In 2018, hip-hop/R&B superstar Kehlani is one of the most visible LGBTQ artists performing. Especially since her unabashedly queer hit “Honey” was released last year, fans have flocked to the 23-year-old singer, praising her artistry and claiming her as one of the latest queer icons.
But in the new cover story for Nylon, Kehlani said that was never a title that she was eager to claim. The artist opened up in her new interview about her recent pregnancy announcement, saying the reaction from some in her queer fanbase has left her questioning what it is that she brings to the table as a pansexual artist.
“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 said of her fans’ reaction to the news of her pregnancy. “I never identified as a lesbian. I’ve always been pansexual. My first mixtape included songs about males, and songs about women.”
The “Honey” singer announced her pregnancy in a long Instagram post last month, telling her fans that she was nervous but excited to finally have a child, something she said she’d always wanted. But following the post, some fans said that her having a child was evidence against her queerness, which she later had to defend herself for in a now-deleted tweet.
In talking about her pregnancy with Nylon, Kehlani also took the opportunity to let her fans know that while she loves getting to represent the LGBTQ community, she is an artist first. “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 said. “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 argument that some fans made on Twitter was that Kehlani’s pregnancy and relationship with a man somehow negated her queerness and lessened her impact as a queer artist. But Kehlani made it clear to her fans earlier this year, saying that she identifies as queer, not as lesbian, meaning that she is still sexually attracted to men.
Kehlani noticed this trend and said that she found it disconcerting how quickly some of her LGBTQ fans were willing to erase her identity. “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 said. “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.”
The singer hinted to fans last week that she would be releasing new music soon. While she didn’t provide further details on when and where fans can expect to see her new work, the artist said she had reached a stage in the process where she was “mixing/clearing/shooting” things for her new project. “Imma stop teasing y’all i have a lot to do,” she wrote on Twitter. “…butthisshitfiretho.”
Check out Kehlani’s full interview with Nylon here.