At the age of 22, I was proud to have been drunk out of my mind more times than any human liver should be able to physically tolerate even after fifty years of enjoying the demon in the bottle. At the age of 23 and the time of this writing, I have had more sex partners than as many people on Friday night lineup waiting to order at Pink’s Hot Dogs in La Brea. At this same tender age, I have also had the chance to live in a foreign country to study theater arts and enjoy both the eye-opening experiences of life in a Southeast Asian country and the hedonistic urge of night life in the very same Southeast Asian country, one where its LGBT community is as active as it is scorned and ridiculed by the conservative masses. Of the plethora of experiences of my youth, none have included ever listening to George Michael’s music or even knowing much about his importance in the LGBT community, my community, and a part of my identity.
So as a privileged white (as far as I know it) gay lad from Virginia and well-educated to boot, I took it upon myself to straighten up (no, not like that) this crooked little vein of never heard and never knew. A few Google searches and some YouTube playlists later, I am looping “Last Christmas” for like the hundred and tenth time and devouring tidbits about George Michael, and printing out his quote from a 2005 interview with Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian,
“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.”
I am also finding a lot of people quoting from Twitter: “I have never and will never apologise [sic] for my sex life! Gay sex is natural, gay sex is good! Not everybody does it, but … ha ha!”
Without knowing it, the life that I live and the fearless (borderline arrogant) pride I have to be a young openly gay man with no shame about his sex life was inarguably and directly influenced by George Michael, and I had never put one thought to how much I owe this man for the way I am. I never knew he was responsible for “Last Christmas” that my older sister always plays every December that I loved, and never even knew how life was like outside of being loud and proud, because fuck what people think of me, I am definitely not thinking about them unless I’m getting something out of them or into them.
George Michael is my hero, and I never knew he was always my hero until I read about it merely hours ago. In him, I see me, and in me, I am a generation of pride that owes a serious debt of gratitude whether we know it or not for his boldness and openness. If it weren’t for icons like him not being afraid to be loud and proud, would I have found myself influenced the same way outside of gay meccas like San Francisco, Sydney, Amsterdam, or Berlin? Maybe, if only at least online or on campus.
He lived a short and fast life, and he went out doing what he wanted, a lot like me and a number of my peers. I am neither anti-drug or pro-drug for the sake of this editorial, but I will say that I can’t avoid a moment of rejoicing in the halcyon memories of reckless youth, though one retroactive and retrospective moment would at least advise my past self to do so in moderation–knowing full well that I will heed that advicetomorrow, and tomorrow again, because I still have more tomorrows ahead of me than I do have yesterdays behind me, and who cares about yesterday when we have now?
George Michael, perhaps you knew more because you were older and wiser, and had a different circle than mine, but I for one am wiser and sadder that I no longer have the fantasy of meeting you and thanking you for what you have done for us, and only in your passing, do I realize why you are an icon to us in the LGBT community. If I have one wish besides for you to rest in peace, please forgive me, for I must make a selfish wish, in that I wish to know who else is influential to us and for the generation after me to know others like you as well before your inevitable passing, because yesterday’s issues are what make today’s freedoms all the more salacious. In the meanwhile, I will be messaging my friends your quotes (that I only discovered this afternoon) and printing out photos of your face to decorate my co-working space, regardless of what my neighbors think while they hiding in the solace of their earphones.