How Lil Nas X Became an LGBTQ Icon

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So far in his young career, Lil Nas X has had to continuously navigate through a jungle of hatred, bigotry and discrimination. 

Ever since his monumental breakout song “Old Town Road” brought him from rags to riches, Nas has never left the spotlight. Controversy surrounding the song’s genre led to it being removed from Billboard’s country music charts, meanwhile the song broke records atop the Hot 100. During this incredible 19-week run of being number one, Nas made an announcement that was heard far and wide. On the last day of Pride month, he publicly came out as gay. 

Fast forward to March of 2021, the “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” music video release was followed by even more controversy. In the video, he appears to be in an alternative queer universe where he dances his way down a stripper pole into hell, and then grinds (among other acts) all over Satan. This video was praised by many and shamed by others, particularly by people of the Catholic Church. There was even a viral video of a pastor talking about the video during a mass, saying he’ll never listen to him again because of the satanic video. 

Despite the constant heat, Nas X has a knack for being able to put a smile on his fans’ face. Whether it’s by interacting with memes created by fans, or using his (stellar) Twitter account, he’s relentless with making his critics look ridiculous through satire. When Fox News called his “Montero” video “desperate and really pathetic” he fully welcomed the attention. A book could be written with all the funny reply tweets he’s made to major public figures and celebrities. 

Graphic created by Julia Quennessen

The more bold Lil Nas X becomes with expressing his sexuality, naturally the more people get riled up. The way he dresses leads to critics questioning his masculinity, something that Nas X clearly doesn’t care about. Maybe he uses fashion to make statements, or maybe he simply just wants to wear what he wants, but either way he rocked that prom dress at the VMA’s. 

One of the most impactul components of Nas X’s career is how he has normalized talking about gay sex. This may not seem particularly ground-breaking given how many members of the LGBTQ community have had sucessful musical careers, but when you consider his fans are young country and hip-hop fans, this is uncharted territory. Heterosexual sex has been glorified more and more over the years through music videos, TV performances, lyrics and even album covers. For a gay man to do the same for once, it not only deserves be free of ciritism, it should be embraced the same way it is for what a lot of people would consider to be “normal.” 

Despite the noise, his music’s success provides the hard numbers that quantify Lil Nas X’s talent. “Montero” peaked at number one or two in 15 countries, including the US, and it has almost two billion streams on Spotify alone. The album saw 11 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, three of which placed in the top ten. The album’s music videos have accumulated another few hundred million views on Youtube, not to mention the “Old Town Road Official Movie” currently has over 610 million views. 

Although his jokes make Lil Nas X appear as the least insecure bully-victim in history, he has opened up about his difficult mental health journey. Even during his college days, he claims to have always felt different, as if he couldn’t truly be himself in society. Earlier this year, in a series of short-form videos on TikTok, Nas revealed how he struggled with depression and hypochondria. He also admitted that making music, and being himself while doing so, is what finally allowed him to ease his mental anguish. Unfortunately, all the backlash he received from the “Montero” video led to a return of anxiety and stress that he worked hard to be free of. 

Lil Nas X will likely be battling these demons his entire life.  As a famous, gay, black man, he may always be facing adversities. But the way he tends to respond to it, with poise and jokes, is what makes him such a role model. It is why he isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

In a recent interview, Lil Nas X told Variety, “I hope my actions are enough to inspire other young LGBTQ children coming up to not be afraid to be themselves.”

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