“Pure queer joy”: 7 moments when Lil Nas X outshined his haters in 2021

Lil Nas X accepting the Video of the Year Award at the MTV Video Music Awards 202
Lil Nas X accepting the Video of the Year Award at the MTV Video Music Awards 2021 Photo: Screenshot/MTV

Out singer and rapper Lil Nas X skyrocketed to superstardom this year, in part for his chart-topping hits and in part for his unapologetic openness about his sexuality.

Lil Nas X’s skill, sarcasm, and pure queer joy took 2021 by storm. Here are some of our favorite Lil Nas X moments.

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When he thanked “the gay agenda” in his VMA acceptance speech

At the VMA’s in September, Lil Nas X was one of the night’s most celebrated artists.

His world-shaking video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” earned three awards including Video of the Year, the ceremony’s top honor.

Lil Nas X’s acceptance speech opened by flipping the script on “the gay agenda,” a phrase anti-LGBTQ people use to claim that LGBTQ people have some sort of plan to turn everyone queer.

In a tongue-in-cheek way, Lil Nas X took back the gay agenda at the VMAs.

“First, I wanna say thank you to the gay agenda,” Lil Nas X said in his speech. Then he raised his award in the air and screamed out loudly, “Let’s go gay agenda!”

When he shut down South Dakota’s Republican governor

In March, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) publicly denounced Lil Nas X for selling “Satan shoes,” referring to the rapper’s controversial line of shoes that sported Satanic symbols and (he claimed) contained a drop of human blood.

The shoes’ release coincided with his newly released video for the single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” The song used gay and religious imagery, including a scene where he wore underwear and stiletto boots and gave the devil a lap dance.

Noem was having none of it.

“Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive,’” she tweeted, referring to the shoes. “But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.”

Lil Nas X was quick to call her out on where her priorities lie.

“ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!” he responded.

When Noem responded to that with a Bible quote, Nas quoted lyrics from “Montero.”

When he showed haters they can’t bring him down

When someone tried to condemn Lil Nas X for wearing a dress at the VMA’s, the rapper showed their criticism would only make him stronger.

A Twitter account began spreading a meme comparing “Rappers Then,” with a picture of late rap legend 2Pac in a white suit, to “Rappers Now,” accompanied by a picture of Nas in the red-carpet lavender dress he wore to the VMAs.

The account posted the image of the meme several times on Twitter to try to get people to see it.

Eventually, the tweet came to the attention of Lil Nas X himself. Instead of getting mad, he made a simple request in response to the meme.

“can y’all please stop spreading this! spread this one instead, it’s a much better angle,” he tweeted, including an updated version of the meme with a different – and better – picture of him in the same dress.

Of course, Nas’s tweet bought the meme to the attention of several of his fans, who were quick to point out that Lil Nas X is far from the first male entertainer to wear a dress on a red carpet.

When his pants split open on live TV

Lil Nas X was the musical guest on the May 22 episode of Saturday Night Live, and during his performance of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, his leather pants split open while he was doing a pole dance, forcing him to hold his hands over his crotch for the rest of the song.

He took the mishap in stride though, not only finishing the performance without missing a beat, but also laughing about it on Twitter that same night. Fans loved sharing screenshots of the moment it happened, with Lil Nas X’s absolutely shocked face staring straight at the camera.

Throughout the performance, Lil Nas X also allowed his sexuality to shine. He performed the song surrounded by male-presenting dancers fawning over him. At one point, one of them even licked his neck, a nod to when he licks the neck of the devil in the Montero video.

When he tried to help kids understand coming out

In April, Lil Nas X appeared on the kids’ show Arts & Raps to draw a portrait with the two pint-sized hosts when he got an unexpected question: What does it mean to come out of the closet?

Picking his words carefully for a younger audience, Lil Nas X responded, “It means you’re like, ‘Hey everybody, I’m this thing, and you guys didn’t even know that, but now you know.”

One of the co-hosts, not quite catching on, told his own “closet story.”

“My older cousin, he keeps pushing my brother into the closet,” he said. “And we close the door and blink the lights on and off, and then say ‘666’ or ‘Bloody Mary.’ And then he swore he saw something.”

Trying not to laugh, Lil Nas X tells the boy, “That’s exactly what happened to me. That’s exactly what I meant when I said I was coming out of the closet.”

When the other cohost asks him, “What does it mean to be unapologetically you?” Lil Nas X has the best answer.

“It means just doing yourself at all costs, no matter who’s watching.”

When he kissed one of his backup dancers during a performance at the BET Awards

In June, Lil Nas X made waves during another performance of “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” Unlike his Saturday Night Live debut, Nas didn’t have pants to rip — he opted for a wrap-around skirt instead.

Multiple times during the performance, Lil Nas X got close to his background performers. He waited until the end of the performance to finally lock lips (and tongues) with one of them.

While two men kissing live on television often stirs controversy, fans and celebrities alike celebrated the moment.

Just every time he clapped back at haters on social media

This year, Lil Nas X officially cemented himself as the reigning king of Twitter, regularly shutting down homophobic haters with hilarious responses that showed trolls can’t bring him down.

In the two or so years since he’s come out, Lil Nas X has proved that not only is he capable of topping charts and covering magazines, but he can make or break the internet with a few pushes on the keyboard.

Here are a few of his best clapbacks.

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