You Realize Lil Nas X Made the "MONTERO" Video to Provoke This Exact Brand of Anti-Gay Rhetoric, Right?

I was in fourth grade when I found out about gay people. My family had driven to Provincetown, MA for a day trip, and as we walked down the street, I watched shirtless men holding hands and kissing. Suddenly, it felt like the hurricane in my head that’d been picking up speed for months had quieted; everything clicked into place. I felt, for the first time, not alone, and not insane.

I didn’t have the words at the time, but that didn’t matter, because my male middle school classmates did. It was only months after Provincetown they started calling me gay, pointing out the way I talked (“gay”), walked (“gay”), sat (“gay”), and more or less just existed (“gay!!!!”). The word and its synonyms—”homo,” “fruity,” and “faggy” choice among them—became my waking nightmare. I started correcting my behavior and amending my taste, hoping it’d stop the onslaught; instead, I retreated even further into the closet. I was only 11. Twelve years would pass before I could call myself by their names.

There’s no bigger thrill as a member of the alphabet mafia than to see someone vocalizing and externalizing their queerness in bright, bold strokes.

I’m one of the lucky ones; the only physical harm I faced at the hands of my (assumed) sexuality came when I was pelted in the stomach with a dodgeball at 14, and threatened by a group of high schoolers with lacrosse sticks when I was 15. But not everyone has that luxury; it’s a gay blessing to be able to spend decades unpacking childhood trauma, big or small, instead of falling victim to it. It’s a shared language us lucky ones speak, and the strongest of our ranks can channel that persecution into power—which is why there’s no bigger thrill as a member of the alphabet mafia than to see someone vocalizing and externalizing their queerness in bright, bold strokes.

Someone like Lil Nas X.

The 21-year-old star proved that we don’t make progress by only preaching to the choir when he shook up the music industry with “Old Town Road,” a 2019 chart-topping and Grammy-winning sensation that appealed to country fans, hip-hop obsessives, parents and children (even though the track is about “lean & adultery,” something he’s not shy to admit).

His new single “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” is a tongue-in-cheek track that flips fire and brimstone into art and profit. Predictably, it’s earned a truly ridiculous amount of pearl-clutching from conservatives who claim he’s poisoning his young fans with images of him grinding on Satan. But Lil Nas X has always shown who he really is: He came out as gay months after “Old Town Road” dropped, though it seems like fired-up right-wing Twitter abusers (Candace Owens and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem among them) missed the memo.

In the “MONTERO” music video, the singer pole dances his way to hell and gives the devil a lusty lap dance before usurping his throne, a literal and laugh-out-loud reclamation of the eternal damnation we’re told to prepare for if we “choose” to lead our lives as gay people. It’s gleeful, it’s glorious, and it’s very, very gay—and it’s been pissing mommy bloggers and Christmas Christians off for almost a week.

The conservative and religious outrage that followed the release was immediate, red-faced, racist, and predictable, playing perfectly into the media savvy entertainer’s expectations. None of the backlash acknowledged the genius of flipping decades of homophobia on its head. “They will say I’m pushing an agenda,” Lil Nas X wrote when the song dropped. “The truth is, I am: the agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” His note ends with a promise: “sending you love from the future.”

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