Despite what you may have heard from the giddy wells of gay Twitter, Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson are not in a relationship.
The rumor flourished from a cover story featuring Thompson, 34, in Porter magazine that dropped Friday. In it, the Dear White People actress bared her soul discussing her craft, her upbringing, her future projects—and her bisexuality.
Some of her statements were crystal clear; she told the magazine that she’s “attracted to men and also to women.” But other comments were more ambiguous, especially regarding her close friend and collaborator Monáe.
Thompson explained their closeness in a beautiful, introspective speech, wondering aloud to the interviewer, “Do I have a responsibility to say in a public space that this is my person?”
“We love each other deeply,” she told Porter. “We’re so close, we vibrate on the same frequency. If people want to speculate about what we are, that’s okay. It doesn’t bother me.”
Media outlets (and gay Twitter, with supportive and loving tweets galore) took this to mean Thompson had finally revealed the pair’s girlfriendship.
Good morning to Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monae and no one else. pic.twitter.com/bRV53RJiNy
— Robin Roemer (@robinshoots) June 29, 2018
But it was only a few hours before Thompson pumped the brakes on the influx of reports and called out journalists.
“Sometimes we cheer so loudly at someone speaking their truth, that we miss what they say. (Here’s looking at you media journalism),” Thompson tweeted. “I didn’t say I was in a relationship. But I said lots of other things.”
Sometimes we cheer so loudly at someone speaking their truth, that we miss what they say. (Here’s looking at you media journalism). I didn’t say I was in a relationship. But I said lots of other things. All below. One thing I missed — Pride Has No End. x https://t.co/yEd0Ep6K17
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) June 29, 2018
The statement shut down the are-they-aren’t-they talk that has enshrouded the women and their public appearances over past months. It’s Thompson, after all, who peaked from Monáe’s ruffly vagina pants in her music video for “Pynk.” It’s Monáe who swooped by Thompson’s red carpet interview to shower her in complements.
But even if they’re not in what we think of as a traditional romantic relationship, Monáe and Thompson still have something extraordinary. And they’re both demonstrating, through their art and their interviews, that speaking your truth doesn’t have to fit any certain narrative. They’re saying it’s OK for queer women to have nuanced or complicated or just fulfilling, loving friendships.
Thompson and Monáe’s friendship imparts another reminder: It’s easy to forget that not everyone subscribes to heteronormative ways of viewing relationships (or gender, or sexuality, or everything else we try to stick into binary boxes)—even if it’s fun to get wrapped up in 20gayteen enthusiasm.
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