Janelle Monáe vows to “fight back” against laws erasing Black & trans people

Non-binary actor Janelle Monáe Photo: YouTube screenshot

Janelle Monáe may be in their “age of pleasure,” but according to the nonbinary pop star, pleasure doesn’t preclude “fighting back” against anti-LGBTQ+ laws and book bans that erase the experience of Black people as well as queers.

Monáe recently spoke to Washington, D.C., NBC affiliate News4 about the release of their fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, out today.

“We are creating safe spaces for ourselves as we go on our journey of self-discovery,” the “Lipstick Lover” singer said of the new album’s concept. “I’ve had my age of anxiety, I’ve been in the age of confusion, but right now — I don’t know if you can feel it — but a lot of people are yearning to have experiences with the people that they love and to tap in to the highest, best version of themselves. So, I am actively doing that and actively creating those spaces for the people around me.”

That means also speaking out against the unprecedented wave of laws that have been passed by Republican lawmakers in state legislatures across the U.S. seeking to limit the basic rights of transgender individuals.

Asked how they respond to the current efforts to “legislate certain people away,” Monáe didn’t mince words.

“You respond by fighting back,” they said. “Meaning speaking out against [anti-LGBTQ+ laws], standing with our trans community, my siblings. As a nonbinary, queer, pansexual person, I am proud to be in this community. I will never sit back and be silent about the injustices that are happening against our trans community.”

Monáe also noted that trans people aren’t the only ones under attack. “People need to understand that it’s not just trans people that are getting these sorts of bills passed to erase their existence or to make them feel as though they don’t matter and that they don’t deserve human decency. It’s also Black folks,” they said. “When you think about what’s happening in the schools, we can’t [only] talk about the LGBTQIA+ communities. We also — in some of these same schools, they are restricting us to talk about books and things that speak about Black history.”

Across the country, many of the same Republican politicians seeking to ban discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms have targeted what far-right critics have largely mischaracterized as “Critical Race Theory.” Critics of Florida’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” say the law is, in part, aimed at preventing teachers from discussing the country’s history of institutional racism. Meanwhile, book bans across the U.S. have disproportionately targeted works by Black authors alongside LGBTQ+ books.

“They’re trying to erase our history, which is American history,” Monáe said. “If we’re erasing history, how are we supposed to correct the mistakes that the past has made and create a better future?”

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