It’s been a big week for US singer and actress Janelle Monáe — she dropped her new album, Dirty Computer, and with it, opened up about her sexuality to the press. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine released on Thursday, she confirmed that she identifies as both queer and pansexual.
"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,” Janelle said. "But then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.'"
The news isn’t totally new. Fans have speculated about Monáe’s sexuality since she released her single Tightrope in 2010 (ft. an iconic androgynous look in the video), and back in February of this year she hinted to The Guardian that she might not be straight, giving an interview where she described as “sexually liberated” (although its headline described her sexuality as “undefinable”).
She told Rolling Stone that, at 32 years old, she has previously identified as bisexual. However, in “pansexual” she seems to have found a term that works much better for her. It describes being sexually attracted to people of any gender, or regardless of gender altogether -- a way to describe your sexuality as separate from gender or sex.
While the internet seems quite confused about what “pansexual” means following Janelle's announcement, the term has been around for a while. The rapper Angel Haze self-described as pansexual back in 2013 on Fusion TV. She said she didn’t like labels, but that she sees people “for who they are”.
In 2016, Miley Cyrus also came out as pansexual. She linked it to the feeling of not being totally male or female. She said her first relationship was with a girl, but bisexual didn’t work for her as a term; it felt too confining. The same year, Christine and The Queens’ frontwoman Héloïse Letissier told the press that she identifies as pansexual because it means she doesn’t view gender as an “obstacle”. She explained to the BBC: ‘I don’t really want to tick any boxes’’.
As a term, “pansexual” eschews a binary view of gender, suggesting there might be more than two. It also falls among a new group of words that have arisen in the last few years to describe more nebulous or fluid sexual preferences or gender expressions, particularly as umbrella terms like “queer” gradually come to replace more narrow definitions of sexuality, like “gay.”
“Gender fluid” refers to those who feel their gender is not fixed, but mutable. “Demisexual” refers to those who only sometimes experience sexual attraction, and usually when there’s a romantic element involved. “Questioning” means you’re still working it out. Or as Janelle told the press, “I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
In line with Monáe’s announcement, Dirty Computer seems to embrace themes of female sexuality. Earlier this month, Janelle dropped the single PYNK, featuring Grimes, and the video sees her and her dancers wearing some pretty memorable vagina-inspired trousers. The YouTube description reads: “‘Dirty Computer is “a brash celebration of creation. self love. sexuality. and pussy power.”
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.