Sun Goes Down: Lil Nas X, and The Don't Say Gay Law

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Welcome to the Black Album: A series of essays using songs to reflect on politics, sex, life, patriarchy and whatever else comes up. Click here for last weeks essay.

Song Title: Sun Goes Down

Artist: Lil Nas X

Producers: Take a Day Trip, Omer Fedi, Roy Lenzo, Nick Seeley & Drew Sliger

Vocals: Lil Nas X

Engineer: Mel DeBarge, David Dickenson IV, David Biral, Brad Lauchert, Drew Sliger & Jelli Dorman

Writer: Andrew Luce, Blake Slatkin, ​iann dior, David Biral, Denzel Baptiste, Lil Nas X, Omer Fedi & Roy Lenzo

Spotify Playlist:

You wouldn’t think that someone like Lil Nas X would be in my playlist. it’s not that his music isn’t good, just that most people, myself included would assume a 36 year old Black man who spends most of his time listening to boom bap, and drug rap would have zero interest in Young Montero. The truth is, I love this kid, his music is amazing, and if you haven’t given his album a listen, you should. What’s more surprising than my love for Lil Nas, and my forever obsession with Lana Del Rey’s “Norman Fucking Rockwell” Album (Classic, don’t debate me!) is Florida’s-new “Don’t Say Gay” law.

If you’re interested in knowing what the law does, you can check out the bill text here, or read the NPR article that’s link above. The people who wrote this law, and many of those who support it, are not trying to protect their children. They are afraid of people in the LGBTQ community, and they’re even more afraid that their children might come out as gay because of something they heard in school. In their minds, homosexuality is far more contagious and dangerous than COVID. As much as I would like to believe that small minded beliefs like this belong only to white supremacist, women who hydrate by chugging Mountain Dew, and men with small dicks and out sized egos, it is clear many people of varying shapes, sizes and racial identities feel the same. If not, there would be much more outrage over it. Instead, several other states are trying to follow in the footsteps of Florida.

The irrational fear that these people have about sexuality is about to be transferred to countless children who are trying to figure out who they are. I’m scared to death about what that means for them. I remember the anxiety I felt when in 6th grade the school bully told everyone I was gay because I listened to Boys II men. Literally everyone in my class stopped talking to me, and my school crush called me a Fa**** then tried to get my friends to stop hanging out with me. I was 12 years old and felt like my life was over, I remember sitting in a corner and crying because no one wanted to be my friend. The tears reinforced the “he’s gay” argument, and things got worse. I wish there could have been someone to tell me that liking a particular kind of music didn’t dictate my sexuality, and if I was gay there was nothing wrong with it. Instead, I spent years repeating the same kind of homophobic behavior that drove me to tears.

“Since ten, I been feelin' lonely
Had friends, but they was pickin' on me
Always thinkin', "Why my lips so big?
Was I too dark? Can they sense my fears?"
These gay thoughts would always haunt me
I prayed God would take it from me“

~Lil Nas X~

In Lil Nas X’s Sun Goes Down, he talks about that isolation. The shame he felt for having big lips, and dark skin, and how hard he tried to ignore, or pray away the feelings he had for the same sex. It didn’t work. In the video for this song, we watch a high-school aged Nas try to navigate school while struggling with all of these insecurities, present day Nas watches from afar, quietly giving him support. The pain he sings about is very real. According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth and Mental Health “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.” With almost half of LGBTQ youth considering suicide, and only God knows how many who actually do it, we are facing a crisis that could easily be avoided.

“You need an instant ease
From your life where you got plenty
Of every hurt and heartbreak (Oh)
You just take it all to the face
I know that you want to cry
But there's much more to life than dyin'
Over your past mistakes (Oh)
And people who threw dirt on your name“

~Lil Nas X~

I don’t have children, and out of my siblings, I am the youngest, but If I had a child, or a younger sibling that was like Lil Nas X, I would be proud, the kid is barely old enough to drink, but is strong enough to love himself, and whoever he wants with no regret. I don’t know him, but I’m pretty sure that this isn’t something that comes along easily. As a result of who he is, he is forced to deal with criticism and ruthless attacks on his character. Despite that, he continues to make great music, live his best life, and troll Lil Boosie on twitter. Nas is now a musical megastar, it doesn’t stop the insults from coming, but it can provide a little buffer. Most of our kids in the LGBTQ community do not have that protection. They have to live in a country that criminalizes their sexuality, and survive in environments where safety isn’t promised, and acceptance from friends and family is a tossup. We can make this a better world for them, we can and should give them unconditional love, and if we do, there potential is limitless. I hope we can all be better .

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