Lil Nas X recently sat down with The Guardian to discuss his growing status as a gay icon.

Among the many things Nas talked about was his decision to come out publicly, something he never really planned to do. He told The Guardian,

“The honest truth is, I planned to die with the secret… But that changed when I became Lil Nas X.”

He even started his career trying to play it straight, back when he was just posting music to SoundCloud.

“It was just me acting really hard, which I did a lot of in the beginning. Because it felt like that’s what I had to do.”

That all changed, of course, when he casually came out on Twitter last year, joking, “deadass thought I made it obvious.”

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Lil Nas X with Ariana Grande and Lizzo at the Grammys

But Lil Nas X knows what it’s like to be scared to come out of the closet. And he knows that coming out, especially when you’re young, can lead to bullying, harassment, or worse. And that’s why Nas doesn’t necessarily want his fans to follow in his footsteps. He explained,

“I don’t want to encourage them to do something they don’t 100% want to do. Especially in, like, middle school or high school. Because it’s just super hard.”

He added,

“It’s easier for me. I’m not depending on anybody. There’s no one who’s going to kick me out of the house — nobody to start treating me shitty.”

It’s a refreshing thing to hear, especially since we live in a culture that so heavily promotes coming out.

But while coming out as LGBTQ+ can be a wonderful experience for many in the United States, it can also be a dangerous one. Not everyone is in a position where they can safely come out to their friends or family. Things like race, socioeconomic status, religion, hometown, and more can make it difficult or downright deadly for someone to come out.

The ability to safely come out is a privilege and one we need to acknowledge more often. Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals have been on the rise since at least 2017. According to data obtained by the FBI, LGBTQ-motivated hate crimes increased by 6% between 2017 and 2018 and hate crimes against transgender people, in particular, rose 42%. But, of course, that only accounts for crimes that went reported, meaning that the actual numbers could be much higher.

Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness, with many kids kicked out of their homes for being queer. A 2017 study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that LGBTQ+ youth were 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ peers.

Coming out as LGBTQ is extremely brave. But that doesn’t mean that staying in the closet makes you weak. Because every individual has to assess whether or not coming out is the right choice for them. And I love that Lil Nas X has acknowledged that.

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