The reign of Montero in the culture continued at Sunday’s BET Awards when out gay rapper Lil Nas X ended his scorching performance by locking lips with one of his backup dancers, giving the BET Awards stage its first gay male kiss ever.
The moment capped off another stellar performance of the artist smash hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” that drenched itself in Black queer expression. Lil Nas X hasn’t been shy about embracing his queer identity since coming out as gay in 2019, openly expressing it through his music, fashion and performances in ways that mainstream hip-hop has never seen.
Sunday’s kiss garnered a standing ovation from the live crowd made up of Lil Nas X’s peers in music and other media. He even got to share a backstage moment with Tyler, the Creator, another popular rapper who hasn’t been shy about expressing his LGBTQ-ness through his music, most notably on his 2019 album “Igor.” Lil Nas X previously praised Tyler and Frank Ocean for being examples of queer Black men in hip-hop that “made it easier for me to be where I am comfortably.”
The immense praise was well received, but Lil Nas X didn’t hide that he was a ball of nerves on Sunday. “It took me a lot of time to mentally prepare for this performance,” he tweeted afterward. “While on stage I was trembling knowing that I was performing something like that in front of my straight peers. Even during the performance I was having a hard time calming my nerves. Thank you guys for the love.”
The performance did draw some homophobic criticism, though much of it focused on Lil Nas X’s form of queer expression rather than the fact that he did it. According to ABC News, multiple people criticized the artist for what they saw as him trying to “act the part” of a gay man and contributing to the “emasculation” of men by dressing and acting overly feminine. That criticism was levied both at his performance and the Andrea Grossi gown he wore on the red carpet.
The outspoken rapper nipped that train of thought in the bud quickly in the wake Sunday’s performance. “Y’all hate yourselves so much, Y’all live your lives trying your best to appease straight [people],” Lil Nas X tweeted Monday. “Y’all are uncomfortable with what I do because y’all are afraid they will be uncomfortable with you. Work on yourselves, I love who I am and whatever I decide to do. Get there.”
Perhaps the most welcomed exaltation of Lil Nas X’s performance came from BET itself. The official BET Twitter account released a video of the performance, including the statement lip smack, with the caption “YESSSSSS! Lil Nas X just did that.” The channel has made a concerted effort to speak to Black queer populations, feature Black queer artists and highlight the roles of Black people in the advancement of LGBTQ rights in recent years.
Lil Nas X’s performance wasn’t the only moment from Sunday’s BET Awards that placed that initiative in the forefront. Out rapper/actor Queen Latifah received the Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday night, thanking her longtime partner, Eboni, and declaring “Happy Pride” during her speech.
The days after the event have also been significant for LIl Nas X. He released a trailer reminiscent of Marvel Studios touting the release of his first album, “Montero,” and celebrated the two-year anniversary of his coming out on Wednesday. “I have officially been gay for two years,” he said. ” Wow that was fun what should I do next!?”