Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique came out as queer in her recently released Netflix stand-up comedy special, My Name is Mo’Nique. She also mentioned how her grandmother’s Christianity made it difficult for her grandmother to love her own transgender son.
In the special, Mo’Nique — who has an open marriage and two children with her husband Sidney Hicks — shared how she came out to Hicks. “I said, ‘Daddy, I want to be with another woman sexually.’ And he looked at me, so beautifully and so patient and so loving, and he said, ‘B**ch, me too!’”
Addressing the audience, she says, “Now I know y’all are looking at me, saying, ‘Wait a minute, b**ch. Are you a motherf**kin’ d**e?’ No, I’m not… all the way.” Rather, she says that she feels somewhere in between straight and lesbian. She also says that she hid her same-sex attraction and tried to change her sexual orientation by sleeping with men but says she is honest about her desires with her husband.
Elsewhere in the special, Mo’Nique explains why she never came out to her religious grandmother by discussing her grandmother’s strained relationship with her own transgender child, a person who Mo’Nique affectionately refers to as “Uncle Tina.”
“My Uncle Tina, if she walked in here right now, you would think you were looking at a whole man,” Mo’Nique tells the audience, adding, “She has a full beard. She wears something to smash her breasts down. She puts something in her pants to make it look like she could possibly have a dick. And she wears men’s clothes and men’s shoes. Everything about my Uncle Tina is a man.”
“See, my grandmother could not come to grips that she had a gay daughter,” Mo’Nique continues. “She could only love her privately. She couldn’t love her publicly because the Church had my grandmother f**ked up. That godd**n Church, baby, in our communities will do some s**t to us and rip apart motherf**kin’ families, just like it’s going out of godd**n style. And they’ll put ‘In the name of Jesus’ in front of it. And I watched that s**t happen to my sweet grandmother.”
Christianity taught Mo’Nique’s grandmother that she had failed as a parent because she had a “sinful” queer child, Mo’Nique says. Witnessing the distance between the two made Mo’Nique feel like she couldn’t come out to her elder before she died.
“I felt cowardly when my grandmother left,” she says, “because I couldn’t tell my grandmother who her granddaughter really was. ‘Cause I didn’t want to be loved privately… I couldn’t tell my grandmother my secret thoughts. And my fantasies ‘cause I didn’t want her to love me privately, and I did not want her to leave this Earth thinking she was a failure. ‘Cause had I told her my secret thoughts, she would’ve left thinking that she failed.”
This admission is all the more heartbreaking because Mo’Nique says of her grandmother, “This woman treated me like the sun did not come up till I woke up. And it didn’t go down until I went the f**k to sleep… In her eyes, I was everything.” After Mo’Nique became famous, her grandmother would show strangers at the grocery store pictures of Mo’Nique on magazine covers.
Mo’Nique also reveals that her uncle experienced alcoholism and homelessness, something that trans people are disproportionately more likely to face due to rejection from their families and transphobic societal discrimination.
However, the comedian honors her trans relative and all queer people in a small aside that she addresses makes to “you babies in the LGBTQ community.”
“I want y’all to hear me,” she says. “I respect every-motherf**kin’-body in here free enough to be their godd**n selves.”
While Mo’Nique appeared in the lead role of the turn-of-the-century sitcom The Parkers and hosted her own TV talk show, The Mo’Nique Show, her breakout role was playing an abusive mother in the gay director Lee Daniels’ 2009 dramatic film Precious, a role that won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In 2018, Mo’Nique sued Netflix, stating that Netflix had unfairly paid her $500,000 for a comedy special despite paying millions to transphobic comedian Dave Chappelle and other comedians like Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, and Amy Schumer. She sued the streaming platform and encouraged viewers to boycott it, but she and Netflix settled the lawsuit out of court in June 2022.
Correction (April 10, 2023) – An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that Mo’Nique came out to her father rather than her husband.