At first glance, the song “Outside” by late singer, songwriter and prominent LGBT activist George Michael may seem as just a song about scandalous sex, but the song holds a lot more significance than it seems, not just to George Michael fans, but to the LGBT community and even the singer himself.

20 years ago in 1998, Michael was outed as gay after he was arrested in a public bathroom in Beverly Hills for “engaging in a lewd act” (Cornwell, 1998). According to the British social attitudes survey about views on homosexuality, during the year that Michael was arrested, only 23% of participants opted that homosexuality “was not wrong at all” (British Social Attitudes, 2013). Even during that period of time where being gay was largely seen as morally wrong, Michael did not let himself be consumed by shame. Although his arrest fuelled the bigoted views of homophobes, Michael took charge of the mistake he made, expressing remorse for his action, but not his sexuality.

He then wrote and performed the song “Outside”, the song and its music video unabashedly satirizing his arrest. Again, this was his way of acknowledging the events that happened while reclaiming his sexuality and letting others know that he felt no shame in being gay. It was this pride and defiance that defined him as a gay icon to many of the LGBT community, putting him in the same league as other gay icons such as Cher, Grace Jones and Freddie Mercury, all who deviated societal norms and expectations regarding gender and sexuality, as they mirrored the struggles that LGBT people faced in their daily lives.

To elaborate on why George Michael became a pivotal icon among the LGBT community: Coming out is a very personal and heterogenous experience for every person. Michael’s coming out provided support for many gay men, both of those who were already out, or those who had yet to come out, only being able to to internalise their fear and shame. Seeing the famous singer turn what would otherwise be crippling embarrassment into a moment of self discovery was empowering.

Michael’s coming out was a testament to the degree of self-acceptance that he’d achieved. Griffith and Hebl (2002) suggest that self-acceptance plays an important role in gay/lesbian individuals, as it provides for “better coping skills in dealing with prejudice”. This prejudice is in reference to to homophobia, imposed on by heteronormativity in a predominantly heterosexual culture. Herek, Cogan, Gillis and Glunt (1997) also observe that lesbians and gay men typically hold negative impressions about themselves when they begin to recognize their own homosexuality in any part of their lives. Such negative feelings are also known as internalized homophobia, and often undermine a person’s efforts to come to terms with their own deviance from the heteronormative standards that are more “commonplace”. Even worse, a person might even express their internalized homophobia as disapproval of other members of the LGBT community, besides themselves.

Even though current society is more accepting of the LGBT community than it was a decade ago, coming out is still a milestone on its own, and one would still be doing it at the mercy of a society that is still predominantly heterosexual. Parris (2013) explains the situation very aptly:

“…it’s society’s business to snoop, to root out, to shame publicly and to punish homosexuality, the forces of intolerance now realise they’ve lost that battle. But they haven’t stopped hating, and their new cry is this: “Why don’t you just shut up about it? Who asked what you get up to in bed, anyway? Your private life is your own affair but please stop ramming it down our throat [snigger, snigger] . . .” and so on.

Even if a gay person were out of the proverbial closet, he would be expected by society to sanitise his homosexuality. However, Michael’s refusal to “censor” his own sexuality put courage in the hearts of many who were like him, and made their lives all the more tolerable. George Michael was a gay man, and that was that.


British Social Attitudes (2013). Homosexuality. Retrieved March 3, 2018 from

ornwell, T. (1998). George Michael arrested over ‘lewd act’. Retrieved March 3, 2018 from

georgemichaelVEVO (2009). George Michael – Outside (Official Video). Retrieved March 3, 2018 from

Griffith, H.K., Hebl, M. (2003). The Disclosure Dilemma for Gay Men and Lesbians: Coming Out at Work. The Journal of applied psychology. 87. 1191-9. 10.1037/0021-9010.87.6.1191.

Herek, G.M., Cogan, J. C., Gillis, J.R., Glunt, E. K. (1997). Correlates of Internalized Homophobia in a Community Sample of Lesbians and Gay Men. Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. (2), 17–25.

Parris, M. (2013). ‘Tom Daley has found the courage to come out. I wish I had’ Retrieved March 3, 2018 from