Fans have hailed 23-year-old singer Kehlani as a new queer icon after her hit anthem “Honey”, but the hip hop/R&B star says it’s not a title she asked for, especially after the LGBTQ community reacted negatively to her recent pregnancy announcement.
“I never identified as a lesbian. I’ve always been pansexual. My first mixtape included songs about males, and songs about women,” she says, opening up about some of the hurtful comments she received after announcing her pregnancy on Instagram, writing that she’s been dreaming about motherhood since she was young.
“I’ve gotten everything from ‘I thought she was a lesbian’ to ‘she was using queerness to promote her career, then went and betrayed us with a man’ to ‘her baby father is just a sperm donor,'” she tells Nylon in a new cover story.
“I never woke up and decided to be the ‘queer icon’ of the century. Having so much attention on me outside my art already gives me enough anxiety,” she tells the magazine. “There are people out there in this community fighting for equality in realer ways than making songs about it and performing at events like I am.”
The negative reaction has led the California-based singer to question her own identity as a pansexual artist and what she brings to the conversation, reiterating that she identifies as queer – not a lesbian – and is sexually attracted to men.
“I also saw a lot of discomfort with the use of the word ‘queer,’ hinting that it’s used for folks to run away from identifying with a more ‘solidified’ term like bi/lesbian/gay/pan,” she adds. “My response is: Whatever makes you feel your safest, in your truest identity, you should identify as such without being policed by the same community you are supposed to feel most safe with.”