A Young Indian Queer Man Watches Montero
Lil Nas X, hell, and Hinduism
Lil Nas X set the world on fire on 26th March when he released Montero (Call me by your name). I’ve been obsessed with this song since it came out. But it was the video that caught my eye. I’m not the only one affected by it, judging by the number of articles, posts and reaction videos on Montero that have popped up in the last few days. There is a lot of positive feedback as well as negative ones in the overpopulated sea of this topic, but I wanted to write about my reaction as a queer Indian who isn’t Christian.
So what happens in the video that has the world so shocked?
In the video full of queer symbolism, Lil Nas X kisses a snake-humanoid Satan in the Garden of Eden, gets thrown out of Heaven and pole dances all the way to Hell where he gives a flaming lap dance to the Devil, then kills him and takes his crown. If you haven’t already given in to the craze and watched the video, here’s the link:
Public reception —
As expected, conservative Christians are getting very upset over this. The satanic panic spread even further when the meme lord-singer, who first came to fame with Old Town Road, launched limited-edition Satan shoes with a drop of human blood in them. At the moment, Nike is suing MSCHF, the maker of these modified sneakers, for trademark infringement.
People are accusing Nas of “targeting kids” with sexual content. Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted that Lil Nas X is corrupting the “God-given eternal soul” of American children. Conservative author Candace Owens accused Nas of keeping Black America down. Former Lakers player Nick Young tweeted that his kids will never play Old Town Road again.
Lil Nas X isn’t staying quiet; he’s hitting back with his signature humour:
“i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay,” he tweeted. “so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
This queer Indian is delighted by his comeback
LGBTQ teenagers all over the world are at a high risk of suicide. One of the reasons is the religious teaching that if you are gay or trans, you’re going to Hell.
As my friend and LGBTQ Christian Esther Spurrill-Jones points out, a lot of Christian song artists have portrayed Satan in music videos. A devout Christian herself, she believes Montero doesn’t in any way go against the fundamental Christian beliefs preached in the Bible. This leaves me to wonder if this negative response to Lil Nas’s video has more to do with homophobia than religion.
“You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” — from a Lil Nas X tweet
I’m a Hindu. Some of the sacred books of my religion talk about a place where some souls go to get tortured, similar to the Christian Hell except we (thankfully!) have no concept of eternal damnation. You can be reborn after you finish your quota of punishment.
Another of our beliefs is that fruits of your karma may reckon with you in this life instead of carrying over to the next. I was brought up to believe in the latter. The basic was simple — if you sin, God will judge you and you’ll be punished accordingly. When I was growing up, the people around me treated queerness as a sin. I spent most of my teenage years buried in shame for being gay. Being religious made it harder for me because I felt God didn’t love me anymore. Feeling unlovable and like a sinner wasn’t a great experience. Nobody should go through that for just being born as who they are.
Ever since Lil Nas X dropped his video, I’ve been watching it obsessively with something that feels like joy. When I see him dancing in Hell, singing his heart out, I see a gay man finally embracing his queerness in a genre that is well known for homophobia. His song is unambiguously queer, nodding to the popular LGBTQ movie Call Me By Your Name as an expression of joy.
For me, killing Satan and taking his crown is a symbol of queer triumph. It screams, “We are here, get used to it”.
But while this gay Indian boy is thrilled by the video, I know so much work remains. The general public attitude toward LGBTQ people where I live is not good. But times are a-changing. Young people all over the world are less homophobic than their parents. Hopefully, Montero is going to be the first of many more queer hip-hop songs to confront the problem.
One day, I’ll even get to listen to a popular Indian musician singing about gay romance. I don’t know when, but my fingers are crossed.