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George Michael hid his sexuality for years to protect his mother

George Michael - life of a music legend [Photos] Close

Wham's George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 30/03/84

Wham's George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 30/03/84

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George Michael with BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright. 31/08/90

George Michael with BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright. 31/08/90

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Princes Diana, Patron of the National Aids Trust talking to George Michael as Mick Hucknall looks on ahead of a concert of Hope at Wembley Arena in London, to mark World Aids Day. 01/12/93

Princes Diana, Patron of the National Aids Trust talking to George Michael as Mick Hucknall looks on ahead of a concert of Hope at Wembley Arena in London, to mark World Aids Day. 01/12/93

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George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham at Heathrow Airport before leaving for a tour of Japan. 05/01/85

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham at Heathrow Airport before leaving for a tour of Japan. 05/01/85

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George Michael outside his house in Highgate, north London, after being released from prison, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.  11/10/10

George Michael outside his house in Highgate, north London, after being released from prison, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 11/10/10

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George Michael collecting his Ivor Novello award at London's Grosvenor House for his album Faith to be international hit of the year, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 04/04/89

George Michael collecting his Ivor Novello award at London's Grosvenor House for his album Faith to be international hit of the year, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 04/04/89

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Paul McCartney  with George Michael performing during the LIVE8 Concert in Hyde Park, London, as George Michael has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure. 11/05/11

Paul McCartney with George Michael performing during the LIVE8 Concert in Hyde Park, London, as George Michael has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure. 11/05/11

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Wham's Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael (right). Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 08/10/84

Wham's Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael (right). Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 08/10/84

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George Michael leaving Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court in north London, after he appeared charged with driving under the influence of drugs after his car crashed into a high street shop.

George Michael leaving Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court in north London, after he appeared charged with driving under the influence of drugs after his car crashed into a high street shop.

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George Michael performing at Wembley Stadium in London, as the pop superstar has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure.

George Michael performing at Wembley Stadium in London, as the pop superstar has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure.

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George Michael of Wham performing at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London, as the pop superstar has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure.

George Michael of Wham performing at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London, as the pop superstar has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure.

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George Michael and Kenny Goss arriving for Attitude Magazine's 10th Birthday Party at the Atlantic Bar & Grill in central London. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

George Michael and Kenny Goss arriving for Attitude Magazine's 10th Birthday Party at the Atlantic Bar & Grill in central London. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

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File photo dated 24/08/10 of the Snappy Snaps store in Hampstead, north London, which George Michael crashed into in his Range Rover, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

File photo dated 24/08/10 of the Snappy Snaps store in Hampstead, north London, which George Michael crashed into in his Range Rover, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

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File photo dated 19/04/2000 of George Michael and Geri Halliwell arriving for the 95.8 Capital FM London Awards in London, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

File photo dated 19/04/2000 of George Michael and Geri Halliwell arriving for the 95.8 Capital FM London Awards in London, as the pop superstar has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

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File photo dated 11/04/99 of Tom Jones (left) and George Michael performing a duet during a tribute concert to Sir Paul McCartney's late wife Linda, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday December 25, 2016. See PA story DEATH Michael. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

File photo dated 11/04/99 of Tom Jones (left) and George Michael performing a duet during a tribute concert to Sir Paul McCartney's late wife Linda, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday December 25, 2016. See PA story DEATH Michael. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

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File photo dated 07/12/06 of George Michael performing at the Point Depot in Dublin, as the pop superstar has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 26, 2016. See PA story DEATH Michael. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

File photo dated 07/12/06 of George Michael performing at the Point Depot in Dublin, as the pop superstar has died at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 26, 2016. See PA story DEATH Michael. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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(FILES): This file photo taken on September 6, 1997 shows pop stars George Michael (L) and Elton John (R) leaving Westminster Abbey following the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales. 
British pop singer George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said on Sunday, December 25, 2016.
 / AFP PHOTO / AFP POOL / Adam ButlerADAM BUTLER/AFP/Getty Images

(FILES): This file photo taken on September 6, 1997 shows pop stars George Michael (L) and Elton John (R) leaving Westminster Abbey following the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales. British pop singer George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said on Sunday, December 25, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / AFP POOL / Adam ButlerADAM BUTLER/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

(FILES): This file photo taken on September 6, 1997 shows pop stars George Michael (L) and Elton John (R) leaving Westminster Abbey following the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales. 
British pop singer George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said on Sunday, December 25, 2016.
 / AFP PHOTO / AFP POOL / JOHNNY EGGITTJOHNNY EGGITT/AFP/Getty Images

(FILES): This file photo taken on September 6, 1997 shows pop stars George Michael (L) and Elton John (R) leaving Westminster Abbey following the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales. British pop singer George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said on Sunday, December 25, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / AFP POOL / JOHNNY EGGITTJOHNNY EGGITT/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

George Michael performing during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Olympic stadium in London.

