Billy Porter and Lil Nas X refuse gender norms


Lil Nas X Illustration by DJ Reed

Billy Porter and Lil Nas X are breaking down the restrictive walls of Western masculinity. Just as recently as the 2020 Grammys, “Pose” star Billy Porter and rapper Lil Nas X stepped onto the scene in fabulously extravagant attire that went against the red carpet uniform of plain suit and ties.

Before them, celebrity men’s fashion at events like the Grammys were nothing but endless variations of suits. Some have tried to push the fashion envelope with their suits, but it is mostly just plaids and gold embroidery. Until now, hardly any tabloids have covered men’s fashion at award shows because it is just that boring.

Billy Porter illustration by Derrick “DJ” Reed.

Billy Porter has continuously pushed the boundaries of gender identity with fluid and eye-catching fashion. However, at the Grammys, Porter took it a step further with his shimmering turquoise jumper featuring a white diamond fringe. 

The outfit was amped up to legendary status with a matching wide-brim hat lined with a crystalline fringe that is remote controlled to cover Porter’s face like a curtain. His eye makeup was reminiscent of Egyptian goddesses to further accentuate that he is the moment.

Lil Nas X also came in swinging with his signature, millennial-couture cowboy suit in lavish hot pink. He is smashing expectations and being a voice in the hip-hop and pop community that is hardly ever heard. 

Lil Nas X illustration by Derrick “DJ ” Reed

Lil Nas X is changing the game by being unabashedly himself and laughing in the face of people who oppose him like Pastor Troy who showed his colors in a disgustingly homophobic tweet. It is upsetting that people like Pastor Troy hold onto this idea of what men should be: straight and removed from their emotions. 

People like Pastor Troy cling onto an idea of masculinity that never existed because it changes over time. In the 17th century, men wore heels, long wigs, frills and makeup.  The color blue used to symbolize femininity, and pink symbolized masculinity.

The black community has been hostile toward black people who are LGBTQ at many times. As a result of the hostility, many LGBTQ black people repress themselves as a way of self-preservation and survival.  

Lil Nas X bravely came out as gay early in his career as a rapper and a good portion hip-hop and rap community is still not recepetive toward his sexuality. Him coming out was risky for his career, but luckily support flooded in his direction because society as a whole has begun moving away from rigid binaries. 

The appearance of these men is a rally cry for others to be themselves even if it means being shunned. Their refusal to be indoctrinated into unspoken masculine rules is empowering, freeing and fun.