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Janelle Monae and Sexuality 101

Updated: May 7, 2018

In the wake of Janelle Monae's brave conversation about her pansexuality with Rolling Stone magazine, black women are left trying to figure out what it even means and if other types of sexuality exist. If you haven't had a chance to read the article, check it out below:

With that being said, we're going to walk through the types of sexuality and some black female celebrities who openly identify with them.

First, let's start with discussing the difference between sex and gender. According to Planned Parenthood, sex is a label assigned at birth of female, male, or sometimes intersex. Intersex is when a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male. Sometimes a female or male gender is assigned to an intersex person at birth through surgery, if external genitals are not obviously male or female. Gender is a social and legal status of male or female. A set of expectations from society about behaviors and characteristics. Each culture has standards about the way that people should behave based on whether they’re male or female. Cisgender is when you identify with your sex assigned at birth. Transgender is when you identify with a gender that is different from your sex assigned at birth. Transexual is when you have Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) to change the anatomy you were born with to that of a different gender.

Unfortunately, relying solely on assigned sex at birth and gender labels placed on us by societal and cultural norms are not enough. This is where gender identity and gender expression allow individuals to truly be themselves. The Gender Unicorn explains that gender identity is a person's internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Gender expression/presentation is the physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Every single one of us have a gender identity and gender expression that falls along the spectrum. To find out more about the gender unicorn, click on the link:

As mentioned in The Gender Unicorn, individuals can express their sexuality with a romantic orientation and a sexual orientation. The PBHS closet defines romantic orientation by who you are romantically attracted to meaning wanting to be in a romantic relationship with and is unrelated to sexual attraction. Sexual orientation is defined by who you are sexually attracted to meaning who you get turned on by or who you would want to engage in sexual behaviors with.

Although there are numerous types of sexual orientation, the most commonly discussed include heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality.

Heterosexuality is when you are attracted to a gender that is different from your own.

Even though she has not openly identified, Beyonce's current marriage to Jay-Z represents heterosexuality.

Homosexuality is when you are attracted to the same gender as your own. Lesbians are women who are only attracted to other women.

Robin Roberts

Bisexuality is when you are attracted to two or more genders along the gender spectrum. Women who identify as either lesbian, bisexual, or any other sexual orientation that doesn't solely involve men, are often seen as experiencing a short phase in their sexual lives or must still desire a male presence.

Amandla Stenberg

Asexuality is when you are not experiencing any sexual attraction. This sexual orientation has been a stereotype placed on black women since slavery in the form of "Mammy" (check out my previous blog post about black women and sexual stereotypes:

"Mammy" was the most popular asexual black female character portrayed in film.

As mentioned in the Rolling Stone article, Janelle Monae once identified as bisexual but after learning about pansexuality she realized, "Oh, these are things that I identify with too. I'm open to learning more about who I am." The article also explained that "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.' Pansexuality is a more expansive label than bisexual, including attraction beyond the male-female gender binary, to include those who are trans, gender-fluid, androgynous, intersex and more."

So what do all of us cisgender and heterosexual individuals do with all of this eye-opening information? Become an ally! An ally is someone who supports the LGBTQ community regardless of identity and/or beliefs.

GLAAD provided 10 great tips to becoming a great ally and friend to LGBTQ individuals:

  1. Be a listener.

  2. Be open-minded.

  3. Be willing to talk.

  4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.

  5. Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.

  6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.

  7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.

  8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.

  9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.

  10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at

The only other tip I would provide is to make sure to ask for preferred pronouns. For example, my preferred pronouns are she, her, and hers but I have a co-worker who prefers the pronouns they, them, and theirs. Even if this is not part of our heteronormative conversations, the more important thing is to respect our LGBTQ communities.

All in all, what I loved most about the article is Janelle Monae's message to her fans simply saying,"I want young girls, young boys, non-binary, 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. This album is for you. Be proud."

Out with Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire...In with Cupcake Noire

XOXO, Shawna

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1 Comment

Theresa BLewis
Theresa BLewis
May 07, 2018

Great read Shawna!

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