“I mean, it was kind of obvious if you knew where to look”, commented Lisa on Twitter about her heroine Janelle Monaé, a newly self-proclaimed pansexual, queer and proud African-American woman, adding “but the world needs more people with platforms talking explicitly about being LGBTQ+ – especially black women”. No argument there Lisa, you’re absolutely right. With the release of Dirty Computer, Monaé’s brand-new visual concept album – also referred to as ‘emotion picture’, like that of Beyoncé’s boundary-pushing Lemonadea few years back – the sleek and sexy Queen of the Queer has entered center stage to shine a bright light on the colourful world of pansexuals.
“Being a queer black woman in America — someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.”
This was not always the case, though. In the past, the artist had only alluded to her queer identity. Dodging the prying inquiries into her sexual preferences or identity, for years she declared to “only date androids”. In the recent Rolling Stone interview Monaé made it clear, however, that not only is she now done hiding that part of herself, but she plans to continue to put themes of sexual fluidity and empowerment into her work so that others within the LGBTQ+ community can feel like they’re being seen and heard. Monáe went on to explain that while she initially considered herself bisexual, the more she learned about pansexuality, the more the identity resonated with her.
“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.” She also spoke frankly about the pressures of living up to impossible industry standards. “All I saw was that I was supposed to look a certain way coming into this industry, and I felt like I [didn’t] look like a stereotypical black female artist,” she said.
There was a lot of confusion and nonsense where I grew up, so I reacted by creating my own little world. […] I began to see how music could change lives, and I began to dream about a world where every day was like anime and Broadway, where music fell from the sky and anything could happen.
– Janelle Monaé on her childhood musical inspiration
Pansexual..?, you might ponder and understandably so, since the term is not very well-known.Deriving from the Greek word ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’, pansexuals are not limited in their sexual choice by biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Like bisexuality, but even more fluid, a pansexual person can love not only the traditional male and female genders, but also transgendered, androgynous, and gender fluid people.In a way, it’s a free for all. Or, alternatively eg. in the case of asexuals, zero for none at all – you can make your pick, mix it up and change it up whenever you want to.
Worry not, if you weren’t familiar with this concept, because you certainly weren’t the only one. In fact, according to Junkee.com, online searches for ‘pansexual’ rose 11 000% following Monaé’s open and highly praised interview with the Rolling Stone magazine, which coincided with the release of Dirty Computer, her third album. Her life seems to imitate her art, or visa versa – unafraid to blur the lines of identity and gender binary in life, musically her latest work is also a merry and fluid mix of pop, funk, R&B, hip hop and neo-soul. And the world was ready for it – Dirty Computerpeaked at number six on the US Billboard 200. Just like her early musical influence Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, this Kansas City born gal has certainly done her fair share of heel clicking since and that curiosity has taken her to places where not many have dared to venture out to and explore before. By bold example, she is now leading the way for others to follow. The time of trying to pull off an awkward balancing act on a narrow Tightropeis over and, whatever your preference, it’s time to let the world know: I Like That. And own it with pride.
Monaé on role models: “I want young girls, young boys, non-binary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied or just being their unique selves to know that I see you. This album is for you. ”