If you are still not convinced of George Michael’s compassionate heart, this story should convince you.
In the late 90s, George Michael read a piece about gay youths in America that touched him to the very core. The article “Hiding Out” was about gay teens who have run away from abusive psychiatric hospitals intended to cure them from being gay.
The investigative piece, originally published in San Francisco Bay Guardian and reprinted in the British gay magazine Attitude, hit George so hard that he contacted the writer, Tomas Mournian, and asked him to create a documentary based on the article.
The result was “Hiding Out”, a documentary about gay-teens and reparative-therapy that George
The documentary followed several young queer kids whose parents were unable to accept their kids’ sexuality that they incarcerate them in psychiatric hospitals to “cure” their queerness. The kids talked of the reparative therapy they received, including the physical effects of sedation and electroshock treatments. ‘Hiding Out” followed their journey to find underground safe houses to help them escape their homophobic parents and people looking for them.
You can watch the documentary here:
How the ‘Hiding Out” Documentary Came About
According to Mournian, the George Michael connection came out of the blue, a fortunate stroke of serendipity. He certainly wasn’t expecting George Michael – the idol of his youth – to be calling him at 5 a.m. to talk about his article on gay teens!
In a piece written for Huffington Post after George Michael’s death, he described the fortuitous call as:
“Hello, this is George,” the voice on the phone said. “George Michael.” The twice-repeated first name, easy familiarity, and British accent reminded me of another iconic greeting (“Bond. James Bond.”) I must be dreaming about this George … George Michael .…
I listened to “George Michael” describe how he’d read my article “Hiding Out” in a British magazine. I got out of bed and looked outside. It was dark and I wasn’t dreaming. George Michael really was telling me, “I was very moved by the story. I want to make a video.” He wanted to know: could I hook him up with the kids who’d escaped from gay-to-straight “hospitals” into an underground network of safe houses?
In a 2004 Marie Claire magazine interview, George mentioned reading about this article and how angry he was at American centers that aim to cure children
I’m constantly shocked by people’s attitudes towards their children. And I feel incredibly strongly about attitudes towards gay children. The strongest motivation I ever had [for protecting
gay children] was an article in Attitude magazine about centresin America to which young people are taken to cure them of homosexuality. These places torture people — they attach electrodes to their genitals and try to give them aversion therapy.
These places are inhumane, but they’re not illegal. In fact, when the kids run away, the police take them back.
Mournian was asked to create the documentary in two weeks. George wanted to show the documentary during his upcoming performance at the Equality Rocks concert on April 29, 2000 in Washington D.C.
George hired me on the spot and agreed to pay for everything. His then-manager, Andy Stephens, took over and made one thing clear: George Michael Pop Star was paying for this project out of pocket — his pocket. And though those were deep pockets, George Michael the person wasn’t a spendthrift. I had to make every penny count.
Equality Rocks was to be the largest gathering for LGBT concerns, and the perfect opportunity
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!
After Equality Rocks
The documentary was shown during the Equality Rocks concert. However, the Human Rights Council, the concert’s organizer, refused to allow MTV to broadcast the video. According to Mournian, George himself was disappointed with the lackluster reception to the documentary.
“I showed this film to a huge stadium of gay and straight campaigners for civil and gay rights at ‘Equality Rocks”, a concert in Washington. To my great surprise, it was to no avail. Absolutely nothing came of it. It was one of many occasions over my
thirty yearcareer that….that have led me to believe that my place in society as a successful entertainer havetotally negated whatever I was trying to say…. Regardless, you have to try, don’t you :o)”
The writer/filmmaker Tomas Mournian continued to advocate for gay teens. and wrote the novel “Hidden” about kids who escaped from reparative therapies.
Through the years, George continued to speak about this issue. In 2012, he tweeted that he is hoping that “politicians trying to outlaw the ‘de-gaying’ of American teens are successful in their current attempts.”
And his efforts were not in vain. In 2012, gay to straight conversion therapy was banned in California. Other states that have banned the practice include New Jersey (2013), Oregon (2015), Illinois (2015), Vermont (2016), New Mexico (2017), Connecticut (2017), Rhode Island (2017), Nevada (2017), Washington (2018), Hawaii (2018), Delaware (2018), Maryland (2018), New Hampshire (2018), New York (2019), and Massachusetts (2019).
While more work needs to be done, George would have been proud to see that the tide is slowly turning. As fans of George, watch the documentary that he produced and learn more about the issue. It would prove that George’s efforts, albeit small, was a brave and courageous act that helped plant the seeds to stop the “de-gaying” of America’s gay youths.
- George Michael on Headlining ‘Equality Rocks’ (The Advocate, 2000)
- George Michael on Anselmo Feleppa
- George Michael: Unzipped (Marie Claire, 2004)
- Review of George Michael’s A Different Story
- George Michael Speech at Equality Rocks Concert (2000)