“George Michael: All The Way Out” was published by The Advocate magazine on January 19, 1999. It was billed as “the racy superstar exposes the real story of his amazing gay life.”
The perfect introduction to this stubbornly candid interview with George Michael took place in Venice, Calif., a week before the actual conversation that follows. The 35-year-old music superstar was in the midst of filming his “Outside” video, using a public bathroom in the sandy beach town to fill in for the Beverly Hills park bathroom he’s been forbidden to go near since his April 7 arrest for lewd contact.
Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotu in north London, wore a baseball cap and buried his head in a video monitor while actors dressed as police dragged a struggling man out of the public toilet and into a van. Shading his eyes from the afternoon sun, Michael glanced up at the interviewer, recognizing her from a 1986 interview they’d done right after his professional breakup with Wham! collaborator Andrew Ridgeley–and smiled, relieved.
“Sit with me and watch as I record the joys of outdoor public sex,” he said with sarcasm. “But don’t look over there!” He pointed to a lone photographer who had somehow slipped onto the set. A bodyguard shielded the star with a makeshift curtain. Soon clicking could be heard from a nearby parked car. Two paparazzi shouted to each other in Italian. Michael’s manager rushed at them. A helicopter began to circle the area. Someone pointed to the top of a nearby condo. The roof was swarming with men aiming long distance lenses at the pop star.
“Oh, screw it,” Michael groaned. “Let me just wrap up this scene. It kinda fits with what we’re filming.”
How did foreign photographers know Michael was filming a video in Los Angeles? Why, since the 1993 AIDS death of his first true love, Brazilian designer Anselmo Feleppa, has his homosexuality been belittled in British papers? Where do the tabloids always manage to find pictures of his current boyfriend, Kenny Goss? Why, after a career-long battle to keep his personal life away from the press, is George Michael sitting down with The Advocate and doing what he swore he’d never do?
“People are still telling me to be careful,” he sighed. “But at the end of the day, all I can be is honest. I’ve reached a very good point of self-acceptance. I don’t have any shame about my sexuality. I don’t think people are going to desert me because they know more about me–“
Frantic voices drowned out the rest of his sentence as a van drove up to rescue Michael from the multiplying paparazzi. He leaned out and yelled above the din, “Come to my house on Saturday. I’m ready to do this.”
And he was. The following interview took place in Michael’s Los Angeles home on October 10, 1998.
Obviously your first single and video, “Outside” [from Ladies & Gentlemen… The Best of George Michael], deals with your arrest. Can you talk more about what went on in that Beverly Hills bathroom?
In the video I introduce the same situation I was in but with a straight guy in a bathroom. A beautiful young girl walks in–the whole thing about police entrapment is that they don’t send in anyone you wouldn’t look at twice–so we send in a beautiful young girl. And the guy realizes she’s available and kisses her. She changes into a cop–an older, real mean, tough cop. Which makes you think, That’s so unfair. That’s ridiculous. She came on to him.
Why should people see it differently if it’s a guy, if it’s male-male sex? So I try to make straight people think about that. I try to make them see the basic unfairness of police entrapment.
Actually, we don’t know what happened. What got you arrested?
That’s exactly what happened. I think it’ll be almost patronizing to most gay men to tell what happened. So many of them know exactly what happened.
At first, we heard you were alone in the bathroom. Why were all the reports wrong?
Well, let’s say it’s fairly likely there was some cooperation between the police and the paparazzi. I literally got arrested, called my boyfriend–bless his soul–to come pick me up. We went to dinner, and I said, “Darling, the lot will be there by the time we get home.” And I was half right. At about 4 in the morning, they were at the house, and by 5 o’clock there were helicopters.
What do you mean by cooperation between the police and the paparazzi?
There was interaction between the police in L.A. and the paparazzi in London. I think the cooperation was between someone who sent the police there as soon as I got to the park because the police station is at the end of the road, literally 600 yards away. And I think the reason that the reports changed so much was because the police were freaked out that it was me they arrested. The Beverly Hills police don’t want to be seen to be arresting celebrities.
Are you saying the paparazzi tipped off the police?
