George Michael interview by Judy Wieder, former editor-in-chief of
The Advocate, the national gay & lesbian newsmagazine. The article was published on April 30,
The Equality Rocks headliner talks about closeted gay music stars,
U.S. vs. British gay rights, and his new pop CD
It’s been over a year since your Advocate coming-out interview. What advice would you give to a sexy, talented male pop star who is in the closet?
I don’t think that I could offer any solid advice, actually. I don’t really know what I would do if I were given the opportunity to start over. I would advise any gay person that being out in the real sense (I mean out with those you love and respect: friends and family) can never happen too soon. On a professional level I would love to give you a PC answer, but I have to say that the truth in today’s world is a little less simple than that–at least if you’re a British celebrity who happens to be gay. In the U.K.–since my left hand outed me to an audience of millions on that fateful day in 1998–my personal life, or rather my imagined personal life, has rarely been out of the tabloid press.
I am apparently engaged in a menage a trois with my boyfriend, Kenny, and Geri Halliwell (formerly of the Spice Girls), who will be carrying our child, of course. (No mention of whose sperm the poor thing is getting.) I want to “bed” Tom Cruise, which would be handy, especially since Geri has stolen Kenny from me. The fact is, I am a very private person and I hate to have my life written about with this puerile, gently homophobic snigger. I lived with Kenny, very happily out to our loved ones, for two years before all this crap started.
Ultimately though, I suppose I would have to advise a young version of me that these days, celebrity and secrets don’t go together. The bastards will get you in the end, baby. So don’t give them that power. Be proud of who you are and deal with the shit. Oh, and stay away from public conveniences unless you really need to pee.
What do you think about the way gay and lesbian Americans are fighting for equal rights–as it compares to gays in England?
There are intrinsic differences between the two situations. Firstly and most importantly, I think that America is a far more fearful society in general at this point in time, far more afraid of change–and that is holding American gays back in terms of political change. In Europe in general, the ’90s didn’t see the horrific backlash against liberalism that the United States did, and we don’t have the religious right to deal with, thank God! I think that many gay people in the States would be genuinely shocked at just how much more progressive Europeans are. The other major problem I think you have here is that your political system is actually too democratic. The fact that Americans vote on every bill and proposition can prolong bigotry indefinitely, especially where it is aimed at minority groups. I don’t see how you can change that process at this stage.
For the Brits, it’s a different story. The ludicrous stumbling block in our system is the House of Lords, an unelected group of hereditary peers–mostly too old and deaf to even hear any debate clearly–who are as backward-thinking as they come. But when push comes to shove (which it did recently over the age of consent for gay men), our elected politicians in the House of Commons have the power to overrule them and normally do when it’s obvious that they don’t have the support of the public. Gay Brit men of 16 now have the same rights as their female counterparts, and that is something I don’t see happening soon in America.
You’ve often said that the most important way that you want to express yourself is through your music. Talk about your new CD.
I’ve only just begun the new record, so anything I say about it will probably be completely off the mark by the time it’s done. But I can definitely say that I want to make a pop album- something more upbeat than my stuff in the ’90s. That is, as long as nobody else decides to die on me in the next year or so! Or arrest me! Although actually, I would have to say that getting arrested was quite inspirational in a way. What I mean to say is that my songs are and always have been so attached to my day-to-day existence that there was no way I could have made an up-tempo album in the middle of the melodrama I’ve called my life for the past nine years. The strange thing about it was that even though my life was falling apart in many ways, my career went from strength to strength, even though I was not doing the touring or promotional work that I had done before. In
Why did you decide to perform at this awesome Equality Rocks show?
I’m doing it because you, Judy, asked me to. And because you nagged me incessantly!
Seriously, it’s because it is quite clearly an inspirational event, and because some of the information I have been reading in recent years, particularly with regard to “ex-gays” and “cure centers,” just makes my blood boil. When you told me that we could address some of this onstage I was in for sure. I really don’t think that much of society, especially in Europe, is aware of the horrific treatment of some gay teenagers here in the States. Never mind gay rights-how about plain old child abuse
Also, I was very impressed with Garth Brook’s commitment to the show. He’s upsetting some of his core audience for something which he believes in, and that is admirable. Let’s be honest, it’s people like Garth’s audience that we are trying to reach. If we only preach to the converted then the show is just a celebration-which is cool in itself of course, but it would be great if it were to become something more than that, something with influence
Apart from all that, it’s a great way to thank you,
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