I was introduced to George Michael when I was 13 years old, several years after he hit the climatic peak of his career. It was when the “Older” album came out in 1996, and the song “FastLove” came on. I remembered really enjoying that song. I was into a mix of music from Madonna to Mariah Carey to the Smashing Pumpkins, RHCP, to Bone Thugs N’ Harmony to 2Pac, but George Michael was a very peculiar one, considering that he was not the preferred choice of many of my teenage peers. I remembered asking a mom of one of the neighborhood kids that I grew up with, and asked her what she thought of GM, and she replied, “Hmmm….I’ve always liked him, but I wonder if he is really gay?”
His sexuality never came into my conscience. I was simply a guy who liked uptempo music, and thought that this man knew how to put together a catchy pop song. As I started to learn more about him, I was intrigued by his sexual / gender ambiguity. I wasn’t sure of whether he identified as gay / bi / straight, At that time, he left it up to the public to conjure up whatever their own conclusion was. As I entered into my early teens, I was at the point where I started to feel “unconventional.” I was born into the idea that I would be in a traditional marriage and have children. I started to develop what I thought was this “unusual” attraction to boys at the time. I remembered that not many girls would flock over to me, while at the same time, I was much too intimidated to being asking anyone out to any dances at the time. I was making myself believe that my lack of dateability qualities had something to do with that paradigm shift into the same gender. Perhaps, that this was just a phase or my greater curiosity getting in the way.
In a way, I was George Michael.
It was around that time, shortly thereafter, that he was caught in the men’s bathroom in Beverly Hills in what was described as a lewd act. I remembered being shocked and confused about what he did, but what really took me by surprise, was the fact that he was forthcoming about his sexuality, about his own subconscious way of coming out by what happened, and more importantly, that he was never going to apologize for his sexuality, or his way of pursuing it (w/ consent). In a time when the mainstream media was ready to bury him alive and use his gayness as their weapon of choice against him, he proudly stood up, and owned his “full” identity to his advantage. He talked about how he was willing to torpedo his own fame for the sake of his own privacy, meaning being able to live his life as a gay man when being an out pop star was not encouraged and where he could have been vilified by the music industry for doing so. He had lived the straight life and was simply curious or trying out relationships with women until it no longer desired him ,and that he didn’t have his first same-sex relationship until his late 20s.
That moment when he spoke out left a first great impression on me as I was beginning to confront my own parts of my identity. He made it possible for me to understand that my own sexuality / gender were not a result of some mental illness or depression that I was having. While I was much too young to live through the Wham! and Faith era, I came in at the right time as a teenager to hear the words of George Michael declaring his own liberation.
Like George, I didn’t have my first relationship with a man until my late 20s. Like George, I had spent a lot of my time keeping my identity private for years as a way to protect my mom and my family from having to defend me against other family members and family friends. Like George, I did date women and was in a few early relationships with them, but never at any point regretted those experiences. They were experiences that I needed to have, in order for me to move forward and validate what I had learned from those times.
His loss was much more than his music. He was the first gay person that I looked up to growing up in a time when I needed to feel validated. He made it a-okay to be unapologetic as a queer man, and that I didn’t need to be bound by old-fashion monogamy, that gay sex is natural sex, and that it should be enjoyed or fulfilling (with consent and transparency of course).
He will truly be missed. Without George, there would be no version of the “me” that you have been a witness to the last several years. Thank you George, and may you forever rest in paradise!
Here is a link to this wonderful article about him below: