Lily Belisle

Lily Belisle is an undergraduate at Boston University pursuing Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Lily is currently conducting research for her Honors Thesis on the attitudes displayed by those in power when discussing sexual violence in a legal setting and previously worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Deborah Carr (CAS Sociology). Additionally, Lily recently co-founded Armchair Journal, an independent sociology journal for undergraduates. Recognized for her achievements, she has received various awards including Dean’s List, the Harold C. Case Scholarship, the Albert Morris Grant, and is a member of the AKD International Sociology Honors Society. Her work is set to be published in the FDU Politics & Law Journal and she has presented at the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association’s National Research Conference and the 2024 Eastern Sociological Society Conference. Driven by her commitment to social justice, Lily actively contributes to research and community initiatives, making valuable contributions to the social sciences.

The Illegibility of Queer Nonconformity: An Analysis of Boundary Maintenance in the Context of LGBTQ+ Artists 

Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.”[1] In other words, not only is art a reflection of the culture within which it’s situated, but even more consequently, it guides socio-political scripts as well. Because art has such authority over the social climate at a particular moment, it is imperative to unpack the subtext for which it provides a home, to think critically about and interrogate the unspoken social norms being reproduced. Existing in today’s “social media age,” some of the most universally regarded cultural artifacts of the 21st century are music videos.[2] Music videos set the stage for political ideology and gender and sexuality norms—they illustrate and reinforce what is considered to be socially acceptable. Music videos have the power to preserve the status quo or shatter tremendous barriers. They communicate both graphically and theoretically how the most well-liked elite carry themselves and express their identity. Therefore, music videos in the U.S. offer revealing insight into the country’s collective beliefs surrounding social norms and acceptance, particularly around fashion and gender expression, given their visual nature. Employing Sam Smith’s “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” and Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”  as sites of analysis, this paper will demonstrate through the content of music videos how queer celebrities become “illegible” if they do not abide by hegemonic Western and heterosexual ideals of thinness, Whiteness, puritanical modesty, and the gender binary.[3] In order to compensate for deviating from heterosexuality, queer artists are forced to conform to dominant standards in other ways, such as by presenting an ultra-athletic physique or adhering to hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine traits. In the case that they slip from these ideals or choose not to subscribe, homophobia, anti-fat bias, religious stigma, and/or racism are there to step in and nudge famous figures back into “acceptable” bounds.

It’s crucial to understand the concepts of legibility and illegibility in order to wholly grasp the dynamics of boundary maintenance and “impression management” in the context of queer identities. French sociologist Émile Durkheim first coined the term “boundary maintenance” in “Social Facts” (1994) and “The rules of sociological method” (1895).[4] Through a functionalist lens, Durkheim argued that all functioning societies contain a value consensus, or a shared set of norms and values, into which the vast majority in a society have been socialized.[5] Racial categories, like gender categories, require boundary maintenance, and what secures both the race and gender binaries is heterosexuality.[6] Both race and gender are based on binary social constructions that rely on “borders and boundaries.”[7] Identity work is equivalent to boundary maintenance in the sense that performances of identity create, present, and sustain personal identities.[8] Moreover, identity construction is an interactive process that requires identity work.[9] With the aid of a symbolic interactionism framework, it becomes clear that actions and the meanings we assign to them are socially situated and are performed for real or presumed audiences.[10] In other words, gender is a performance.[11]

Presentations of gender and sexuality are not an “achievement,” but rather an unavoidable routine, methodical, and recurring accomplishment.[12] Gender is emergent out of social situations. Individuals “do” gender, but it is a “situated” doing, carried out in the presence of others who are presumed to be oriented to its production. This act has significant consequences; the allocation of power and resources is impacted by sex-category membership.[13] In a sense, gender is a performance and we reproduce its externalization not only through repeated ways of speaking, but also of doing. As Butler posits, “gender, as an objective natural thing, does not exist: gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed.”[14]

With this literature as a backdrop, scholar of queer theory Catherine Connell explores these patterns in the scenario of queer legibility. In the context of queer teachers, Connell articulates that individuals are able to co-mingle their LGB identity with the professional identity of teacher through the performance of the “good gay role model,” an achievement made possible through monogamous partnership, the suppression of sexual expression, and the appearance of gender normativity.[15] Queer people navigate femmephobia and lesbophobia, engaging in what sociologist Erving Goffman calls “impression management,” by muting sexual discussion and performing gender normativity.[16] Queer individuals mitigate perceived dissonances by downplaying their LGB identities in a “legible” way. The institutionally-specific instantiations of queer social control, as I locate in the music and art industries, cannot be removed from their place within the broader network of institutions and institutional actors. The accounts here connect to what sociologist Brandon Robinson calls the “queer control complex.”[17] Within this concept, Robinson demonstrates that queer people are granted the “measures of benevolence” afforded by liberal discourses only when they negotiate the “homonormative bargain.”[18] In other words, LGB individuals must thread the needle in order to be “good,” presentationally asexual gays.[19]