George Michael performing during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Olympic stadium in London.

AFP/Getty Images

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 8, 2007 shows British pop star George Michael (L) arriving at Brent Magistrates Court in west London, as he faces charges of driving while unfit through drugs.
British pop singer George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said on December 25, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS YOUNGCHRIS YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 8, 2007 shows British pop star George Michael (L) arriving at Brent Magistrates Court in west London, as he faces charges of driving while unfit through drugs. British pop singer George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said on December 25, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS YOUNGCHRIS YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 09, 2007 shows British pop singer George Michael performing during his 25 Live concert at the Wembley Stadium in London.
George Michael died aged 53, according to his publicist on December 25, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 09, 2007 shows British pop singer George Michael performing during his 25 Live concert at the Wembley Stadium in London. George Michael died aged 53, according to his publicist on December 25, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Wham's George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley. Pop superstar Mr Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said. 30/03/84

In his later years George Michael was never one to be shy when it came to speaking out about his sexuality.

But it was not until a very public moment that one of the most famous pop stars in the world was outed as gay. In April 1998 Michael was caught engaging in a sexual act by an undercover police officer in a public toilet in Beverly Hills. He was handed a £500 fine and 80 hours' community service for the incident.

But his real punishment came from the Press and public reaction, spurred on by headlines such as the Sun's infamous Zip Me Up Before You Go Go front page.

Following the incident he went public with his sexuality and his relationship with US businessman Kenny Goss to CNN news.

He later admitted: "I had my very first relationship at 27 because I really had not actually come to terms with my sexuality until I was 24. I lost my partner to HIV, then it took about three years to grieve; then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed."

Michael made no qualms about admitting how hiding his sexuality for so many years had taken a serious toll on his mental health.

By the age of 19 the Wham! frontman had admitted to his sisters and close friends as well as his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley that he was bisexual, but was advised not to come out to his parents.

It was not until he was interviewed several years after his Beverly Hills arrest in 2007 that Michael said he had made the decision not to come out so as not to upset his mother, or have her worry about Aids.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he said that hiding his sexuality had made him feel "fraudulent". "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," he told programme present Kirsty Young.

"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."

The singer suffered from severe depression after his partner Anselmo Feleppa died in 1993 from an Aids-related illness, and his mother Lesley died a few years later.

"I struggled with huge depression after my mother died," he said some years later. "Losing your mother and your lover in the space of three years is a tough one." In a 2005 interview Michael opened up about the "12 years of depression and fear and lots of other s***" that followed.

"In terms of coming close to saying I don't want to live, that would have been after my mum died," he said.

"I had this overwhelming feeling that the best was behind me. I so loved my mum, and respected her. I swear to God, it was like I had a curse on me. I couldn't believe how much God was piling on at once.

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Lovers: Michael with Kenny Goss

Lovers: Michael with Kenny Goss

AFP/Getty Images

Lovers: Michael with Kenny Goss

"There was so much death around me, I can't tell you."

Despite personal and psychological struggles, Michael became almost as well-known for his outspoken views in support of gay rights as he was for his bestselling music - using his 1998 arrest as a platform from which to highlight and make light of common prejudices within society.

The video for Outside, the first song released by Michael after his Beverly Hills arrest, is a particularly strong work of satire.

Michael referred to the Beverly Hills incident with the lyric: "I'd service the community, but I already have, you see", and samples of radio reports of his arrest were used within the song.

In the same year Michael fronted a documentary about HIV to coincide with World Aids Day. The film, Staying Alive, focused on the experiences of six young people from different countries who were either infected with, or affected by, the HIV virus. He was also a passionate supporter of HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.

LGBT charity Stonewall tweeted its sadness at the news of his death, writing: "RIP George Michael. You inspired many and your music will live on in the hearts of the community.

"You will be sorely missed."

Belfast Telegraph