Queer Music Trailblazers Sound Off on Lil Nas X’s Big Gay Success

"'I can do whatever the heck I want!'"

Lil Nas X is riding high with the longest-running No. 1 single in Billboard Hot 100 history, but what about the queer artists who paved his road?

Adam Lambert, Hayley Kiyoko, Big Freedia, ILoveMakonnen, and Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin recently sat down for Billboard’s first Pride roundtable, held at Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural Pride Summit in Los Angeles.

The five trailblazers were discussing how they navigate the music industry as out LGBTQ artists, so it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road,” the gay rapper’s record-breaking country-rap crossover.

“The world is changing, especially in the United States,” said Lambert of Lil Nas X literally coming out on top. “We’re moving forward, and that is direct evidence. But also it helps that he had a No. 1 song. I feel like it gave him the confidence to be like, ’I can do whatever the heck I want!'”

“These moments are incredibly important, and they do trickle down,” Quin agreed. “Not to be the ’whomp whomp’ person in the conversation, but we hear these stories all the time [that show how a victory like this] is not necessarily making it better for the average person who’s living in a rural community. Sometimes that leads the media to believe that everything’s fine, but there just has to be more done on a foundational level to change the system.”

“It’s going to keep taking all of us to educate folks and tell these stories,” Big Freedia said.

“And the history, too,” Lambert added. “A lot of people I meet in this generation coming up aren’t necessarily aware of everything that has come before them. Like, let’s talk about the fundamental building blocks of the gay civil rights movement.”

Lil Nas X came out publicly as gay earlier this summer on Twitter. The 20-year-old Atlanta-born artist later said he felt he was “opening doors for more people,” because being gay is “not really accepted” in the hip-hop and country communities.

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.