Award-winning comedian Mo’Nique just released her latest Netflix special My Name Is Mo’Nique, and audience members who came for laughs found themselves in tears. The 55-year-old actress came out right there on stage, sharing how she’d spent years hiding who she was from her church-going family.
In one hilarious anecdote, Mo’Nique recalled a conversation with her husband, with whom she once had an open relationship. “Daddy, I want to be with another woman, sexually,” she told him.
“And he looked at me, so beautifully and so patient and so loving, and said, ‘Bitch, me too!’” As the audience roared in laughter, she added, “He said, ‘You find that bitch and we will f*ck that bitch together!’”
While eventually Mo’Nique was able to come to her husband in such a casual way, the road to get there was far from easy. She recalled her upbringing, where the few examples of queer people she saw were not treated well.
There was her “Uncle Tina,” a gender-nonconforming relative. “Everything about my Uncle Tina is a man,” she explained. “She has a full beard. She wears something to smash her breasts down. She puts something in her pants to make it look like she could possibly have a dick. And she wears men’s clothes and men’s shoes. Everything about my Uncle Tina is a man.”
But Mo’Nique saw first-hand how her grandmother reacted to her own queer child. “My grandmother could not come to grips that she had a gay daughter,” she explained. “She could only love her privately. She couldn’t love her publicly because the Church had my grandmother fucked up. That goddamn Church, baby, in our communities will do some shit to us and rip apart motherfuckin’ families, just like it’s going out of goddamn style. And they’ll put ‘In the name of Jesus’ in front of it. And I watched that shit happen to my sweet grandmother.”
Faced with this example, Mo’Nique decided to hide her own identity from her family. “I couldn’t tell my grandmother my secret thoughts and my fantasies because I didn’t want her to love me privately, and I did not want her to leave this earth thinking that she was a failure,” she said.
Mo’Nique went on to clarify her sexuality, saying that she is somewhere in the middle between straight and gay. “Now I know y’all are looking at me, saying, ‘Wait a minute, bitch. Are you a motherf*ckin’ dyke?’,” she said. “No, I’m not… all the way. But when you’re born with that, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Nothing. And please understand that I tried.”
In a follow-up interview with Vulture, Mo’Nique explained why she chose to come out during her special. “I think that introduces you to me,” she said. “It lets you understand why I fight the way that I fight, especially in our community, where there are so many secrets.”
Specifically, being raised in a religious family gave her perspective on the struggles other LGBTQ+ folks face to come out. “There are so many of us caught up in the churches, and there are so many myths,” she continued. “There’s so much foolishness, and my family is not exempt from it. To speak it out loud, to say it out loud.”
“It’s just time,” she concluded. “It is time for us to live in freedom. So many of us are still enslaved. So many of us are still fearful. So many of us are still embarrassed. So many of us are still ashamed. Once you get to a place of freedom, you truly start living.”