This post has been updated.
In a Rolling Stone cover story, Janelle Monáe came out as “pansexual.” After identifying as bisexual, Monáe says that once she read about pansexuality, she realized: “ ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
If this is the first time you’ve heard this term, let us translate.
GLAAD puts pansexuality under the bisexual umbrella, defining the term as “anyone attracted to people of all genders or sexes, or regardless of sex or gender.” Some people use the labels bisexual and pansexual interchangeably, says Kate Estrop, president of the Bisexual Resource Center’s board of directors. “Pansexual came out of the complication people had with ‘bi’ implying binary,” Estrop adds. Either term can include attraction beyond the male-female gender binary, to those who are trans, gender-fluid, androgynous, intersex and more.
People define “pansexual” in varying ways. For example, sexologist Carol Queen tells Vogue Magazine that “pansexual people do not desire everybody, they just don’t rule a person out because of gender,” adding that “there is no exact definition of this term.”
Rolling Stone notes that Monáe has long dodged questions about her sexuality, saying “I only date androids” and characterizing herself as “sexually liberated” rather than slapping a label on her sexuality. But deeper clues are present in her music, she says. “If you listen to my albums, it’s there,” Monáe adds, citing “Mushrooms & Roses” and “Q.U.E.E.N.,” which mention affection for a character named “Mary.”
Monáe isn’t the first celebrity to come out as pansexual; Jazz Jennings, Angel Haze, Laci Green and Miley Cyrus also identify as pansexual. For example, rapper Haze defines pansexual as “just want[ing] love. To have a connection with anyone you can find it with,” regardless of gender.
In Rolling Stone, Monáe doesn’t define what pansexuality means to her but says that she wants to be a role model for anyone struggling with their sexuality. “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” she says. “This album is for you. Be proud.”