Seven Queer Artists Who Walked so That Lil Nas X Could Strut

Autumn Simon

There’s no name more infamous in music right now than Lil Nas X! The Georgia rapper is on the tip of everyone’s tongue thanks to the release of his chart-topping hit “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” and its accompanying video. Gyrating on a poll to hell and lap dancing with the devil, Lil Nas X uses this visual as a criticism of the church’s belief in homosexuality.


Though the same-sex lifestyle is frowned up in religion, theology has a well-known history of mishandling and invoking fear in the LGBTQ+ community. No stranger to the topic, the young artist struggled with fear of coming out in the early stages of his career. After quickly rising to fame due to his OG viral country rap single “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X potentially almost risked it all by publicly coming out on Twitter in June 2019, on the last day of Pride Month.

Music has made a stride throughout the years by accepting Queer artists. Unfortunately, hip-hop was a little slower on catching the trend. As a Black Gay artist, Lil Nas X feared that his career would end quicker than it started since hip-hop still has a homophobia problem. Facing that risk, he announced his gender identity to the world and still managed to make it to the Grammys, Billboards and Country Music Awards. 

While being one of the first publicly out artists taking huge strides in the music industry, Lil Nas X is only the latest artist to rock the boat of tradition in the trade. We’ve put together a list and curated a playlist of other openly Queer artists who broke the norm and changes the music industry, one song at a time.

Oh, Sylvester, the queen of Disco! One of the first gender-bending artists, Sylvester was known for his polychromatic style and flamboyant stage presence. Bringing the drama of Drag culture to the stage, he blurred the lines of identity, even before it had a name. He also paved the way for fashion trends and pop music, which inspired the likes of Prince and Janelle Monet. Sadly, being the first of his kind, Sylvester was never truly given his flowers as the innovator of this then new style.

What would the music world be without the contributions of Freddie Mercury and Queen? Though Freddie Mercury officially never came out during his time, the rock icon is a celebrated LQBTQ+ icon in the music industry. Known for being extremely private, the world wasn’t aware of his sexuality until his tragic passing from AIDS in 1991. His legacy will also be remembered as the most prominent and talented frontman of all time.

David Bowie did whatever the hell he wanted? And, that statement goes further than his music and lifestyle choices. For decades, David Bowie’s sexuality was highly and critically speculated after coming out as Gay in 1972, then as bisexual in 1976 and then “closet heterosexual” in 1983. As both Bowie and Ziggy Stardust, he utilized his sexual intrigue to grow as an artist and explore different lifestyles. Through his various phases, he was still able to connect to the LGBTQ+ community by being androgynous and breaking gender boundaries.

One of today’s most polarizing figures in music, Lady Gaga has been carrying the torch for the LGBTQ+ community for years. The “Queen of Pop” identifies as a bisexual woman and owes everything to her large gender-fluid following. As an ally, she has participated in the National Equality March, Europride and has used her platform to push Gay rights forward.

When Odd Future artist Frank Ocean came to the scene, his melodic and soulful voice ignited a resurgence in the R&B scene. He was on his way to becoming the next thing! Then on July 4, 2012, the rising star published an open letter on his Tumblr blog which talks about his sexuality and attraction to other men. This daring move was one of the first steps of acceptance in the hip-hop community, and Frank Ocean gained support from Jay-Z, Beyonce and even Russell Simmons. His bravery proved to be a big win, as Frank continues to create amazing music for audiences of all backgrounds, races and sexual preferences to this day. 

Janelle Monáe

Singer, Songwriter and actress, Janelle Monáe was brought on in the industry as the suit-wearing acrobatic apprentice of the late Prince. Inspired by his buoyancy, Janelle Monáe’s talents as a soulful progressive R&B artist quickly rose and won her widespread critical acclaim. When asked about her sexuality in 2011, she proclaimed that she “only dates androids.” This small hint led audiences to question her gender identity for years until 2018 when she announced that she identifies with elements of bisexuality and pansexuality.

Check out some music by more Queer artists who changed the industry below!