Every Friday this LGBTQ+ history month will see us look at and celebrate an iconic LGBTQ+ musician. This week's focus is on the man without whom no list of LGBTQ+ music icons would be complete: Mr. Fahrenheit himself, Freddie Mercury.
Is Freddie Mercury the most famous gay person ever to have lived? He's certainly up there and his status as the frontman of Queen is enough on its own to see him labelled as a gay icon. In fact, it's pretty much his only claim, as he didn't actually get involved much with the political aspect of the community.
Whether he was too busy, too shy, too lazy or just didn't care enough, we don't know, but for whatever reason, activism wasn't on Mercury's agenda. Known for not doing many interviews, the on-stage powerhouse was known to be a much quieter individual in his personal life and perhaps it was his willingness to stay out of the spotlight that meant he didn't take part in any activism.
Of course, there was another reason for his lack of spotlight. Mercury became the first big rock star to contract, and subsequently die of, HIV/AIDS. A victim of the crisis that was rampant throughout the 1980s (go watch It's A Sin if you haven't already), Mercury has been posthumously criticised for keeping his condition a secret (ish) until literally the eve of his death, with people saying that someone of his stature could have helped more in the fight against it. In that respect, it can be seen in a similar light to his lack of activism. Was Mercury loud enough about his sexuality and his disease, and if not, could he have done more to aid the community?
Well here's the thing: Mercury's very existence is, in itself, a statement. He is a legend to millions of people around the world simply for his musicianship, with many seeing him as the greatest rock singer of all-time. Indeed, his live performances were sensational, with his normally private persona being transformed into a bombastic machine of pure entertainment. My personal favourite fact about him is that he wrote 'Bohemian Rhapsody', arguably one of the greatest songs ever written, all on his own.
If anyone tries to tell me that gay men are lesser, I throw that in their face.
That Mercury was gay is a positive for gay rights activists all over the world. The idea of persecuting someone like him is simply unthinkable and that can be used to their advantage. His talent, his energy and his stature all prove that being gay does not affect who you are as a person and that it should not be considered immoral. Mercury's status as a gay icon isn't down to any kind of activism or support, but rather his talent and stature as a gay man.
Mercury's death helped bring light to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Since his death, his remaining bandmates have raised millions of pounds through the Mercury Phoenix Trust which have been donated various AIDS charities around the world. This means that though he didn't speak out much during his lifetime, his legacy led to a huge difference being made.
His contribution to the gay community was, then, minimal during his lifetime. However, as an artist and representative for what gay people were capable of (that being exactly the same as straight people), there are few greater people in history. Mercury's status as a gay icon is absolutely cemented, if only for his artistry...but in the case of such a man, that's probably enough.