Ge­orge Michael: From clos­eted life to gay rights ad­vo­cate

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Pop su­per­star Ge­orge Michael con­cealed his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, as well as the trauma of his boyfriend's death, for years but later be­came a gay rights ad­vo­cate and a ma­jor sup­porter of HIV cam­paigns. Michael, who died Sun­day at 53, only came out as a gay man in 1998 -nearly two decades into his ca­reer-af­ter be­ing caught in a po­lice sting in­volv­ing a "lewd act" in a pub­lic bath­room in a park in Bev­erly Hills, Cal­i­for­nia. His sex­u­al­ity was by then an open se­cret in show busi­ness but Michael said he did not go pub­lic so as not to worry his mother be­cause of fears about the AIDS virus in the gay com­mu­nity at the time.

"Un­der­stand how much I love my fam­ily and that AIDS was a pre­dom­i­nant fea­ture of be­ing gay in the 1980s and early 1990s as far as any parent was con­cerned," he told BBC Ra­dio in an in­ter­view in 2007. "My mother was still alive and ev­ery sin­gle day would have been a night­mare for her think­ing what I might have been sub­jected to," ex­plained Michael. Ini­tially con­fused about his sex­u­al­ity, Michael said he re­alised he was gay by the end of the 1980s.

His 1987 hit "I Want Your Sex" was banned from many ra­dio sta­tions for its sex­u­ally charged video and lyrics, which ap­peared to hint at ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. "There's things that you guess/ And things that you know/ There's boys that you can trust/ And girls that you don't," Michael sings. "There's lit­tle things you hide."

'Couldn't tell'

At a con­cert in Rio de Janeiro in 1991, he met Anselmo Feleppa, a Brazil­ian dress de­signer who be­came his first love. "It's very hard to be proud of your sex­u­al­ity when it hasn't given you any joy, but once you have found some­body you re­ally love it's not so tough," Michael told the Huff­in­g­ton Post in an in­ter­view. Six months into the re­la­tion­ship, they dis­cov­ered Feleppa was HIV-pos­i­tive a dev­as­tat­ing blow for Michael. "I couldn't go through it with my fam­ily be­cause I didn't know how to share it with them-they didn't even know I was gay. I couldn't tell my clos­est friends be­cause Anselmo didn't want me to," he said.

Feleppa died of an AIDS-re­lated brain haem­or­rhage in 1993. When­ever per­form­ing the sin­gle "Je­sus To A Child" from the al­bum "Older" (1996), Michael ded­i­cated it to Feleppa and the singer later said the en­tire al­bum was a trib­ute to his late part­ner. "Heaven sent/ And Heaven stole/ You smiled at me/ Like Je­sus to a child," Michael sings. He said of the al­bum: "To many fans and the peo­ple that were re­ally lis­ten­ing, I felt like I was trying to come out with them".

'Abuse, ho­mo­pho­bic lan­guage'

Michael later told the BBC his ar­rest in 1998 may have been "a sub­con­sciously de­lib­er­ate act" to out him­self and said he wished he had gone pub­lic sooner. "I don't think I would have had the same ca­reer-my ego might not have been sat­is­fied in some ar­eas-but I think I would have been a hap­pier man," he said.

Fol­low­ing a se­ries of run-ins with the law, Michael told one in­ter­viewer in 2011 that he blamed him­self for "let­ting young gay kids down" with his an­tics. "My be­hav­ior meant these kids suf­fered abuse and the ho­mo­pho­bic lan­guage that is le­gal in this coun­try," he said. The same year that he came out as gay, Michael be­gan his pub­lic ac­tivism by help­ing with a doc­u­men­tary about six young peo­ple af­fected by the HIV virus to coin­cide with World Aids Day. As part of his phi­lan­thropy-much of it un­der the radar-he was also a ma­jor sup­porter of the Ter­rence Higgins Trust, a Bri­tish HIV char­ity.

"His do­na­tions con­trib­uted to a vi­sion of a world where peo­ple liv­ing with HIV live healthy lives free from prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion," the char­ity said in a Face­book post yes­ter­day. The gay rights group Stonewall said on Twit­ter: "You in­spired many and your mu­sic will live on in the hearts of the com­mu­nity. You will be sorely missed". — AFP

In this July 2, 2005, file photo, Ge­orge Michael, left, and Paul McCart­ney, right, per­form dur­ing the Live 8 con­cert in Hyde Park, Lon­don.

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