Janelle Monáe, the beloved space angel and the multi-hyphenate behind this year’s Dirty Computer, set the internet aflame Thursday with her first-ever public coming out. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Monáe says she identifies as pansexual, making the term a trending search query within hours of the interview’s publication.
“Being a queer black woman in America,” Monáe tells Rolling Stone, “Someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.”
Monáe initially identified as bisexual, she tells the magazine, “but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
Pansexuality is defined by Merriam-Webster as “of, relating to, or characterized by sexual desire or attraction that is not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation.” According to the dictionary’s Twitter account, the word was its top search on Thursday as a result of Monáe’s interview, with an increase of 11,000 percent.
Despite longtime speculation that the artist was indeed queer, as Rolling Stone points out, Monáe has been reticent to dish about her personal relationships. Monáe confirmed the inclusion of queer undercurrents in her work to the magazine, revealing that the original name of her 2013 song “Q.U.E.E.N.” was actually “Q.U.E.E.R.”
Monáe’s coming out received widespread support from her fans and followers on Twitter. “The queer idol we need,” wrote one user. Another tweeted: “I have always admired your talent and brilliance, and was grateful to hear what you were telling us without words, but today and I am in absolute awe of you, your courage, your light, your leadership, your compassion.”
Monáe’s “emotion picture” for Dirty Computer, a 44-minute film that follows the album’s Friday release, will premiere Thursday at midnight Eastern Time on BET.