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Contents Warning: homophobia, mention of sexual assault and suicidal thoughts
Unless you live under a rock or avoid the internet for very healthy self-care reasons, you’ve heard of a music artist, and the author of the children’s book C is for Country, Lil Nas X. On March 26, 2021, Lil Nas X was released that Song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” (and the accompanying video). In addition, the singer-rapper shared a touching letter to his 14-year-old self on social media.
Lil Nas X is the strange hero we need and deserve. His new video gave us Black Queer expression in all its glory. Furthermore, he gave us an apologetic criticism of Christianity’s treatment of weirdness. In a world where the Pope has only doubled the stupidity of the past by claiming homosexuality is a sin and a choice, Lil Nas X claps back for us all.
I won’t spend time talking about the outraged parents and the backlash after the video. You either heard about it or you can google it. I’m just going to repeat what Lil Nas X said about the angry Christians: “I hope you are crazy, stay crazy, feel the same anger that you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
I grew up black, Christian and a closed bisexual. The story of Lil Nas X is one to relate to. I remember feeling ashamed of my attraction to girls. Like so many strange children, I wondered if something was wrong with me. I thought my same-sex attraction might be because I had been sexually assaulted.
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I remember telling my mom after my best friend kissed me in 4th grade. Of course, I made sure that the friend was responsible. It was a test. Reader, it failed. Unfortunately, their failure only hurt me.
Over the years I have heard so many harmful stories. So and so was “funny”. Another person supposedly didn’t know whether they wanted to be a man or a woman, because why should bigotry distinguish between sexuality and gender identity? These are, of course, some of the less offensive statements that were part of the daily conversation.
These things made me feel small. They made me shrink to be tastier – as if I didn’t have to do that enough as a black girl. I got scared and insecure.
None of this improved as I got older. At 16, I was a mess of suicidal thoughts, rebellious sexual activity, and anger-induced panic attacks. My mother was fed up and sent me to church with one of her colleagues. We didn’t practice much religion in our household; I did that with my grandmother in the summer. So this sudden assignment to the Church was quite dramatic.
I joined a Seventh-day Adventist Church with a vibrant youth group. Surprisingly, I found love and joy there, even though I had to be an even smaller version of myself. At some point, however, the rhetoric about sin began to affect me. With so little self-esteem, I didn’t need constant reminders that I would never be good enough.
Lil Nas X’s letter to his younger self reminded me of all the things I want to say to 16 year old Mikkaka. There is so much that she did not know, so much that she could not imagine. If I could I would tell her this:
You won’t believe it, but one day you will be so safe and loved. You will have plenty to eat, a job you love, a nice home, and more. You will still write and get paid to do it! So many of your dreams will come true.
One day you will post openly about being queer. I know, I know. You haven’t owned that word yet, but you will. You will have TWO big old Bi Pride flags. (Yes, there is a Bi-Pride flag.) Writing about weirdness will be part of your job. That’s right, you get paid to talk about what you just can’t even whisper about.
They will work to ensure that queer children and all children see LGBTQ people as valid and worthy. How? Well, there will be tons of children’s books with strange characters. They will work to have teachers include them in their curriculum so that people like 4th grade Mikkaka know that it is perfectly normal for girls to like girls.
I know how much you love to read. Oh how I wish you could read now that you should see me in a Leah Johnson crown. It’s about a poor, black, weird girl who is all her self in high school! There will be strange characters in all types of books, even books that aren’t about how hard it is to be strange. You will read Dread Nation by Justina Ireland and fall in love with a bisexual zombie killing badass and a fearful asexual zombie killer who are both black girls! YES. You will open the book to killing zombies, but you will stick to surprise oddity.
Sweet girl, there will be so many books for girls like you in the future. You will finally be able to see yourself. You will find that after everything the world has done to make you small, you are not. Darling you are huge They contain a multitude. Your soul is full of magic and the world is so happy to have you. And God loves you. Don’t you dare believe otherwise.
With all of my love