The person that directed the police knew, and someone made a lot of money. When other bits of information started coming in and I found out that pictures had been floating around since last year because the guy hadn’t been able to sell them–
The pictures that ended up in The Globe and the Enquirer.
Of this arrest?
No, it wasn’t of this arrest. The pictures the tabloids used were taken of me in that park the year before. Obviously there was no story without the arrest. It was just me sunbathing in that park where I took my dog quite a lot. With an arrest, those pictures of me were worth somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 pounds.
You were just sunbathing?
Yes, and the thing that’s really upsetting about those pictures is that I took my shirt off. I never take my shirt off in public, ever. Even when I’m slim I never take my shirt off in public. And the day the picture was taken I was a little overweight. One tabloid headline actually said, FAT AND GAY. I just laughed when I read it. I thought, What does that mean? I didn’t understand it! It was like, “Here are two things you’d hate to be. And he’s both!”
So what did happen in the park and the bathroom?
The truth is it was just like just about any other entrapment case you ever heard of. I walked into the bathroom, and literally 30 seconds later someone else walked into the bathroom. As I was leaving the bathroom, I saw this guy who was basically masturbating in front of me. It was the usual thing, a good-looking guy. I certainly didn’t look at him and think, Oh, that must be a cop. And actually, nothing happened at all other than me returning the favor in kind from about eight feet away. And then he walked straight past me and out, at which point I thought, Oh, he obviously wasn’t impressed, you know? Something was not happening for him.
Wow. What did you do then?
I left immediately. It’s not even like I was loitering or anything. I left thinking that it was probably just as well anyway that he walked out. And as I was walking back to the car, they arrested me. It was standard entrapment. There was absolutely no one else around apart from the backup cop halfway through the park, who I couldn’t see at the time. I made that slipup, and they got me straight away.
No one else observed this?
No, and the remarkable thing to me in that situation is, Who’s to know what really went on in there? I’m quite sure in their business–however they’re trained to do this kind of stuff, and apparently they are–I’m quite sure the actual official training does not involve taking your penis out and getting that involved. But who’s to say he did that? Only him and me. There were only the two of us in there. Why does the word policeman in a situation like that mean more than the word citizen? I thought that in almost any kind of criminal situation there had to be some kind of evidence other than a policeman’s word. I’m not saying for a moment that I did the right thing by responding. In the end I responded, and there was a crime committed–however pathetically small I may think the crime was. But I was responding to someone already doing it.
Were you scared when they arrested you?
People said I was crying, but I was furious. I said, “This is ridiculous. This is entrapment. I know exactly what this is.” I’m gonna have to shout entrapment.
Had you done that before, gone to that bathroom?
No, but I’ve been to that park.
I have since heard the park referred to as a “reputed cruising area for homosexuals.”
I’ve since read that that was well-known, but I doubt it because it’s a very quiet park in the middle of Beverly Hills. How many bathrooms in L.A. are not well-known cruising spots?
Why were you there?
What do you mean? Oh, I’m not saying that I didn’t go there to cruise, and I have to say, as far as cruising spots go, it’s pretty glamorous–a beautiful park, beautiful people, you know. It’s not a position I would have normally put myself in. I saw the situation; I thought the guy was cruising, I walked straight into the trap–bang. And it was immediate; they were right after me.
Did you consider denying it?
No. I think to have denied it would’ve been really stupid. I’m not sorry that it happened. I’m glad that it happened–which at the same time makes me wonder whether I subconsciously allowed it to happen.
Well, I was working up to ask you that.
Oh, yeah! Look, I’m 35 now. I don’t think you can base your sexuality around anything other than the people you fall in love with. When I was younger I slept with men and women, and I didn’t fall in love at all. I was kind of underdeveloped that way. I would have brief relationships. If you sleep with both sexes and you think you’re having relationships, well, it’s kinda confusing. The other thing is, as a celebrity, you’re given all kinds of choices you don’t want.
I went from being a relatively unattractive child in school to becoming famous. I was suddenly given the opportunity to have sex whenever I wanted it. I had way too much sex with way too many people, most of them women but some men. And because I had no emotional understanding of myself, all of it was fairly unsatisfying. Also, I would choose men that were completely unavailable or who were similarly confused sexually. When I did finally allow myself to get into a relationship where there was real commitment going, I was 27. From then on, I believed I was gay.
