“Growing up in the Atlanta area, I [saw] a lot of microaggressions toward homosexuality,” the singer and rapper told writer Tre’Vell Anderson. “Little things like going into an IHOP and hearing one of your family members say, ‘Look at those faggots’ to two people eating or even just a small [statement like] ‘Boys don’t cry.’ Little shit like living in the hood, not being super into sports, and then having to go outside and pretend that I was.”
Nas revealed that while he was preparing for his explicitly homoerotic BET Awards performance of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” he witnessed a viral video in which a young black boy from the Atlanta area was abused by his family members, with the word “gay” shaved into the side of his head.
“It takes you back in time, watching somebody else’s experience,” Lil Nas X said. “I was in rehearsals like, ‘Oh, my God. I have to do my absolute fucking best with this performance because of shit like this.’”
Speaking to the greater stress of being an out queer artist, he continued, “Mentally, it’s really draining and straining sometimes. The pressure of living your entire life knowing the identity of what a rapper is supposed to be, what rappers [are supposed to] do, and going out there in front of all these people, it’s terrifying. [The BET performance] was like jumping in a lake full of sharks and piranhas — and I’ve had to do that so many times within these last three years. Even coming out, that was terrifying. When I put on the costume of Nicki [Minaj for Halloween], terrifying.”
Lil Nas X has continued to champion LGBTQ visibility and other issues beyond “Montero.” His recent “Industry Baby” video features a scene of naked male dancers in a prison shower, and the rapper announced he was partnering with the Bail Project nonprofit upon the video’s release.