In a revealing interview on Radio 4 in 2007, George Michael told how keeping his sexuality a secret took a deep physiological toll. Talking to presenter Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs, the singer explained that having revealed his sexuality to several friends and family members at age 19, he was encouraged not to come out to his parents.
Hiding his sexuality made George feel ‘fraudulent’-“What people have to acknowledge… is that there’s a level of honesty that’s natural to me [and] that I’m uncomfortable with anything else. So firstly, understand how much I love my family and that Aids was the predominant feature of being gay in the 1980s and early 90s as far as any parent was concerned… My mother was still alive and every single day would have been a nightmare for her thinking what I might have been subjected to.”
Openly gay stars of the 80s and early 90s, like Boy George, privately poured scorn over George Michael’s ‘heterosexual’ image. When journalists probed, he was noncommittal. The star simply refused to be labelled.
Life As An openly Gay Man:
Whilst the singer feels that his arrest for ‘lewd behaviour’ in an LA restroom in 1998 was a subconscious act to ‘out’ himself, life didn’t become easier as an openly gay man.
“For some strange reason, my gay life didn’t get easier when I came out. Quite the opposite happened, really,” he is quoted as telling the BBC, in a 2016 interview. “The press seemed to take some delight that I previously had a ‘straight audience,’ and set about trying to destroy that. And I think some men were frustrated that their girlfriends wouldn’t let go of the idea that George Michael just hadn’t found the ‘right girl’.”
For George Michael, years of living a life in hiding caused immeasurable psychological damage. There were long periods of depression and isolation. The singer’s drug use and self sabotage became an open secret. Whilst George Michael’s fans appeared to be prepared to accept him unconditionally, he struggled to accept himself.
Discussing his failure to ‘own’ his homosexuality, the singer admitted – “I was too immature to know I was sacrificing as much as I was.”
Despite his characteristic self depreciation, George Michael was an inspiration to many gay men and women. His legacy as both a musician, and a human rights spokesman, will live on.