When George Michael came out as gay on live TV and inspired a generation

11 October 2021, 16:00 | Updated: 20 July 2022, 10:45

George Michael speaks about his sexuality for first time in landmark 1998 interview. Picture: CNN

By Giorgina Ramazzotti

George Michael appeared on television in 1998 revealing he was gay for the first time and inspiring the world with the words: "I don’t feel any shame whatsoever."

George Michael had recently been arrested for propositioning an undercover policeman in a Beverley Hills park and, according to the journalist who interviewed him, wanted to bravely reveal the truth "in his own words and in his own way."

Before taking the courageous decision to discuss his sexuality on TV, George said he calmed down by reassuring himself: "You’re a human being. Just go on TV and get it sorted."

Read: George Michael secretly sang to dying "first love" in audience at Freddie Mercury tribute

The landmark interview with CNN starts with Jim Moret stating to George: "Your sexuality has been a focus of tremendous attention."

George responds: "Yeah, to some degree, with pop stars or film stars, we become the object of people’s self-definition, as well as the object of sexual definition."

"I think people like to think they can spot a gay person as opposed to a straight person because it makes them feel something … a little more defined in themselves. And if someone kind of is on the borderline, which I’ve always considered myself in terms of the way I appear to people.."

"You mean ambiguous?" Jim asks.

"Ambiguous, yeah," says George.

"My sexuality was not cut and dried," he continues.

Watch: George Michael's last concert - his final words were heartbreakingly poignant

"I spent the first half of my career being accused of being gay when I hadn’t had anything like a gay relationship. In fact, I was 27 before that happened to me.

George Michael speaking to Jim Moret in the famous CNN 1998 interview. Picture: CNN

"And then by the time I’d kind of worked out what it was and I’d stopped having relationships with women, I was just so indignant about the way I had been treated until then, I just thought, well, I’ll just hold on to this. They [the media] don’t need to know.

"I don’t think I should have to tell them. But, you know, this is as good a time as any.." he says.

Read more: George Michael's secret outstanding acts of generosity revealed after death

Jim asks him: "So, in unambiguous terms, what is it that you want to say?"

"I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man right now," George responds.

"I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost ten years."

George Michael and partner Kenny Goss. Picture: Getty
George Michael. Picture: Getty

He then goes on to assure his fans that there was "no bullsh*t" in his songs, and that he hasn't been dishonest about his sexuality.

"I do want people to know that the songs that I wrote when I was with women were really about women, and the songs I have written since have been fairly obviously about men," he states.

Read: Princess Diana's cherished friendships with George Michael, Bowie and Freddie Mercury in pictures

"I write about my life and I want people to know, especially people who loved the earlier stuff, especially if they were young girls at the time, there was no bullsh*t there.

Jim then asks George why he is opening up about his sexuality now, in the aftermath of his arrest.

"I’m a very proud man. I want people to know that I have not been exposed as a gay man in any way that I feel … I don’t feel any shame for...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. And neither do I think I should," he replies.

Read: George Michael's heartbreaking poetry at 11-years-old proves the star's early talent

Jim goes on to ask George about his life-changing reveal, saying: "Was it a difficult decision for you to come out publicly about being gay?"

"No. I knew I was going to do this from the moment I was arrested," George says.

"I knew that this was the only way to go. I’ve seen too many people run away from situations like this and I’m thinking “just go on TV; you’re a human being, just go on TV and get it sorted out as quickly as possible.”

George Michael "Too Funky" Video Shoot. Picture: Getty

He adds: "I define my sexuality in terms of the people that I love and my life right now is very happy living in a gay relationship.

"I’m very happy with that; I don’t look to the future and think I might change my sexuality because I’m hoping that my relationship is the one that is going to last me for the rest of my life.

Read: Andrew Ridgeley "misses" George Michael: Wham! bandmate opens up over grief

"Ultimately at the end of the day I’m not ashamed, I’m just pissed with myself for having been so stupid.

"And I’m perfectly prepared to believe that as long as I am truthful to myself and truthful to the people who are out there with my music then I have nothing to fear," he finishes.

Jim Moret has since said of the famous interview: "George Michael believed the British tabloids were going to out him as gay and he wanted to beat them to the punch and he came out to me, in his own words, in his own way,"

After coming out as gay, George Michael became a public activist for HIV and AIDS, shining a light on the plight of sufferers worldwide and donating millions to charitable causes throughout his life.