In Connell’s first book, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom, she further delves into this idea of “impression management,” exploring that gay and lesbian school teachers use impression management strategies to survive the stigma of being queer. In particular, “passing” strategies, which depend on a desexualized presentation of self, help them avoid drawing attention to their sexual identities.[20] Teachers carefully consider the “appearance rules” of hetero/homosexuality and make conscious decisions to avoid “acting gay” or otherwise signaling potential gender nonconformity. For example, in Connell’s research, gay male teachers reported similar pressures to enact normative masculinity to survive in a homophobic environment.[21] In a similar way that these teachers exhibit strategies of adhering to “normative masculinity” to survive in a homophobic environment, Sam Smith and Lil Nas X negotiate the legibility politics of censoring their own queer identities in a homophobic music industry.

An “overt ode to queerness,” Sam Smith’s “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” video is what Clash magazine calls a “sexually liberated frenzy of colorful velvet robes, leather whips and nipple tassels.”[22] Throughout the video, Smith pays homage to the “queer elders” who came before by crafting a vibrant celebration of all that represents queer joy, past and present. Not only does their song feature clips of gay icon Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow and drag queen RuPaul calling for self-love, but it also salutes the acclaimed ballroom documentary Paris Is Burning with Smith in a pink dress similar to Pepper LaBeija’s infamous golden version. Moreover, alongside “writhing men in revealing underwear,” reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s Alejandro or the hypersexualized images of gay art icon Tom of Finland, “voguing,” affectionately known as the dance style of the gay ballroom scene, too, finds its way into the four-minute-long masterpiece.[23] The video ironically takes place in Ashridge House, serving as a discreet satire on state-sanctioned homophobia. Ashridge House, known as the former residence of King Henry VIII, symbolizes the late King’s Buggery Act of 1533, which effectively rendered homosexual acts illegal in England.[24]

An “illegible” aberration from the monotony of compulsive heterosexuality and cisnormativity in the music arena, “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” invites actors and viewers alike into the world of gender fluidity, sexual exploration, and life outside the gender binary.[25]  Throughout the video, Smith appears adorned in extravagant costumes and glamorous accessories. They enter the video in a dramatic pink, ruffled dress and silk magenta gloves and later change into a black bodysuit and black feathered headdress on top. They experiment with a mix of femme-associated designs, embracing the fluidity of gender identity and expression and rejecting the notion that non-binary people are “supposed to” look androgynous or perform gender-queerness in a certain way.[26] Analogously, the gender of most actors throughout the scenes is intentionally ambiguous and incongruent with norms of legibility. The manor rooms are “filled with drag queens and people who look feminine, masculine, and androgynous.”[27]

Although there has been substantial progress in the cultural acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in recent years, this shift in treatment comes not without a host of conditions—ultimately, this acceptance is conditional on queer individuals’ legibility. An increasing number of artists in the public eye identify as queer, however, the most mainstream of the bunch are those who remain “legible” by conforming to hegemonic norms in some way. Stars derive legibility by embodying “palatable” representations of queerness: remaining easily understood by and legible to the general population by resembling dominant standards of gender. Social deviance, or in this case, gender and sexuality deviance, is only tolerated in exceptionally small doses, and thus to mediate the gaze and scrutiny of onlooking critics, queer celebrities find ways outside of their sexuality (and, in some cases, gender) to adhere to social norms.

For example, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Dan Levy, and Kristen Stewart are a few among many widely revered gay celebrities who are met with approval by being White, cisgender, and thin. Neil Patrick Harris and Dan Levy offer queer representation while staying in accordance with dominant definitions of cisgender “masculinity,” and this contributes to their continued acceptance. Ellen DeGeneres and Kristen Stewart are proud lesbians but are protected by Whiteness, cisgender-ness, and thinness in ways proud Black, trans, and/or fat lesbians are not. Sam Smith, in contrast, someone who does not fit the mold of thinness or cisgender-ness, is hence exposed to the violent wrath of queerphobia and anti-fat bias. Vogue writer and editor Daisy Jones asks, “Had Sam been a slim-built, conventionally attractive pop star in the vein of Harry Styles, would they be subject to the same ridicule and debate? Is queerness only acceptable when the person is slim, or less femme, or less loud about it?”[28] Newspaper columnists, social media influencers, and other conservative pundits have responded to Smith’s video with claims that their non-binary identity is attention-grabbing, their fatness should be covered up, their video is a bad example to children, and that they are “morally debased,” “perverted,” and “disgusting.”[29] However, Smith’s provocative depictions are far from unique. Professional dancer Sam Salter highlights that Nicki Minaj has sported a thong much more revealing than any of Smith’s clothing items, Miley Cyrus has worn similar nipple tassels without any discussion, and Harry Styles was celebrated for gracing the cover of Vogue Magazine in a dress.[30] Femmephobia (anti-femininity experienced through social and structural discrimination), fatphobia, and homophobia all underscore the distinctly-coded backlash and critiques Smith receives.

Another dimension of the public outcry in reaction to “I’m Not Here to Make Friends’” is rooted in both secular and religious notions of sexual repression and purity. In “The Sex Obsession,” gender, sexuality, and religion scholar Janet Jakobsen highlights that in tandem with the influence of state-sanctioned secularism, sex has been crafted as an obsessive force in U.S. politics by Christian ideals. In theory, sex is a natural and neutral bodily function and desire, a part of life and nothing more.[31] But, as a result of what French philosopher Michel Foucault famously frames as the “repressive hypothesis,” the relationship between power and sex has come to rest on a basic premise of “repression,” where sex is treated as though it doesn’t exist. Foucault  argues this is not natural, but rather a dynamic that has been naturalized by the state in the interest of preserving its control.[32] And this doesn’t affect heterosexual and homosexual sex in the same way—there is an even more profound taboo associated with queer sex.

Referenced in Jasbir K. Puar’s “Abu Ghraib and US Sexual Exceptionalism,” homosexual sex is so fundamentally stigmatized that it functions as the ultimate tool of degradation on U.S. military bases.[33] During the atrocious torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, there was an incredible reliance on sexual humiliation and ritual torture, particularly in the context of public enactments of sodomy or gay sex. This complicated interplay of violence and its manipulation of sexuality as the ultimate site of violation offer a partial historicization of the current discourse around calls for sexual liberation. The offended recoil seen in viewers of Smith’s video is not just a reflection of disdain for the sexual connotations, asserts Jones. “[Viewers are] outraged because it’s overtly queer and sexualized. People don’t know what to do with their discomfort—so they decide the video itself must be the problem. They’re offended, they think, so the video must be offensive.”[34] Sam Smith and their unfettered queerness serve as a timely example of an “illegible” LGBTQ+ celebrity navigating a system that tries to discipline them into compliance at every turn. Although, as much as Smith has garnered a wave of animosity from the public, their Whiteness certainly affords them a safeguard artists of color cannot access. Lil Nas X’s relationship with the public following the release of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” offers a unique look into these relevant racial dynamics and fills the gaps left by an analysis of Smith.

Country icon Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO,” taking inspiration in both name and meaning from the 2017 movie Call Me by Your Name, serves as a heartfelt letter to Nas X’s younger self. The song and video alike capture Nas X’s journey from promising himself “to never come out publicly” to openly embracing his sexuality with an anthem made to celebrate queer joy.[35] The song also serves as a rallying call for the normalization of same-sex lust in music.[36] In an interview with Billboard Music News, Nas X emphasizes wanting to incorporate lyrics that regarded gay sex in the same way another artist might talk about heterosexual sex in their music.[37] “Let’s normalize having these lines in songs, the same way somebody might talk about f—ing a girl or f—ing a guy,” Nas X implores. A final theme that appears throughout the video is the fear associated with living openly as queer, much of which is fueled by the church.[38] Nas X “thinks with “this fear,” scholar Ashon T. Crawley explains. Nas X draws on the fear that is the “theologically produced and doctrinally maintained practice of power, authority, control. The fear of being outed. The fear of rejection by the gods. The fear of erotic joy leading to premature death. The fear of eternal torment.”[39] Playing on this fear, Lil Nas X takes away its power and rewrites the narrative.

