George Michael is a butch dream: Lessons I’ve learned as a drag king

George Michael is a butch role model in aesthetic and attitude. Here’s why.


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I’m nine years old and in a flurry of wild excitement. I’m watching a young George Michael in dreamy pastel blue short-shorts run headlong towards me with boundless energy and effortless beauty. It’s a music video for Wham!’s 1984 single Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and the singer is this joyful combination of incredible softness and queer masculinity. For whatever reason, it struck a chord with the baby dyke in me. God, did I want a pair of those tiny shorts.

 

Photo by Lea L'Attentive

 

Many years later when I first started doing drag, I chose to perform the Wham! song I’m Your Man. I thought the title and chorus were perfect drag king fare, but I also already knew all the words due to my long-held obsession with the popstar’s swoony charm. The character I created – Georgeous Michael – has since taken on a life of his own. So when the singer passed away two years ago on Christmas Day, it was a shock, not just because it was unexpected. At 53, he was too young. 

 

Coming up to the anniversary of George Michael’s death, I’ve been thinking about his legacy for lesbians, butches and queers. There are certain cultural icons that can ignite a passion in us like nothing else, much like the intense fandom and love bestowed upon Madonna by gay men. Alongside George Michael are people like Freddie Mercury, Elvis, and Prince. These artists hold a special place in the beating hearts of dykes the world over. They are also frequently impersonated in the drag king circuit, a testament to their enduring allure. 

 

I see George Michael’s appeal as rooted in aesthetic and attitude, both of which I explore through my drag. It’s about finding a recognition, comfort and inspiration in the visual language of butch expression, regardless of gender. Whether knowingly or not, George Michael is hella appealing to dyke sensibilities. 

 

Photo by Sarah Scott/Sazee Photography

 

Faith-era George is probably the most overt example of this, and a look I draw on a lot in my drag. Those tight blue jeans and leather jacket, well-groomed stubble, Aviator glasses, and a single (perfect!) earring – the iconic shimmering cross with serious I’m-a-sex-god charisma (I would certainly worship at the Church of George). From the cowboy boots to the swept-back quiff, it’s perfectly executed soft masc divinity; a tough boy heartthrob. 

 

Or his many suits. Brightly coloured jackets that pop with 80s enthusiasm and the added emphasis of shoulder pads, a jacket and trouser combo in deep purple, or just a simple blueish grey with crisp white shirt underneath and a cheeky glimpse of chest (see the airbrushed pleasures of the video for Careless Whisper). In later years, George Michael even managed to rock a tracksuit. As a drag king, I love a good suit, and so do plenty of queers I know.

 

Photo by Lea L'Attentive

 

In attitude, George Michael is a true butch too. I think of his irreverent response to being arrested in 1998 for a “lewd act” in a Beverly Hills public toilet. When everyone expected him to slink away, tail between legs, he released the bold single Outside with an accompanying music video that brazenly celebrated sexual freedom. Spinning disco urinals and kinky coppers turned the Outside vid into the musical equivalent of putting two fingers up. 

 

George Michael made no apology for who he was - not for his sexuality, episodes of depression or enjoyment of anonymous sex. He taught me that queer culture can be rich, celebratory and decidedly not straight. And what’s more butch than that? 

 

Photo by Sarah Scott/Sazee Photography

 

@georgeousmichael

 

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