In April of 1998, pop star George Michael (who you may forever remember as half of Wham! if you're an old fogey like me) publicly came out as a gay man during an interview with CNN. When asked why he'd chosen to do so, he said, "I feel because I've already kind of done that -- haven't I? I've done that in a way I didn't really intend to."
He was referring to the fact that he'd just been arrested for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public restroom in Beverly Hills, California. In 2007, George Michael said that the years hiding his sexuality had made him feel "fraudulent," but in a recent interview with People, Michael admits that coming out wasn't even remotely his choice -- and that it would have been much easier to keep that part of his life private.
During his 1998 CNN interview, Michael said he wasn't ashamed of himself, but that he regretted how things had played out:
I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way.
Today he says that the forced coming out wasn't really the cathartic relief some might have believed it was:
For some strange reason, my gay life didn't get easier when I came out. Quite the opposite happened, really. The press seemed to take some delight that I previously had a 'straight audience,' and set about trying to destroy that. And I think some men were frustrated that their girlfriends wouldn't let go of the idea that George Michael just hadn't found the 'right girl' [yet]. Which is still what a lot of my extended family still think.
He also says he would never question anyone's decision about when or if they decide to come out:
Because it's about family. In the years when HIV was a killer, any parent of an openly gay person was terrified. I knew my mother well enough that she would spend every day praying that I didn't come across that virus. She'd have worried like that.
I see his point. I mean, obviously he wasn't just dealing with coming out back in 1998, he had that embarrassing arrest to contend with, which made the whole thing way more salacious than it should have been. (Perhaps he takes some solace in the fact that the results of Googling "George Michael arrest" these days are largely devoted to Arrested Development.) But the truth is, not everyone wants to come out. It seems like some activists put so much pressure on public figures to divulge that part of their lives, and while I understand that doing so can often help others, no one should feel like it's their civic duty to out themselves before they're ready.
After numerous arrests for drug-related charges over the years, George Michael says he's sober now, thanks to substance abuse counseling and a stint in rehab. As far as regrets go, it sounds like he's largely moved on from his past ... with the possible exception of some of his styling decisions from the '80s:
Where do I start? I know -- the blonde hair from my Wham! days. And I could have done without those curtain rings in my ears as well.'
Notably, he also regrets placing shuttlecocks down his shorts during performances on their first tour to make his package appear more impressive.
I mean, how stupid was that?
SHUTTLECOCKS. Who knew?
What do you think of George Michael's thoughts on coming out?
Image via GeorgeMichael.com