Part of this reconstruction can be seen in the Greco-Roman and medieval Christian motifs and messages nestled throughout the video.[40] From the first glimpse of Nas X’s album cover—a Black, queer reconfiguration of “The Creation of Adam—his video4 communicates “that institutionalization of homophobia is a learned thing, and that there are other origin myths available to us that are not rooted in those ideas.”[41] Composed of three acts, the video begins in the garden of Montero. In a tongue-in-cheek riff on the biblical themes that have long been used to demonize queerness and justify homophobia, Lil Nas X renames the Garden of Eden ‘Montero.’[42] Here, Nas X slips into sin, as he “gives into a serpent in the garden, but it’s worth it for him to not have to live a lie.”[43] The original story of the garden is steeped in misogyny, aligning sexuality with women and women with evil. Creatively, Nas X inverts this dynamic, designing a story where his character and the serpent instead interact. Eventually, the camera pans to the tree of knowledge, on which the phrase “After the division of the two parts of man, each desiring his other half” is etched in Greek. This is a direct quote from Plato’s Symposium and stands as an early example of homosexuality and bisexuality being represented as familiar or acceptable. Nas X’s employment of such a historically significant quote situates him within a powerful lineage of queer scholarship and performance, similar to Smith’s historic nods in “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.”

MONTERO’s second verse ushers in the next act, “The Colosseum,” where a human Nas X looks out at an angry crowd, all made of stone.[44] The visual paints Nas X as a Christian martyr in the story of the Roman Catholics’ demise. When Nas X begins to ascend to heaven, though, he is greeted not by St. Peter but instead by a male angel who resembles the Greek mythological figure Ganymede. This is significant because Ganymede has served as a long symbol of homosexuality, most notably in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Nas X’s religious detail here serves as a way to locate queerness in even the earliest portrayals of humanity, reifying that queerness has always existed. Art history scholar Roland Betancourt argues that this scene represents Nas X’s same-gender consummation being “legitimized by Pagan gods.”[45]

The third and final act of MONTERO is of Nas X’s “descent into Hell.” Before he can reach heaven, Nas X plunges from a stripper pole and falls into a red and black underworld landscape reminiscent of gothic architecture from the rise of medieval Christianity. The devil’s throne reads “They condemn what they do not understand” in Latin, referencing those who condemn the LGBTQIA+ community out of a lack of understanding. Nas X here provides a critique of Christianity and its repressive nature, in a sense prompting that Christianity will martyr its children for their sexual desire.

Although Sam Smith and Lil Nas X’s videos seek to uplift similar social commentary and political messaging, it is crucial, too, to recognize the ways in which they differ. First, and possibly most strikingly, the cultural controversy seen in response to MONTERO is uniquely colored by Nas X’s racial identity as a Black man, and that racialized queerness or deviance is viewed as uniquely “illegible” or unacceptable. The content in Nas X’s video is no more religiously “inappropriate” than work produced by White artists, but while White creators don’t even warrant the bat of an eye, Nas X’s piece has been under relentless attack. For example, when Madonna showed burning crosses in her music video for her song “Like a Prayer,” and Mötley Crüe wrote a song called “Shout at the Devil,” the two were considered “inspired,” but when Nas X unveiled MONTERO, he was deemed a “menace to society.”[46]

Even more blatant than these patterned microaggressions, several comments in response to MONTERO have been expressly anti-Black.[47] Following the video’s release, conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted, “We’ve turned George Floyd, a criminal drug addict, into an icon. We are promoting Satan shoes to wear on our feet. We’ve got Cardi B named as Woman of the Year. But we’re convinced it’s white supremacy that’s keeping Black America behind. How stupid can we be?”[48] Ultimately, Lil Nas X’s video scares White people because it means they are “losing their grasp” on the control of Black queer liberation. The racialized dynamics that appear in concert with Black and Brown artists’ sex/sexuality are a reflection of the US nation-state’s long campaign to strip communities of color of their bodily autonomy. The body and self-identity have been repeatedly weaponized against marginalized groups as a way to restrict their power. Robbing individuals of the right to exist in their true selves is one of the most intimate violations imaginable, and thus by doing so, the state and those atop the social hierarchy hold a monopoly over every aspect of a person’s life. Smith is certainly no stranger to the unsolicited judgment of online trolls, but it is important to consider how their Whiteness acts as a buffer. Smith finds legibility in their Whiteness while Nas X is given no such opportunity.

