It is the year 2021 of our Lord, and Lil Nas X has been out and proud since Pride Month 2019—and bringing you the rapture since the release of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” this March. But despite the artist’s unapologetic and increasingly fearless unveiling of his identity, there are some who still believe they can dictate the terms of his (or anyone else’s) self-expression—likely because they’re so uncomfortable with their own.
Case in point: As if Lil Nas X didn’t have enough vitriol lobbed at him from the homophobic and (self-avowed) heterosexuals among us, following his out-and-proud performance of his most recent hit at Sunday’s BET Awards—which closed with a passionate kiss with one of his backup dancers, other purportedly gay Black men took issue with the performance, taking to social media to rail against the performer for doing too much.
Some of those tweets—which included anger at newly out Black gay men being too demonstrative in their same-sex love—have since been deleted. Thankfully, our young king was having none of it.
Let’s be abundantly clear: Bayard Rustin didn’t march for this overwrought critique. James Baldwin didn’t write Giovanni’s Room for y’all to police another young Black gay man’s self-awakening. Marsha P. Johnson didn’t spark the Stonewall Rebellion (and quite probably die for it) for you to vent your internalized homophobia up and down the timeline. And Audre Lorde didn’t remind us that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” for you to parade your unresolved self-hatred up and down the feed like respectability politics is the hot new trend for Spring/Summer 2021.
Big picture: representation still matters, and big statements like these make your respectability politics possible and arguably more palatable. So, as Pride Month comes to a close, here’s your seasonal reminder: shutting up is free, neither Blackness nor queerness is a monolith, respectability politics serve no one but our oppressors, and if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Who Lil Nas X kisses doesn’t make you orgasm (or does it?). So why do you care?
Oh, and by the way—Queen Latifah wishes you a Happy Pride.