After coming out as queer in an interview with Rolling Stone in April, Janelle Monáe—who has had relationships with both men and women—was met with overwhelming support from the LGBTQ community and allies. But, like many people in the LGBTQ community know, not everyone was accepting of her sexuality. In an interview with Refinery29, the 32-year-old singer and actress opened up about facing homophobia in her family after coming out to her personal circles.
Though Monáe publicly came out in April, the singer explained that she has been living as a queer woman for some time and came out to her friends and family long before she told the press. As for her family’s reaction, Monáe admits that it has been mixed. Due to her family’s religious, midwestern background, Monáe has faced homophobia from some members who question her sexuality and accuse her of sinning.
“It hasn’t been a perfect response across the board,” Monáe said. “Some people would say certain things that were not supportive. They just don’t understand. It’s like, ‘his is how it’s supposed to be,’ ‘why is she doing this?’”
And though Monáe has made it out of her hometown in Kansas City, Kansas to more accepting circles and communities, she worries for her LGBTQ family members who are still there and are experiencing the same homophobia that she faced.
“I have little cousins who are still there,” she said. “And they are ostracized and pushed out of their homes. People are telling them that they’re sinning or they may be going to hell. For me, it’s important to let them know I’m their cousin, I understand what you’re going through. You’re not a freak, you’re not a deviant, you’re not a sinner. There is nothing wrong with you.”
As for why she decided to come out publicly, Monáe suggests that she wasn’t ready until recently. “I’ve been living my life in the way that I have for a long time,” she said. “I don’t get caught up in how writers or people discuss what it is. The truth of the matter is: I move when I’m ready to move. The truth is that this was a time for me to discuss my sexual identity. I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m proud to be a young, Black, queer, American woman.”
Monáe’s decision to come out is no one’s business. Everyone comes out at their own pace, and it is not our place to judge when she feels comfortable enough to share her sexuality with the public. All we can do is respect her decision.
As for Monáe’s experiences with homophobia, it isn’t surprising. Though the world is becoming a more tolerant place, there are still communities where homosexuality is not accepted. Like Monáe said, we hope that her role in the spotlight helps other LGBTQ members, closeted and out, know that they’re not alone.