So falling in love was what ended your conflict?
Yes, exactly. I’m one of those people whose sexuality obviously was ambiguous to people. And I was attractive to young girls, so automatically I became a focus for them. But was that fake? No. So I had to contend with that. All the time I was trying to figure out why it was that I wasn’t making relationships that lasted or why it was I felt so lonely. I never had a moral problem with being gay. Obviously, as a young man who was adored by millions of young girls, the convenient thing to was to think, Well, hopefully I’m going to find that woman that I’ll fall in love with one day. But I wasn’t finding her.
You never fell in love with a woman?
No. I thought I was. I thought I had a couple of times. I also thought I had with men–and then I realized that none of those things had been love. I realized that I was just trying to work myself out.
You fell in love eight years ago. Why didn’t you come out then?
Because I’m a very proud person, and I have a very hard time with authority, which has to do with my upbringing. I had a very strict father.
I don’t understand.
If you tell me I have to do something, I’m going to try not to do it. And what people don’t understand in the equation of my relationship with the press is that I’ve had people talking and writing about my sexuality since I was 19 years old. Andrew Ridgeley and I were immediately the center of a lot of gossip. Although Andrew is completely straight, and I thought I was bisexual at the time.
I’m still not sure why your relationship with the press kept you from coming out.
If you think about it, someone who is as motivated as me to become a star is driven by insecurity and the need for recognition and autonomy–so that you can’t be controlled, so that you have freedom. And once you get in that position, one of the only entities that tries to control you is the press. Because you don’t have many people to answer to. But the press tries to make you answer to them and to the public all the time. So, I had this thing of, “Fuck you! I’m not going to give you my private life! I’m just trying to work it out myself, thank you very much!” And by then it was like two dogs with a bone. I kept trying to see how I could be clever and retain my dignity, not denying my sexuality but not giving them the three words they wanted.
God, yes! What I’ve realized in this whole last six months is just how much energy I was giving them. Recently there were loads of pictures all over the papers just because someone spotted me holding hands with Kenny. When I’m out with Kenny, I’ve very physical with him. When I was with my last boyfriend–the one that really started my gay life, as it were–I didn’t hide. We traveled together; we shared bedrooms; we never hid. I just knew one day the press was going to go for it. I never thought it would happen this way. But I thought, When it happens, it happens, I’m not going to give it to them. I’m not going and doing a special interview.
Like this one?
[Laughing] Yes, well then, here we are. But what I realize is that I actually allowed people to think I was miserable, closeted, and that was why I was reclusive–as opposed to being sick of the way these people write about me. I let people think, He feels this is something to hide. I let people think the issue was my sexuality, not my privacy. And the interesting thing is that the moment there was no privacy, I realized that that’s all the issue was. Not one part of me has any problem with people knowing I’m gay.
So did the press win?
Well… but I had my way because they had to drag it out of me. They had to go to that extreme. OK, it was humiliating, but I was not a party to it. I didn’t go and volunteer it and say, “OK, I’m gonna give you what you want because I’m tired of it.” Actually, it didn’t change my life because from the moment I met Anselmo, I was out in my own life with everyone immediately.
With your parents too?
No, I didn’t come out with my mother and father until immediately after my first boyfriend, Anselmo, died. It was horrible, but the day after he died I wrote my parents a letter. It was such an easy letter to write. I felt that when he died he was passing a gift, saying, “I introduced you to yourself, and I opened you up to everyone you loved except your mom and dad. And you have to deal with that.” So I wrote them a letter and saw them as soon as I got home after I’d been to Anselmo’s funeral in Brazil. And everything was fine; it was wonderful. Of course, they were more concerned that I had just lost my partner than that I’d actually finally said what they already knew.
Your father knew?
Yeah, because I hadn’t had a serious girlfriend for three or four years.
When Anselmo died and you came out to your parents, were they worried about your health?
No, because I told them that I’d been tested immediately when I found out that he was sick. And my parents know that I wouldn’t lie to them. Obviously AIDS would be a concern to any parent that hasn’t confirmed that their child is gay, but I think my mom and dad weren’t worried about that. They know I’m a very cautious person (smiles)–apart from the cruising.
