Software Bugs, Reprogramming, and Freedom: The Dirty Computer Chronicles

It’s 5am on a Friday morning. Through my speaker plays track 1 of Janelle Monae’s 5th studio album, Dirty Computer.

Photo courtesy of

     The first time Janelle graced my ears was during a school dance my 6th grade year. The song entitled “Tightrope” played and I was instantly in love. The first time I saw Janelle, I saw all that I could be. With her beautiful Bambi eyes and androgynous Black & White outfits, I was sold. I’ve been following JM and her eclectic sci-fi journey as Cindi Mayweather for some time, so to see this evolution and the rise of the Dirty Computers is very personal for me. This album could not have come at a more perfect time. In a recent interview, Janelle finally frees herself. She is out as pansexual, although she says she initially identified as bisexual. To sum it all up, she considers herself “to be a free-ass motherfucker”.

     As a young black queer girl, still struggling with identity, this means so much to me. To live truth and freedom is truly a weapon of mass destruction to those who wish to cleanse us of our “software bugs” as Janelle mentions through the album. When someone frees them-self, they open the gates of liberation for us all and it creates a chain reaction. Those who so dare to run through the gates are considered “Dirty Computers” to society. We are different, our true selves, something they cannot understand.

    The “bugs” inside of us that are considered flaws, errors, and faults to the computer systems of the masses are the creativity, individuality, and desires that us dirties possess within. To be a dirty means to be ostracized. It is to be looked down upon by a world who wants us to conform. However, if we remember our power and our strength, we can infect all the CPU’s of the world with our bugs and create the free society we all deserve.

    My personal journey as a dirty began when I came out the womb. I’ve always been different. Constantly ostracized for my colorful choice of clothing, mitch-match socks, and eccentricity that the other children simply could not comprehend. I spent most of my time from 5th grade on, alone and was bullied to the point of not wanting to return to school. In 6th grade I became dirty to the point of no return when I kissed a girl for the first time. I was infested with software bugs and they only continued to multiply.

    My interests in Rupaul’s Drag Race, Donna Summer, and Club Kids was just weird as fuck to my peers (who all watch Rupaul’s Drag Race now after torturing me through grade school). I felt isolated and alone through the duration of middle school, but like Janelle says in “I Like That”…”Even back then with the tears in my eyes I always knew I was the shit.”

    In High School, my computer system was infested to the point of no return. I could not be programmed the way they wanted me to be creating an inner struggle as I tried my best to cleanse, debug, and blend in. The more I tried to blend, the more the bugs created ripple effects in my system. At church I was constantly hearing about my dirt. A dirt I was able to hide so well on the outside while the bugs inside continued to take over my being. I was dirty, I needed to be cleansed and I knew it. But just like Jane 57821, I wouldn’t dare say “I am ready to be cleansed” and fought it with everything within me.

   I continued to blend, I lied during our small groups and said my involvement with the LGBT+ community was only to help them get rid of their dirt. Like “Zen”, I was indoctrinated and like “Mother Victoria” in the emotion picture, the people I looked up to the most were not here for the gay bug. My spiritual mom has told me many times through my life “not to let that stuff jump off on me” in reference to being queer and to tell the truth, having to look into someone’s eyes I love so deeply and dearly knowing they will never approve of all of me is something that truly shatters my heart.

     It brought me grief and pain to know that my bugs will always be seen as just that by those that I love the most. Would God love me and my dirt? My bugs? Or would I have to deprogram and debug to be accepted? This has all been a difficult journey for me, I mean my bugs are all that I have ever known. My creativity, my eccentricity, and my queerness…they are me. I hid my bugs from the people in my life, terrorized with thoughts of being condemned by my creator and those all around me who did not seem to understand.

     After an encounter with my mother, my best friend and seeing the disapproval in her eyes and hearing the disappointment in her words, I decided it was time to be cleansed. Like Jane, there was no way out. No freedom, no liberation. No one in my life would ever accept my dirt, and I was trapped. Just as I accepted my fate and walked into the room filled with gas to cleanse me and reprogram my system…something happened. My life changed and I found my tribe. They were just as filthy as me. Different, misunderstood, and filled with bugs and system flaws.

     My filthy tribe helped me to discover the freedom of being me. Janelle sings “Hold on, don’t fight your war alone. Halo around you, don’t have to face it on your own. We will win this fight, let all souls be brave. We’ll find a way to heaven, we’ll find a way.” on the final track of the album entitled “Americans” and I believe that it describes how important it is for us dirties to find one another, support one another, and love one another. This journey is not one that can be walked alone. There is no more fighting my bugs and against my system “flaws”. They make me who I am and I am proud of that. I embrace my bugs and I love my tribe.

We are in this together, and with the gates of freedom open, we have the power to dash through and uplift one another through this life long journey as a “dirty”.

If you are looking for something to inspire the heart, Dirty Computer is it. This album and emotion picture is exactly what the world needed at this time and it is exactly what I needed.

Dirty Computer is filled with emotion, fun, politics, and everything in between. This truly is the album of the year for me.

Check out the emotion picture on Youtube-Dirty Computer

And the album now streaming on all platforms!

Thank you Janelle for being so open and freeing yourself.

Now, all of us dirties can take on our title with pride. I am, we are, Dirty Computers.




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