Remember back when people would collectively clutch their pearls every time a celebrity came out of the closet? Well, in 2018, that’s still very much a thing in certain hellscapes across the country —but there are two additional contingents who have become just as vocal. First, there are the well-meaning straight liberals who say, “I don’t even understand why celebrities still need to come out. Don’t we already have gay marriage?” Second, there are the queer folk who watch this from the corner of the room with their arms crossed and say, “Yeah, bitch, we know.”
So why not transcend the usual response? Why don’t we, as a culture, just unequivocally celebrate the fact that another celebrity — in this case, Janelle Monae — has burst from her comfy, presumed-heterosexual cocoon in order to announce that yes, she is queer. (But at the same time: Yeah, bish, we know.)
Monae, who has achieved mainstream recognition in recent years due to charismatic turns in Hidden Figures and Moonlight, has continued to fend off rumors that she is dating Thor: Ragnarok actor Tessa Thompson — but in a Rolling Stone article that came out today, she at least admitted to being not-totally-100% straight.
Identifying as, “a queer black woman in America,” Monae stated, “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexualty, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” she told Brittany Spanos in the profile piece.
She also revealed that she has been hinting at her sexuality for years, and that the background harmonies in the song “Q.U.E.E.N.” even have the word “Queer” weaved into them. (And you thought it was cool to listen for secret messages in the White Album.)
Blessedly, the piece also gives Monae due credit for pushing alternative R&B into the mainstream before Beyonce. In other news, “Before Beyonce” just became the standard dating system instead of “Before Christ.”
In any case, we’re happy for Monae and we hope that many more suspected queer celebs find the courage to come out so that we can simultaneously high five them and ourselves.
Monae is not the only queer female musician making news. Ten years after Katy Perry queer-baited her way to fame with the hit single “I Kissed a Girl,” the music industry is now bursting at the seams with female pop singers who actually kiss girls, repeatedly, and not just on their lips.
An op-ed in The Guardian earlier this week broke down the recent uptick in queer female pop stars, and we were happy to see just how long the list had grown since 2008. In addition to calling out pansexual kweens Halsey and Miley Cyrus, the article namechecked queer artists Fever Ray, St Vincent, Hayley Kiyoko, and electropop artist Shura, as well as Monae and Princess Nokia. Even the “faggot”-spitting Azealia Banks made the list, somehow (to cover bases, perhaps?)
According to British folk-pop artist Marika Hackman, it was this proliferation of queer female representation that encouraged her to come out as gay. “It was that classic thing of not feeling like you’re a lone mouthpiece, it’s almost like a support network,” she said. “Women feel strength in numbers, and the more it’s spoken about, the less it is ‘your thing’ or something you are defined by.”