By Cece Flores
For as long as I can remember, Last Christmas has been my favourite Christmas song (yes it’s a Christmas song, that’s not up for debate because the word is right in the title). I don’t know what to tell you, I’m extremely emo and love a good falsetto. But more than just for the fact that it’s a poignant ballad about a holiday that always makes me feel alone, it meant a lot to me because George Michael wrote it.
I put myself onto George Michael after watching him perform Somebody To Love at a tribute concert for Freddie Mercury, my hero. I remember sitting there in complete awe hearing him crush those vocals, something I was sure no one was going to be able to do. That performance was only the beginning of my love and appreciation for George.
In the years that followed, I gave myself a complete education on this man who seemed like he was made of pure magic. Nobody seemed cooler, more confident or happier than George Michael in my eyes. He was unabashedly himself. He loved it as much as we did. Of course it wasn’t very hard to find evidence to the contrary. All you had to do was look at a tabloid cover or do a quick Google search to see his many accomplishments overshadowed by those same awful headlines.
Within just the first decade of his solo career he released a song with Aretha Franklin (!), had several chart topping singles and suffered the loss of his (then unknown to the public) lover. When he came out in 1998, he clarified that he was never ashamed of being gay but was afraid of how certain people might react. He also admitted suffering depression due to his initial denial. George had been with many women which lead him, at first, to believe that he was bisexual. He later stated that after falling in love with a man he’d realized that all the things he’d previously thought had been love, were not. He suffered addiction as well, which isn’t an uncommon comorbid disease in those of us living with some form of mental turmoil. While these were some of the very things that turned a growing section of the public off of George Michael, these were the things that solidified my solidarity.
I’ve known that I’m bisexual from a pretty early age. I didn’t find girls pretty the way my other girl friends did. I had a real, obsessive crush on Katie Holmes when I was 10. I didn’t see male or female, I saw people who were all equally attractive to me and couldn’t understand why that was “wrong.” So I kept it to myself. I even pretended to be grossed out about gay people, which I’m immensely ashamed of to this day, at my little Catholic school. I was already bullied for being somewhat overweight, spacey and bookish. Things that I now realize signal a child who is probably depressed. I never wanted anything more than to be understood but I couldn’t let anyone in. Not anyone I knew in real life, anyway.
The only things I could relate to were music and my addictions. I spent all of my teen years and half of my adult ones dating men and portraying myself as strictly hetero, all the while knowing deep down that something felt incomplete. I wasn’t sober for any of it. I came out to my last boyfriend with zero success. He rambled on about how bisexuals were greedy people who couldn’t just pick one side. Guess it didn’t help that I have I Want It All tattooed on the back of my neck— hey Freddie! We’ve since broken up and I’ve remained largely celibate. I also reached one year of sobriety so I really wanted 2016 to be the year I explored and committed to being my true self.
When Christmas rolled around and I heard about George Michael’s passing I was struck with a grief so big that I managed to cry while listening to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, no small feat. I felt like the world was spinning so fast I might fall off. I remembered quotes from interviews, lyrics from songs, describing hidden anguish. I opened my diary from when I was 14 years old. “Sometimes you happen to exist in spaces where it’s hard to actually be yourself, though people might tell you to.” I sat down and added this:
“Maybe it’s by finally being the self you know you are, and not the self they might want you to be, that will set you free of their chains. Maybe you’re not sure you want to take that chance, wind up deserted. But maybe you’ll find Your People once you do. This isn’t a mistake, you’re probably strong enough to face it, but strength can only come from your truth, not your fear. So tell them.”
And that’s what I did. I marched up the stairs of my family home and came out right in the middle of Christmas dinner. I was met with some uncomfortable laughs, lots of looking away. I stood my ground, awkwardly, repeating “I’m gay. The most gay. I’m seriously gay.” And it was finally understood, and it was no longer inside of me, and I could hear Freedom ‘90 softly playing in my head.
It took a singing Greek to empower me. I hope that if you find yourself in a similar predicament, you find something that speaks to you and tells you that you’re gonna be alright.
Cece is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.