No comment. How did your father react to your arrest?
He was great, actually. He called me the next day and said, “Tell them to fuck off. You are who you are.” I was very impressed with that.
Since he was the strict authoritarian in your life–and you say that anybody trying to control you reminds you of your experiences with him–was it liberating for you to tell him?
To be honest, the whole period was such a blur because of the grief. I know that by the time my mother died last year, I thought it was quite amazing that we hadn’t actually been open with each other until three years before. There was absolutely no difference in the relationship. It didn’t make us closer because we were already very close. I just thought of how awful it would have been for her to have died without knowing, without us actually having talked about it. But my parents were fine about it. I knew they would be.
Then why didn’t you tell them before?
I think I was more worried whether my father would blame my mother, the usual things. You know? But when I told them, I realized that the only people I was actually hiding from were the press.
Did the gay community appear to be annoyed with you for not coming out?
Yes, but I find that the people who think that way are not as connected with their families as the people who have a more moderate view of how they want to come out. For instance, there are people for whom it would be ridiculous to pretend they’re not gay. The way they grew up, their mannerisms–I genuinely believe for some people, they never had a choice but to deal with it from a very early age. And it’s easy to understand why those people don’t understand those people who aren’t that cut-and-dry. I think very often that people who are plainly gay don’t understand when people who are not as plainly gay have other issues to contend with.
Choices come with problems too?
Yes. But as soon as I fell in love, it was all clear. All the choices I thought I was weighing were gone. You can only be proud of your sexuality when it’s bringing you joy. Until you love someone, it’s not necessarily bringing you joy. But without love, all of these issues seem kind of murky.
Maybe that’s why Boy George–more “plainly gay”?–needled you for years about being closeted.
Exactly. And what were his choices? He makes it absolutely clear that he could never be anything else other than what he is. Boy George–since Wham!–has been trying to out me. He knew I had boyfriends. I refused to rise to the bait with him. I’ve always turned the other cheek. At the end of the day, his motives are so transparent. He’s never said anything that really bothered me until his Advocate article this year [“Boy Will Be Boy,” June 23].
He’s always said horrible things, but in that article he said that I thought I was too good for the gay community. I felt like that was really over the top. He did an article directly after I was arrested–interestingly enough, he writes a column for one of the tabloids, which is exactly where I think he belongs. It’s an English tabloid calling Daily Mail. It’s also pretty right-wing and homophobic. I think it’s quite interesting that he writes for them, so I guess he’ll go for anyone who pays him. For a gay man, his attitude toward me is identical to the paparazzi’s. The first article he wrote was all about how concerned he was for me and that we were sisters under the skin and all this stuff. But he was just gloating and pretending not to gloat. And then I think he realized that people didn’t care. So at that point he did that interview with The Advocate. And when he said that stuff about how I thought I was too good for the community, I just thought, You are now clutching at straws! You are thinking I’ve been humiliated and people are still not turning against me, so what can you say now to get me into trouble? Because to say that I’m some kind of snob when it comes to the gay community, trying to turn people against me by making out like I have some sort of prejudice against the gay people–I’m sorry. Am I too good for the gay community? No. Am I too good for the likes of Boy George? Yes.
Do you have many gay friends?
No, the vast majority of my friends are straight. The people I grew up with are straight, and I spent the first half of my adult life doing all the same things as they did, really. I think my straight friends were a lot more worried about me than they ought to have been after the arrest because, well, they’re straight. I don’t have the gay friends who would automatically think, Oh, this has happened to a lot of us. I didn’t have that kind of support, which made me feel for the first time in my life that it was difficult that I didn’t grow up amongst gay people.
You know Elton [John].
Oh, yeah. I know Elton. It’s not like I don’t have any gay friends. But my closest friends are straight–most of whom are still with me from a time before I was famous. It was difficult because I wanted to explain to them the arrest wasn’t the big deal they thought it was. The women especially don’t understand it. I think it’s difficult for gay women to understand gay men’s sexuality, let alone for straight women.
Men–gay or straight–understand each other better.
