Janelle Monáe opened up about coming out as nonbinary during the April 20 episode of “Red Table Talk.” Speaking to hosts Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, Monáe — who came out as pansexual in a 2018 Rolling Stone cover interview — candidly explained their journey with coming out to their family and the world.
“I’m nonbinary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman solely,” she said while promoting their new anthology of Afrofuturist fiction, “The Memory Librarian.” “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’m everything. I will always stand with women; I will always stand with Black women; but I just see everything that I am beyond the binary. When I see people, I see your energy first. I don’t see how you identify. I feel like that opens you up to fall in love with any beautiful spirit.”
“I wasn’t ready to have my family question my personal life or get calls from people that still look at me as Lil’ Pumpkin — that’s what they call me back home.”
Monáe wasn’t always ready to explore their gender identity publicly, but did show support for the nonbinary community in 2020 when they tweeted “#IAmNonbinary,” which they posted to “bring more awareness to the community,” according to The Cut. Continuing her discussion on “Red Table Talk,” Monáe said, “Somebody said, if you don’t work out the things that you need to work out first, before you share it with the world, then you’re working it out with the world,” they said. “That’s what I didn’t want to do. I thought I needed to have all my answers correct. I didn’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 Lil’ Pumpkin — that’s what they call me back home. So it took me some time to be like, ‘OK, mom . . . ‘”
Recalling her journey, Monáe — who comes from a deeply religious background — explained that her mother, father, and sister were all highly supportive, while more distant family members were less understanding. “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,'” they said. “But I needed to have those conversations [privately]. I didn’t want to work that out with the world . . . I know who I am. 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.”
During a special guest appearance on Monáe’s episode of “Red Table Talk,” their mother, Janet Hawthorne, added, “Janelle talked to me about [her gender identity and sexuality] before she decided to come out, so I was very understanding. I’m very proud of her. I love her unconditionally. Nobody will take that away from us.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on April 21, the innovative singer-songwriter also said that her pronouns are “free-ass motherf*cker — and they/them, her/she.”
Watch Monáe’s full interview on “Red Table Talk” above.