity, defies stereotypes and pushes boundaries. If you know anything about Monáe, that sounds like typecasting.

Monáe came out as pansexual in 2018 and as non-binary last April. She uses she/her or they/them pronouns, but told the New Yorker that her preferred pronoun is “freeassmuthaf---a.”

“I think it’s all about just honoring your truth and your authenticity and whatever that may look like,” Monáe said on a podcast with Jess Cagle. “I’m not this arrogant person that thinks I have all the answers, so I think for me, it’s about making sure I’m also saying to people, ‘Further investigate who you are,’ you know? Allow yourself to discover something new about yourself. Open up your mind to different possibilities, and listen to folks who are saying, ‘This is who I am. This is how I feel inside and outside.’”

Monáe doesn’t like to call the process “coming out.” She thinks of it more as “coming in.”

“You’re bringing people into who you are,” the “I Like That” singer said. “You’re allowing them a unique opportunity to further understand how you see yourself. For me, it was not this big declarative statement. It was just, ‘This is who I am.’ I don’t think anybody should feel obligated to talk about their sexuality.”

Monáe added that what was important for her was to have the conversation with her loved ones and feel comfortable letting it “seep” into her writing and art.

“I can’t wait to get to a point where people can feel comfortable and just live, and not feel like they have to look over their shoulders and wonder if they’re going to lose a job or if their safety is going to be compromised,” the Memory Librarian author added. 

Monáe doesn’t buy into the ideas of “masculine” and “feminine” energy, and instead strives to be more “like water than a hard rock.” 

“I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely. I feel all of my energy,” the Kansas City native said on Red Table Talk“I feel like God is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she.’ 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.”

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