How George Michael Changed The World For Gay People

It is fair to say, 2016 has sucked for many of us. Brexit and an associated rise or racism, Trump getting the Presidency (though would the vile Hillary Clinton have been any better?) and an assortment of stars like Alan Rickman and Prince passing away. There will be loads more things to depress you, but I have to finish this article sometime before 2017. It seemed only fitting that there was a final ‘screw you’ from the year on Christmas Day, when pop legend George Michael passed away at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure.

George Michael

A lot will come out in the next few weeks about George. We have already seen after a day of glorifying his music as if it was of parallel with the Beatles, it has been revealed that he was suffering a heroin addiction which likely led to his heart failure. Oh, let me clarify, I consider most of his Wham! Stuff bland, but I do think ‘Praying For Time’ is one of the best songs ever.

George Michael – Gay Icon

However, for many, he will be seen as a gay icon, and a guy who has helped many people through their coming out process.

We all know the story. How in April 1998 he was busted for a lewd act by police in an undercover sting operation in a Beverly Hills toilet. This was the way it was revealed he was gay. Later, he would say he subconsciously wanted to get caught, and this was his way of coming out.

Instead of retiring into the background and sulking, he owned the incident and quickly released the song ‘Outside’, where the lyrics and the video took a cheeky stab at the incident. It seemed that George Michael was finally happy, after feeling like he had led a lie for years.

It is only in recent days I have realised how that helped a lot of young men and women come out in the 90’s. Back then, the whole process wasn’t much fun at all, with the risk of being alienated by your family. These days, it probably isn’t easy for some people, but for most, it is a much safer landscape. It could be argued that it is now ‘cool’ to be seen as gay, though as a straight man, I will steer clear of a field I am no expert in. Certainly back in the 90’s, it was tougher.

It seems that George gave inspiration to many about how they could come out and be happy, and he continued to do so for years after. It could be argued that the outing of George Michael left a legacy that we still see today.

Changing the World

Whether George was really as happy as people who didn’t know thought he was is open to question. He suffered addictions to cannabis and seemingly heroin, which arguably contributed to his fall from the spotlight for anything else other than getting busted for drugs, getting jailed for putting his car through a photography shop (whilst on drugs) and entering rehab (because of drugs). I don’t understand the reasons for these issues, and what caused what. I do know the handsome guy we remembered from the 80’s and 90’s looked rough over the last few years. There did seem to be a disintegration.

However, it is how George came out and told people they could be proud, which people should remember. There was that shining moment where he proverbially said ‘just be who you are, be happy’.

And yes, he should be remembered for ‘Praying For Time’. Absolute genius.

RIP George Michael…gone but never forgotten.

Martin Ward
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