That said, Nas X’s thinness and cisgender-ness afford him fragments of safety and legibility Smith does not enjoy. Despite being known to visually experiment with gender expression in terms of makeup and dress, Nas X largely embodies the hegemonic standard of what an American man is expected to be. As an illustration, Nas X regularly shows off his six-pack abs, making headlines that read, “Lil Nas X Just Took His Album and His Six-Pack on Tour” or “Lil Nas X’s Abs Stole The Show At iHeartRadio Music Festival.”[49] This may appear trivial at first, but given that a chiseled body and washboard abs are viewed as potent signs of masculinity, it’s a salient detail to acknowledge.[50] Nas X frequently leans into the fact that he is conventionally attractive. Last November, he shared a Tweet joking, “Y’all should be happy I’m gay, cuz I would take all y’all b***hes, like, very easily,” insinuating there are few women who wouldn’t find him physically desirable.[51] Nas X’s thinness and clear masculinity enable him to deviate from heterosexuality with considerably less disapproval than he might receive if his presentation were different and viewed as less legible.

Although homophobia can impact someone regardless of their gender expression, a comparison of Smith’s and Nas X’s treatment demonstrates that its severity can take on a multitude of forms. Often, what is stigmatized even more highly than gayness is “subservient” or “feminine” gayness, traits that Nas X does not typify. Stigma doesn’t equally adhere to feminine and masculine gay men, contends Professor of Ethnic Studies Tomás Almaguer.39 Almaguer, a specialist in the queer culture of Chicano men, finds that the “receiving” partner, the stereotypically more feminine partner, is subject to much more stigma than the “giving” partner, the stereotypically more masculine of the two. Essentially, it is understood that to give is to be “masculine” and to receive is to be “feminine,” meaning a man’s masculine gender identity is not as threatened by a homosexual act as long as he plays the “inserter’s role.”[52] Therefore, Lil Nas X, someone easily readable as a physically strong, masculine man is treated with much more respect than Sam Smith, a femme-presenting, non-binary individual.

Ultimately, queer celebrities are viewed as illegible when they depart from the box of hegemonic Western ideals that includes thinness, Whiteness, puritanical modesty, and the gender binary. These politics of “legibility” are symptoms of the larger power structures at play and can aid in locating the biases still pervasive in dominant social discourse. Sam Smith is understood to be less socially acceptable as a non-thin person not out of coincidence, but because anti-fat bias is deeply entrenched in our society. Smith is subject to transphobia and queerphobia because they occupy space outside of the gender binary. Yet, Smith is also somewhat insulated from greater backlash by being White. Conversely, Lil Nas X is on the receiving end of violent degradation as a result of raging anti-Black racism. He is faced with outrage in response to his displays of sex positivity and same-sex lust because of homophobic ideals. And still, Nas X is shielded from anti-fat bias and transphobia by his thinness and adherence to hegemonic masculinity. The treatment of Smith and Nas X reveals that the legibility of queer artists is not black and white; it’s nuanced and deeply enmeshed with structures of power. But what is clear is that no matter how socially progressive America may claim to be, our work is not done until queerness, fatness, Blackness, and sexual freedom no longer function as “deviance.”

[1] Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying: An Observation,” in Intentions: The Decay of Lying Pen Pencil and Poison The Critic as Artist The Truth of Masks, ed. Josephine M. Guy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1891).

[2] Jon Niermann, “Why Music Videos Are Making a Comeback in the Age of Coronavirus.” Muse by Clio. Accessed December 14, 2023.

[3] Sam Smith, “Sam Smith – I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” Youtube, January 27, 2023,; Little Nas X, “Lil Nas X – MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) (Official Video),” Youtube, March 25, 2021,

[4] Emile Durkheim, Suicide: A Study in Sociology (New York, NY: Free Press, 1966); Emile Durkheim, Moral Education (New York, NY: Free Press, 1973); Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, trans. Steven Lukes (Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 1982).

[5] Emile Durkehim, The Division of Labour in Society, trans. W.D. Hall (Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Mcmillan, 1984).

[6] Sophie Bjork-James, “Racializing Misogyny: Sexuality and Gender in the New Online White Nationalism: Sexuality and Gender in the New Online White Nationalism,” Feminist Anthropology 1, no. 2 (2020): 176–83.

[7] Abby L. Ferber, White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).

[8] Vanessa R. Panfil, The Gang’s All Queer: The Lives of Gay Gang Members (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2017).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York, NY: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1959).

[11] Judith P. Butler, Gender Trouble (London, UK: Routledge, 1990).

[12] Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman, “Doing Gender,” Gender and Society 1, no. 2 (1987): 125-151.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Butler, Gender Trouble, 278.

[15] Cati Connell, A Few Good Gays: The Gendered Compromises behind Military Inclusion (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2022).

[16] Goffmann, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life; Connell, A Few Good Gays.

[17] Brandon Andrew Robinson, Coming Out tot eh Streets: LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2020).

[18] Connell, A Few Good Gays.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Catherine Connell, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014).

[21] Ibid.

[22] Eleanor Noyce, “The Sam Smith Video Backlash Is Nothing but Homophobia and Fatphobia Combined,” Clash, February 1, 2023,

[23] Rosie Nelson, “Sam Smith: How Queerphobia and Fatphobia Intersect in the Backlash to the I’m Not Here to Make Friends Video,” The Conversation, February 7, 2023.

[24] “Henry VIII,”  National Museums Liverpool, accessed December 14, 2023,

[25] Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” Signs 5, no. 4 (1980): 631–60,

[26] Rey Watson, “Non-Binary People Don’t Have to Look Androgynous.” An Injustice! April 21, 2021,

[27] Nelson, “Sam Smith: How Queerphobia and Fatphobia Intersect in the Backlash to the I’m Not Here to Make Friends Video.”

[28] Daisy Jones, “If Sam Smith Were a Thin, Cis Woman, No One Would Have given Their New Music Video a Second Thought,” Vogue, January 31, 2023,

[29] Nelson, “Sam Smith: How Queerphobia and Fatphobia Intersect in the Backlash to the I’m Not Here to Make Friends Video”; Chris Barilla, “Sam Smith’s ‘I’m Not Here to Make Friends’ Music Video Has Spurred Controversy,” Distractify, February 1, 2023,; Niermann, “Why Music Videos Are Making a Comeback in the Age of Coronavirus.”

[30] Nelson, “Sam Smith: How Queerphobia and Fatphobia Intersect in the Backlash to the I’m Not Here to Make Friends Video.”

[31] Janet R. Jacobsen, The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2023).

[32] Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (New York, NY: Vantage Books, 1990).

[33] Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).

[34] Daisy Jones, “If Sam Smith Were a Thin, Cis Woman, No One Would Have given Their New Music Video a Second Thought.”

[35] Chrisy Bobic, “Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero (Call Me by Your Name)’ Has a Special Meaning for Him,” Distractify, March 26, 2021,; Stephen Daw, “Lil Nas X Wants ‘Montero’ to Help ‘Normalize’ Same-Sex Lust in Music,” Billboard, March 29, 2021,

[36] Daw, “Lil Nas X Wants ‘Montero’ to Help ‘Normalize’ Same-Sex Lust in Music.”

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid; Ashon Crawley, “I Grew up Afraid. Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Is the Lesson I Needed,” NPR, April 14, 2021,

[39] Crawley, “I Grew up Afraid. Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Is the Lesson I Needed.”

[40] Andrew R. Chow, “Historians Decode the Religious Symbolism and Queer Iconography of Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Video,” Time, March 30, 2021,

[41] Ibid.

[42] Yamiche Alcindor, What Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Says about Black Queerness,” Youtube, April 1, 2021,

[43] Bobic, “Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero (Call Me by Your Name)’ Has a Special Meaning for Him.”

[44] Chow, “Historians Decode the Religious Symbolism and Queer Iconography of Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Video.”

[45] Roland Betancourt, Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2023).

[46] Ana Ortega, “The Controversy around Lil Nas X’s New Video Is Steeped in Homophobia and Racism,”, accessed December 14, 2023,

[47] Ibid.

[48] Candace Owens qtd. in Ortega, “The Controversy around Lil Nas X’s New Video Is Steeped in Homophobia and Racism.”

[49] Philip Ellis, “Lil Nas X Just Took His Album and His Six-Pack on Tour,” Men’s Health, September 10, 2022,; Peyton Blakemore, “Lil Nas X’s Abs Stole the Show at IHeartRadio Music Festival,”, accessed December 14, 2023,

[50] 37.    Cranswick, Ieuan, David Richardson, Martin Littlewood, and David Tod. 2020. “‘Oh Take Some Man-up Pills’: A Life-History Study of Muscles, Masculinity, and the Threat of Injury.” Performance Enhancement & Health 8 (2–3): 100176.

[51] “Lil Nas X Flaunts Six-Pack Abs When Saying He’d Take Straight Men’s Women Easily If He’s Not Gay,”, November 11, 2022,

[52] Tomás Almaguer, “Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior,” Differences 3, no. 2 (1991): 75–100,