freedom90closetUnbeknownst to me at the time, when he was forced out of the closet by law enforcement in April, 1998, George Michael became my destiny, just three years later. How could I know we would both be forced out of the closet by law enforcement?

I learned of George Michael’s bathroom sting when I was in Armenia, chasing a career to ever more obscure corners of loneliness. Court ordered therapy after my 2001 arrest taught me all my adventures abroad, all the by-design short term political gigs here at home, were really just me running from myself. When my therapist challenged all my career choices in this way, I exploded at her with anger. How dare she diminish my professional decisions by making them nothing but cowardly, subconsciously built-in good-byes, lest someone ever get too close and “find out”? By snapping at her, I proved her point.

The closet of the 80’s closed in most sharply during darkened dance hall days in the high school cafeteria, the club, the basement parties, frat house debauchery on campus visits to friends. Of course, I put a punctuation on it publicly, making Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” my big moment on the dance floor, entering the circle to cut that rug to shreds to the roar of the crowd.

Then nothing. Always, nothing. I made a habit of not just dancing alone, but with my eyes closed or sunglasses on, so I wouldn’t see anyone potentially checking me out, and no one, boy or girl, would see me checking them out. George Michael’s arrest in 1998 should have been the wake up call for me to get the fuck out of that trap, now. But The Closet isn’t so easily unlocked, and instead, became more hermetically sealed than ever.

sinatratogeorgemichaelBy his 1998 arrest, George had spent years throwing thinly veiled haymakers at that closet. Freedom 90 came the closest to breaking through mine. It was perhaps the last great music video of the MTV era. The lip-synched supermodel androgyny always drew blood with my heart; bisexual catnip. Thus, Freedom 90 was always hard to hear, dance to, hard to sing along, without cracking. When Frank Sinatra himself responded to Freedom 90 with his “man up” screed at the reluctant stardom of a closeted genius, you could hear Closet doors slam up tight.

Success always comes easy to straight males unhindered by living a life split in two. Toxic masculinity wasn’t yet a term, but here in Frank’s letter you hear its poison dripping down, Sinatra presuming to know what he never could. I’ve learned Frank Sinatra also couldn’t know the damage he was doing, just as my buddies’ making fag jokes all around me in high school had no idea what they were doing. Just the tragic circle of life requiring an endurance we either possess or do not.

Weariness from a constant struggle with themselves isn’t ever going to be a listed cause of death. This year, as so many of my youth’s icons of queer ambiguity have gone way before their time, maybe that weariness can be accounted for, somehow. In the meantime, I’ll just have to continue trying, over and over, to show Frank Sinatra how to buck up and be a man as below.