Janelle Monae reflects on how the media covered her coming out as pansexual

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Janelle Monae Image copyright AFP
Image caption The star addresses sexuality and politics on her new album, Dirty Computer

Last week, the pop star and actress Janelle Monae came out as pansexual in an interview with Rolling Stone.

The singer, who had previously kept her sexuality private, said she’d “been in relationships with both men and women” and was still exploring her identity.

Her interview prompted an outpouring of support, but some felt Rolling Stone’s headline – “Janelle Monae Frees Herself” – was patronising.

Speaking online, though, the star said she was relaxed about the coverage.

“Yeah, that happens”, Monae told a fan on Reddit who called the headline and others like it, “reductive”.

“I’m also free to let that slide off my back.

“Being an artist sometimes means allowing others to use your image to push an idea based off of something you say or create.

“In this case, I think that there are a lot of people who may find courage in the story (at least I hope).”

Image copyright Warner Music
Image caption A short film accompanying Monae’s new album sees her in a relationship with Thor and Westworld star Tessa Thompson

She continued: “I’m not in the business of clickbait and what makes people click on something. I’m just trying to be honest and hope that it resonates with the people it’s supposed to resonate with.”

In the Rolling Stone article, Monae – who recently starred in the Oscar-nominated films Moonlight and Hidden Figures – said she had initially considered herself bisexual but once she’d read about pansexuality, she realised: “Oh, these are things that I identify with too.”

“I’m open to learning more about who I am,” she told the music magazine.

The interview prompted a spike in web searches for the term “pansexual”, with the Merriam Webster dictionary reporting an 11,000% increase in people looking up the definition.

What does pansexual mean?

The LGBT group GLAAD says pansexuality covers “anyone attracted to people of all genders or sexes, or regardless of sex or gender.”

Some people use bisexual and pansexual interchangeably – with the latter term coined because of unease over the idea that “bi” implied “binary”.

However, either label can include people who are attracted to those who are trans, gender-fluid, androgynous, intersex and more.

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Media captionJanelle Monáe talks to BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac

Monae’s new album, Dirty Computer, acknowledges her sexuality with a sense of liberation and self-belief, while addressing the struggles facing marginalised communities in Trump’s America.

Taking part in one of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” sessions on Wednesday, the star received dozens of messages thanking her for the album’s message.

“As a black queer kid with autism, I really felt empowered by Dirty Computer and how free you were within the lyrics,” wrote one, to which Monae responded: “From one dirty computer to another, thank you.”

Another fan discussed the short film accompanying the album, which sees the star singing with Big Little Lies actress Zoe Kravitz and in a romantic relationship with Thor and Westworld star Tessa Thompson.

“Would you ever consider appearing in their acting projects?” Monae was asked.

“R u kidding?,” Monae wrote. “I’m on set already.”

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