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This profile is part of Queerty’s 2021 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year, in celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 11.
Name: Kehlani, 26
Bio: At 26, Kehlani has already conquered worlds. They started out as part of the America’s Got Talent teen group Poplyfe before going solo in 2013. After releasing their first mixtape, 2014’s “Cloud Nine”, the nonbinary singer and songwriter instantly won the hearts of sapphic fans everywhere, even if they didn’t quite know why. With 2015’s follow-up “You Should Be Here” and 2017’s “SweetSexySavage,” Kehlani sang about toxic relationships and queer yearning. But it wasn’t until 2020’s “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t” that the singer started to address their past relationship with rapper YG and new yearnings for queer women.
Coming Out: On April 22, 2021, one single TikTok changed everything. Well, for fans of Kehlani, at least.
“I am gay, gay, gay,” the singer announced to the world that day. “I finally know I’m a lesbian.” No sooner did the “Altar” and “Honey” singer/songwriter formally say those words than fans started chiming in with “duh.” Everybody knew Kehlani was queer and bisexual. They’d identified as such since 2018. But to hear them identify as a full-on lesbian? Everybody who memorized the words to the gay anthem “Honey” could be heard collectively screaming across the globe.
“I just wanted y’all to know that everyone knew but me,” the singer explained in the TikTok, nodding to the fact that yes, everyone knew except Kehlani themselves.
But there was more to the story than that. Back in 2018, fans recalled an Instagram Live in which Kehlani, speaking about an appearance on Queen Radio where they discussed gender and sexuality with Nicki Minaj. In that video, Kehlani stated: “never have I ever identified as a lesbian.”
Chosen Family: A lot can change after four years and a pandemic. Today, after a career of writing tender, sexy anthems for and about women who love women, Kehlani identifies as a nonbinary lesbian. But that doesn’t mean their sexuality is any less complicated. In a now-deleted tweet, the singer wrote: “I felt gay always insisted there was still a line drawn as to which ‘label’ of human I was attracted when I really just be walking around thinking ERRYBODY FINE.”
Kehlani has proved time and again, through their music and activism, that having a queer identity that’s often in flux can be a many-splendored thing. We’re just glad to be coming along for the ride.