How Lil Nas X's 'Montero' Video Reclaims Religious Imagery For Black Queer People

Photo: YouTube
Lil Nas X Montero video

Since he publicly came out as gay in 2019, rapper and singer Lil Nas X has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community, standing up for young people within the community against homophobic comments, as well as advocating for the dismantling of toxic masculinity.

In the video for his long-awaited single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," he does both in a stunning array of visual religious imagery.

The music video opens in the Garden of Eden and goes on to reference deep religious symbolism from the misogynistic myth of Lilith to the text of Plato's Symposium inscribed in the Tree of Knowledge to Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam," as he is seen pulled to heaven, pole-dancing to hell, giving the devil a lapdance, and, finally, taking the crown of Satan himself.

After the video dropped, many people took to social media to express their strong opinions on Lil Nas X’s use of Christian and satanic references.

Many of those opinions were negative, bashing the 21-year-old for his use of the themes depicted in his video. But it seems as if those people either missed or don't appreciate Lil Nas X’s brilliance in creating a piece of art that reclaims space and religious imagery for the LGBTQIA+ community.

As someone who has struggled with my own sexual identity for some time, especially when I was younger, it would’ve been amazing to have an artist like Lil Nas X who is gay and isn’t afraid of that label as an example.

After all, the narrative behind the devil and hell has been a tool actively used against the LGTBQ community to elicit fear throughout history.

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“If you’re gay, you’re going to hell” has been the number-one oppressive apparatus when it comes to silencing queer individuals.

Just over a week ago, the Vatican released a public statement, approved by Pope Francis, stating the Catholic Church would not bless same-sex unions.

"The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing," the official statement proclaims, "since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan."

The Vatican's decision, seen by many as a setback for Catholics, goes on to declare that “we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit ... But he does not and cannot bless sin."

Lil Nas X effectively took that narrative back in his video for "Montero," proudly demonstrating that queer people can exist in religious spaces filled with euphoria, humor and artistry rather than further trauma.

And not only is he giving a platform to the LGBTQ community at large, but specifically to Black people who identify as queer.

Being Black in this country is incredibly hard, and being Black and queer is a struggle not many people understand or address.

It’s even worse when there is so little respectful representation in the media.

For Lil Nas X to be unapologetically himself in mainstream media is amazing.

For him to showcase that being Black and gay isn’t something to run from, but rather something to embrace can have such a positive impact on a young queer person of color.

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Upon the release of his video, Lil Nas X took to his social media accounts where he posted a letter he'd written to his 14-year-old self.

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“I wrote a song with our name in it,” Nas wrote. “I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”

Lil Nas X is not only pushing the agenda but making it sure it becomes normalized, and the toll that can take on a person shouldn't be forgotten or left unrecognized.

He’s giving LGTBQ people a platform where they can feel empowered to be wholeheartedly themselves, where they can dream about existing in a space that wasn’t originally created for them but can belong to them anyway.

I hope that young individuals within the LGTBQ community, especially young Black queer people, can see Lil Nas X’s video, and see that it’s possible to exist on such a mainstream platform.

Finding comfortability within yourself, and within your sexuality is far from sin. It’s a glorious moment to see representation and to not feel silenced by the heteronormative standards that have existed for so long.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.