Straight men don’t find it easy to get quick casual sex with attractive women without paying for it. They normally have to do a lot of groundwork. They are different hunts, but they are still hunts. I’ve been there with my mates in clubs when we were younger, cruising for women. I know all the stupid games you have to play. I also know the lack of game-playing that goes on between gay men. Men have that easy access to meaningless, casual sex, which give them a totally different thrill. I don’t think you can explain that to women.
Dare I ask you about monogamy? Remember the video you did for “I Want Your Sex,” where you wrote the words “explore monogamy” on a woman’s back? That probably seems like a lifetime ago to you.
[Laughing] It wasn’t that long ago. It was around ’86 or ’87 when I last saw you. And at the time, I believed in it. I still believe in monogamy as an ideal. I’m not saying I’m perfectly comfortable with my sexuality in terms of my enjoyment of casual sex. And that’s coming from someone who would really like to be monogamous–even though I’ve failed dismally. I don’t know whether I’m capable of it anymore.
Well, what do you want?
I’m not good at self-deprivation. I think part of that comes from being spoiled, having been a celebrity for so long and actually being able to make most of my fantasies come true. It’s not that I’ve given up on monogamy, but I’ve realized what an ideal it is–for most men especially and gay men in particular, where the availability is there and the social pressure is not. Gay men know each other’s motivation.
And you didn’t feel this with women?
My relationships with men showed me there is no second-guessing. If a man tries to pretend to you that he doesn’t have the same urges as you, he’s lying. If a woman tells you that, it could be. But the basis of a relationship between a man and a woman is the sense of the unknown. You’re constantly trying to work out each other’s boundaries simply because there are areas you just don’t understand. That is the mystery of straight relationships. It’s the downside and the upside.
Because on one hand, if you’re an honest person, you find it very difficult to not say what you feel. So I find that the openness in gay male relationships is great for me in terms of really making things stronger, getting through the bullshit, having problems but working them out. There’s very little misunderstanding between myself and my boyfriend.
How did he feel about the arrest?
He wasn’t shocked when this happened. I knew I could call him from the police station and get him to come down and pay my bail.
Did it make your relationship stronger?
Yeah, it’s definitely made us stronger. But the issue of monogamy and casual sex has already come up voluntarily on my part. I wanted to be as open as possible with him. See, I can’t bullshit myself. In situations where sometimes men and women have to take a deep breath and cross their fingers–which kind of gets them through it–I can’t do that with men. We know each other too well. I’m sure two women know each other as well. You know the way your sexuality works. I never really knew that in terms of my relationships with women. When I watch my straight friends, I see that mystery between them the whole time. That’s what glues straight society together.
Do I sense any regrets about not being straight?
It’s all a double-edged sword. I don’t look at my earlier life or any of my friends and wish that I’d been straight. And I don’t really think I’m glad that I’m gay. I just know that’s the way it is. There are pros and cons to each. I don’t believe either would have made me a happier person. I am the person I am, and my sexuality is secondary to that. I don’t believe life would have been easier if I had been straight; I just think life is different–but it’s every bit as hard.
In terms of your relationship with Kenny, is it all right with you if he isn’t monogamous as well?
I’m very pragmatic, I’m not an emotional hypocrite. Once I’ve acknowledged my behavior, I have to be able to say it’s OK for my partner.
So it’s honesty that holds you together?
Absolutely. When I was younger, with every relationship, I thought, Oh, my God, this is the only one. If this one slips through my fingers, I’m going to be a sad and lonely old figure. But I think having gone through bereavement and recovery and then meeting someone else taught me that you can go from that terrible low to that high again. I now know that if I cannot have an honest relationship with the person I’m with, I need to move on to another relationship with someone who’s capable of that or can take that amount of honesty. Having spent the first half of my life in secrecy, I now find secrecy a very threatening thing. I’m terrified of secrets now. If there’s something that I feel, I say it. It doesn’t matter what happens, I always feel better because I feel we’ve come closer to the truth.
That’s real intimacy.
Exactly. And because of all that intimacy, when all this happened, I knew I had someone who could come get me.
Did you call him from jail?
Yes. Poor Kenny. I had to leave a message. He was out working. Can you believe I was stuck in the cell for four hours with nothing but a blanket and a copy of the National Enquirer?
