Why George Michael Kept His Homosexual Lifestyle Secret?

Andrew Johnson

The pop singer George Michael has revealed how years of hiding his homosexuality from the public took a deep psychological toll - but he did it so his mother wouldn't have to worry about Aids.

Speaking on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, the songwriter, who has sold more than 100 million records and is the most played artist on British radio, gave an unusually candid interview, during which he discussed drug-taking, his sexuality, the price of fame and the death of his first lover.

Michael, the son of Cypriot immigrants, who has always had a difficult relationship with the press and has been guarded about his personal life, admitted to presenter Kirsty Young that he is "ridiculously ready to say these things now".

He said hiding his sexuality made him feel "fraudulent", and his eventual outing, when he was arrested for soliciting sex in a public toilet in Los Angeles in 1998, was a subconsciously deliberate act.

"What people have to acknowledge ... is that there's a level of honesty that's natural to me [and] that I'm uncomfortable with anything else," Michael said.

"So firstly, understand how much I love my family and that Aids was the predominant feature of being gay in the 1980s and early 90s as far as any parent was concerned ... 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."

He added that he came out to some people, including one of his two sisters, when he was 19, but friends advised him not to tell his parents.

"Then Aids changed everything. I was too immature to know I was sacrificing as much as I was," he says.

He also spoke about his community service following his recent conviction for driving while under the influence of sleeping pills, which has seen him work with mentally ill and homeless people.

Michael spoke of his early career, claiming that a bang on the head when he was eight led to an obsession with music.

He added he "resents" the success of his career which "never seems to suffer".

"I never had any feeling that my talent was going to let me down. [My career] never seems to suffer. I suffer around it - bereavement, public humiliations - but my career just seems to right itself like a duck in the bath."

Michael said that when he had his first hit with Andrew Ridgeley as Wham! at the age of 18, it was wonderful for a time, but the experience of fame quickly soured.

"For a while it was just magical," he said.

"With your best mate, playing out your fantasies. It was just a dream. I was supremely confident I was writing pop classics but I was also supremely aware that if I left the imagery a little bit more to Andrew, kids loved it.

"Then we were massively successful and I went from being Andrew's shadow as a sexually confident being to being the centre of attention. At that level I lost all my confidence. I suddenly felt like a fake, so the whole thing turned me into somebody who felt the camera was my enemy."

Among his current musical selections are Amy Winehouse, Nirvana and Rufus Wainwright.

Of Wainwright's Going to a Town, he says: "It really lays into the Bush administration, talking about America soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood. Fantastic lyrics."

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