Ottawa

Ottawa's gay community mourns loss of George Michael

Members of Ottawa's gay community are mourning the loss of British pop star George Michael, calling him an "inspiration" and a "queer icon" for people questioning their own sexuality.

'I think he was an inspiration for a lot of gay people'

George Michael performs at a 2008 concert in Inglewood, Calif. The 53-year-old pop star died "over the Christmas period," according to his family. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

Members of Ottawa's gay community are mourning the loss of British pop star George Michael, calling him an "inspiration" and a "queer icon" for people questioning their own sexuality.

"I'm glad that George Michael was there because I think he was an inspiration for a lot of gay people," said Drake Jensen, an openly gay country singer.

Michael, who had a string of hits with 1980s duo Wham before forging his own solo career, died at his home in Goring, England "over the Christmas period," according to a statement from his family.

Jensen said his mother loved Michael's music, and that was part of the reason he decided to tell his friends and family that he too was attracted to men.

Ottawa country music singer Drake Jensen says that George Michael was part of the reason he decided to tell his family he was gay. (Robyn Miller)

"So I'm thinking, 'OK, mom's listening to this. So it must be OK," Jensen said Monday.

"That was inspirational, to know that there was somebody at that level that was an advocate for lots of different things in the gay community."

The British singer is being remembered for his music, but also for the controversies that flared up during his career.

In 1998, Michael was fined and forced to do community service for "engaging in a lewd act" at a public park in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The media speculation that surrounded the incident forced the singer to become more publicly explicit about being gay.

Ottawa political commentator Ian Capstick said he was in his teens, questioning his own sexuality, when the incident made headlines.

He called Michael a "queer icon" who was taken way too soon.

"I think for a lot of young gay men who grew up in the 80s or 90s, he was the one icon who you could look at and say he was one of us," said Capstick, the founder of a public affairs agency in Ottawa.

"He never apologized and he didn't need to, and that's pretty awesome," Capstick added. "That's pretty incredible and that's a hell of a legacy to leave for people like myself."