You must have thought, Oh, no, this will be all about me next week?
Yes, and it was! It was! I left Kenny a message and said, “Darling, I’m in big trouble. You’re going to have to get me from the police station.” He called me back and said, “What did you do, darling?” I said, “Use your imagination.” And he said, “DUI?” I said, “Fuck–if only. Think again.” He said, “Oh no.” I said, “Please just come down and get me.” But because of the honesty of the relationship, I wasn’t terrified about calling him. My immediate thought was, Thank God I have him.
How long have you been with Kenny?
About 2 and a 1/2 years now. [Waving a photo of Kenny in the latest tabloid.] Where do you get these, darling? [Kenny, a handsome blond from Texas, enters the room, looks at the photo, laughs, and leaves.] It’s a nice picture, though, don’t you think? Wonder where they got it. We’ll never know.
And then there was a three-year period on your own after Anselmo?
Yes. I was with Anselmo for two years. After that was a total nightmare. It was a difficult time to lose someone–after two years–because I was still in love with him in such a romantic way. It was also difficult because I felt like I waited so long to find him. Not many people wait until they’re 27 to have that experience. I literally had five or six months of pure joy before I found out he was ill. Then it was all fear–pure fear. I just wish I’d had a bit longer before that was ripped away.
Do you remember the first time you heard the word AIDS?
You know, I was just thinking about that. It was when Andrew and I first did personal appearances, and we’d go to five or six clubs a night. We went to straight clubs and gay clubs. Andrew and I didn’t realize how homoerotic our image was. We had leather jackets; we had these cuffed jeans. We just thought it was cool. Andrew was the stylist–ironic that it was the straight one doing the styling! We did a benefit when the producer for Sylvester died. He was one of the first music industry cases. I remember everyone saying, “It’s like a cancer thing that started in New York, and people say only gay people die of it.” When I remember conversations like that, my blood runs cold.
At what point did you think, My God, this could happen to me!
Did it change your behavior?
Immediately. AIDS helped along my self-discovery. The occasional times that I’d invite a man home, I was very careful. There was no way I was having sex without a condom, and there were only certain things I would do. Then it got to the stage where AIDS got common enough that I thought I could no longer, with good conscience–condom or not–have sex with a woman if she didn’t know I was bisexual.
Oh, that’s interesting.
What’s really interesting is that it didn’t stop the women. It actually made the women more involved. It was a challenge. I wasn’t really gay; they could change me. I got that a lot. I slept with quite a lot of women, especially at the end of my Wham! days, because I was still thinking, Maybe I could still be straight. It would make life easier. But suddenly it turned into a time where bisexuality seemed to be the most dangerous form of sexuality–and I suppose it still is–so I felt like the bad guy. I couldn’t have it both ways with AIDS around.
AIDS changed what bisexuality meant. It used to be a safer place to be.
And quite cool. You just had more options. But gay and straight people look at me with suspicion when I say, “I’m bisexual.” They want me to be one way or another. I still have the impression when I’m talking to gay men about my earlier life that they want to believe it’s bullshit, that I was always gay.
When you were younger and sleeping with men as well as women, did you tell anyone?
I nearly came out when I was 19. My two closest friends at the time were Andrew Ridgeley and his girlfriend, Shirley. I’d been friends with Andrew since I was 11 and friends with Shirley since I was 15. I had come back from a trip to Cyprus on my own, where I’d had a few experiences that, well, opened my eyes to certain things. I had decided I was really bisexual and told them. I told them that I wanted to tell my mom and dad.
How did they react?
It was more shocking to them than I expected. The pair of them talked me out of it. I don’t mean it was their fault. They were very young as well. But they made me think just long enough to back out of it, and I often wonder if things would’ve been very different. I might have slept around a lot then. And nobody knew what was going on in those years. So they might have saved my life in some strange way.
Did you resist coming out then because of your career?
The only time I ever thought of it in career terms was, yes, when I was with Wham! and at the beginning of Faith. I thought, It would be very difficult to be with a man right now–because I hadn’t made that commitment to be with anyone yet. But sure, there were times when I was thinking, Is this just because of my career? But actually, I would say from Faith on, I thought it would make no real difference outside of America. Here in America, on the other hand, I’ve had doors slammed in my face. I still do.
