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Janelle Monáe Comes Out As Nonbinary: ‘But I Will Always, Always Stand with Women’

"I just don't see myself as a woman, solely."

Celebrity News

During most of her career, Janelle Monáe has been plagued with talks about her sexuality. She was rumored to be dating actress Tessa Thompson and in 2018, the Grammy-nominated artist revealed in a Rolling Stoneinterview that she identified as pansexual after thinking she was bisexual for so long. She has been on a quest to learn more about who she is and is taking us on the journey with her. In the season five premiere of Red Table Talk with hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, the Hidden Figures star opened up about her identity once more.


“I’m nonbinary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely,” she said. “I feel all of my energy. I feel like God is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she.’ And if I am from God, I am everything. 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.”

She continued, “When I see people, I see your energy first. I don’t see how you identify. And I feel like that opens you up to fall in love with any beautiful spirit.”

Prior to Janelle, other celebrities like Amandla Stenberg and Demi Lovato announced that they identified as nonbinary. The “I Like It” singer explained what made her share the news publicly.

“Well, you know, 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,’” she explained. “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, and also, I hadn’t had the necessary conversations with my family. I wasn’t ready to have my family question my personal life.”

The 36-year-old singer/actress comes from a big religious family and grew up in Kansas City. When she finally shared her sexuality and identity with her family, she said her mother had a lot of questions, but her dad was “great” and her sister already knew.

“My whole family is church, church, church and I’m just like well what does it mean to go against your whole family on this thing? But I was ready. I was like, ‘You know what? If they don’t love me, don’t call me asking me for no money,’” she said. “‘You will not get my LGBTQIA+ money.’” She joked that some of her family members may have a problem with who she is but opt to stay quiet because they “may need something.”

While her journey may not be over, she is taking full accountability for who she is and who she wants to become.

“I know who I am,” she said. “I’ve been playing a version of some parts of me, but now I’m owning all of me. I had to own all of me to really be able to talk about it publicly.”

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Featured image by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

Jamie Foxx and his daughter Corinne Foxx are one of Hollywood’s best father-daughter duos. They’ve teamed up together on several projects including Foxx’s game show Beat Shazam where they both serve as executive producers and often frequent red carpets together. Corinne even followed in her father’s footsteps by taking his professional last name and venturing into acting starring in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times as Thelma.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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