Musician and actor Janelle Monáe confirmed she is nonbinary, meaning neither exclusively male nor female, and discussed what it means to her in a recent interview with “Red Table Talk,” a talk show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith; her daughter, Willow Smith; and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
“I’m nonbinary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely,” Monáe said during the episode released Wednesday. “I feel all of my energy. I feel like God is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she.’ 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 beyond the binary.”
In a Rolling Stone cover story in 2018, prior to the release of her album “Dirty Computer,” Monáe came out as pansexual, which is an attraction to people regardless of their sex or gender. She said she initially identified as bisexual, “but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
During the interview with “Red Table Talk,” she said when she sees people, she sees their energy.
“I don’t see how you identify,” she said. “And I feel like that opens you up to fall in love with whoever, with any beautiful spirit.”
The episode marked the first time Monáe officially confirmed that she is nonbinary. In January 2020, she tweeted the hashtag #IAmNonbinary, and fans took it as her coming out.
She clarified a month later in an interview with author Roxane Gay that she was tweeting support for Nonbinary Day “and to bring more awareness to the community.”
“I retweeted the ‘Steven Universe’ meme ‘Are you a boy or a girl? I’m an experience’ because it resonated with me, especially as someone who has pushed boundaries of gender since the beginning of my career,” Monáe told Gay. “I feel my feminine energy, my masculine energy and energy I can’t even explain.”
In an interview with Variety in June 2020, Monáe said she was “exploring.”
“I’m so open to what the universe is teaching me, and teaching all of us about gender,” she said.
She didn’t clarify during the “Red Table Talk” interview or any others whether she will use different pronouns, but during the Variety interview, the reporter told Monáe someone had changed her pronouns on her Wikipedia page from only “she” to “they.”
“That was not me,” Monáe said in response. “I think people can call me whatever it is they want to call me. I know who I am. I know my journey. And I don’t have to declare anything.”
Willow Smith asked Monáe during Wednesday’s episode what got her ready to come out publicly, and she said she had to work things out for herself before sharing who she was with the world.
“I thought I needed to have all my answers correct,” she said. “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 or get calls from people that still look at me as a little pumpkin,” which is what her family calls her.
She said her grandmother, for example, is very religious.
“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?” she said. “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. You will not get my LGBTQIA+ money.”
Though Monáe is now unapologetically herself, she said it took “a lot of healing” and introspection, including during the pandemic, for her to get to that place. She said she dealt with feelings of rejection, because as a young girl she didn’t have long hair like her friends, and she never felt good enough.
She said she also had to heal from fears of abandonment, because when she was younger her father dealt with substance misuse. Now he’s sober, but “at that time, I was dealing with real rejection, abandonment issues.”
She said she felt like “if I wasn’t perfect, will they leave me?”
Pinkett Smith said moving past that fear requires people to understand that when they are their authentic selves, they might lose people, but they will then find their true community.
Monáe agreed and compared self-discovery to a play.
“There are going to be recurring characters,” she said. “There are going to be folks that won’t make it back for the second act, and we have to just be fine with letting go. You go to different levels in your life. Everybody can’t come.”
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