Are you going to write about any of this on your next studio album?
I don’t know. Going through two bereavements one right after the other–I just can’t write about pain again. Two days after I met Kenny, I found out my mother was sick. I was certain that she was going to die. Having been through that and having reached lower points than I’d ever experienced–and definitely didn’t think I was going to experience again quickly–I realize the value of the stuff that I do, which is not about my misery. It’s about making joy. By the time I come around to doing my next album, hopefully it’ll be a lot more upbeat than Outside was. It has to be triumphant in a sense. I have to write a “fuck off!” hit record. I think it’s very important that when people are outed or out themselves that it’s seen to be a positive thing for the future of their lives. Whatever kind of artistic statement I make in writing about this experience has to be a hit. It has to say, “it doesn’t matter.”
But losing control over your private life did matter to you, didn’t it?
Oh, yes, but I’m lucky. I’m a strong person, and I could take it. I could’ve been the person they wanted me to be. I could’ve have been as closeted as they thought. I could have slit my wrists!
In America, we’re in a battle to legalize gay marriage. If you could marry your lover, would you?
I have feelings about marriage anyway. I don’t understand marriage without children. I understand the need for the ceremony and the need for the legal protections that I think gay couples should have. I do believe we should be entitled to exactly the same protections. But I don’t think I’d ever want it for myself.
Do you want to be a parent?
I wanted to when I was 22 or 23. I used to think I’d love to have kids. Looking back on it feels like it might have been a biological trick. Now I have no desire to have children. I see what an incredibly difficult task it is.
I’m surprised you didn’t accidentally become a father.
Believe me, there are five or six women–some of whom have taken legal action–who’ve said that I’ve fathered their children. None of them are telling the truth. They name their children after me–two gave them my full Greek name. Suppose I had a retro hetero moment and slept with a woman, and she became pregnant. I would have no option but to be responsible for the child. Then I’m sure having a child would be just like everything else in life–a complete balance of joy and misery. I know I’m missing good things, but I’m also missing the anxiety. I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, so as a parent, I think I would be verging on the neurotic. But then again, if I had a child, I’d probably think, It would be terrible if I never had children.
What about Kenny?
No, he doesn’t want children, but I know he’d be a fantastic parent. I’ll probably get flak for this, but I feel it’s much easier to imagine a lesbian couple making a great home for a child. Because of the nature of male relationships, I think that women are better suited to it. Women find it easier to be monogamous as well, which holds the stability of the relationship. I don’t know any perfect families, and I don’t believe in the textbook dream of a family anyway. If I’m really honest, I think a child would be getting a better chance at a stable family life with two women than even in a straight relationship. But I’m kinda ignorant about this stuff. I don’t know enough lesbians. I only know three gay women.
What? You’re kidding.
No, I admit it. But I do know enough about the female and male personality to know that if you pick a gay female couple, you have the advantage of not having the games played. You have the nurturing which is–I don’t care what anyone says–more prevalent in women. And you don’t have the instability that comes from the sexual lifestyle that gay men have.
If the arrest hadn’t happened, would you have eventually have come out on your own?
I don’t know. But I would have been outed. I knew this day would come. I knew I was going to be [British tabloid] The Sun’s “gay singer” rather than George Michael.
“Gay and fat.”
[Laughing] Yeah. Gay, fat–oh, and gray! But the advantage is not having to watch what I say anymore or fearing I’ll give them what they want. It was a game with the press, and it wasn’t worth the energy. I suppose because of my pride and my hatred of the tabloid press, I was kidding myself about the energy it was taking. I thought because I was living my life openly and doing what I wanted with my boyfriend, I wasn’t giving the press my energy. But just by allowing so much misconception, I was giving them a lot. I have done interviews in which I said everything but “I am gay.” So the truly important thing about doing this interview with you is realizing I don’t have to waste that energy anymore, ever again.
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael’s Oprah Winfrey Show Interview (2004)
- George Michael Interview on Q Magazine (December 1998)
- George Michael Interview on Parkinson Show (1998)
- George Michael’s Interview with Gay Times (2007)