'I Never Had a Problem with Being Gay': George Michael, LGBT Rights Champion, Remembered

Singer came out after he was arrested in 1998 for engaging in 'a lewd act' in front of an undercover police officer in Beverly Hills

By BTL STAFF

George Michael will be remembered for his work as a prominent gay rights campaigner as well as for his glittering pop career, the Guardian reports.

The performer, who died from heart failure on Christmas Day aged 53, had been a fervent support of LGBT issues, with some of his most famous solo work referencing his sexuality.

He came out as gay following his arrest in April 1998 for engaging in "a lewd act" in front of an undercover police officer in Beverly Hills. He was fined PS500 and ordered to do 80 hours' community service for the incident, sparking the Sun headline "Zip Me Up Before You Go Go".

He later said: "I never had a moral problem with being gay. I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a couple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and realized that none of those things had been love."

In a 2007 interview, Michael spoke about why he felt he had to keep his sexuality a secret: "My mother was still alive and every single day would have been a nightmare for her thinking what I might have been subjected to. I'd been out to a lot of people since 19. I wish to God it had happened then. I don't think I would have the same career - my ego might not have been satisfied in some areas - but I think I would have been a happier man."

Michael admitted in an interview that his late 20s had been a very depressing time for him after he lost his partner, the designer Anselmo Feleppa, to an Aids-related illness in 1993.

He said: "I had my very first relationship at 27 because I really had not actually come to terms with my sexuality until I was 24. I lost my partner to HIV then it took about three years to grieve; then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed."

He fronted a documentary about HIV to coincide with World Aids Day the year he came out. The film, Staying Alive, focused on the experiences of six young people from different countries who were either infected with or affected by the HIV virus.

He was also a passionate supporter of the HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. LGBT charity Stonewall tweeted its sadness at the news of his death, saying:

"R.I.P. George Michael. You inspired many and your music will live on in the hearts of the community. You will be sorely missed x"

Robbie de Santos, Stonewall's head of campaigns, added:

"George Michael RIP. You soundtracked so many moments, and your visibility and pride helped 90s LGBT kids me realize we weren't alone."

Fellow campaigner, the American singer Miley Cyrus, said:

"Miss you already! Thank you for your radical activism in the LGBTQ community! Love you always! @happyhippiefdn"

The Guardian columnist Owen Jones tweeted:

"RIP George Michael, an inspiration to gay men who told homophobia where to go stick itself."

Buzzfeed UK's LGBT editor, Patrick Strudwick, added:

"Having come out, he didn't conform to the polite, desexualized notion of gay. He told the media that he was living with his boyfriend Kenny Goss but they enjoyed an open relationship and he had a voracious sexual appetite. 'You only have to turn on the television to see the whole of British society being comforted by gay men who are so clearly gay and so obviously sexually unthreatening. Gay people in the media are doing what makes straight people comfortable, and automatically my response to that is to say I'm a dirty filthy fucker and if you can't deal with it, you can't deal with it.' Reasons to love George Michael #4768 - he didn't give a fuck about your dreary, cosy, sexless values."


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