Singer of cult classics like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Careless Whisper and Last Christmas, George Michael passed away at his home on Christmas day. He was 53. Born in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents, George’s real name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. Initially part of the popular band Wham! George went on to become a superstar solo artist and his songs continue to be popular till date. But the legacy that George Michael has left behind is primarily that of a gay icon. He came out of the closet in an era when openly gay celebrities were rare and the LGBTQ movement was still in its relatively nascent stages. Along with Ellen DeGeneres, George Michael was one of the few big stars who openly spoke about their homosexuality in the 1990s.
Michael was aware of his sexuality by the age of 19, and had confided in his close friends and his sister but were advised by them not to reveal the same for fear of upsetting his parents, especially his mother. Finally, the reveal was taken out of his hands since an undercover operation by a police officer resulted in his coming out to the media. But he refused to cow down or be shamed by the same. He spoke to CNN in 1998, "This is as good of a time as any. I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I'm in a relationship with a man right now. I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost 10 years. I don't feel any shame. I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way. But I don't feel any shame whatsoever.”
For many youngsters who struggled with their sexuality, George’s open acceptance was a huge factor in giving them the courage to face the stigma and fight against the ostracism that they faced from society, and they have still not forgotten, as is obvious from the tweets below.
Sad to hear that George Michael has died. He was an exceptional artist and a strong supporter of LGBT and workers' rights.
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) December 26, 2016
George Michael RIP. You soundtracked so many moments, and your visibility and pride helped 90s LGBT kids like me realise we weren't alone.
— Robbie de Santos (@robbieds) December 26, 2016
We've lost a great LGBT role model in George Michael, 2016 needs to cut it out already. Got have faith that 2017 will be better #RIPGeorge
— Shay-Shay Beekay 🎅 (@shay_nanigans) December 25, 2016
#GeorgeMichael was gay at a time when it wasn't cool or easy. He fought his way through the homophobia and created songs of an era. RIP.
— DavidMichaelBarrett (@DavidMBarrett) December 26, 2016
Thank you George Michael for being a trailblazer of #LGBTQ equality and acceptance. You will be missed.
— It Gets Better (@ItGetsBetter) December 26, 2016