No. I remember distinctly the message I got from the top down was that being gay was detrimental to sales. It was never stated, but heavily implied. You could tell it was the topic of many discussions, and I was marketed in a way that appealed to women. It was the period when Ricky Martin had women on his arms at events, and Ellen’s career was torn apart by coming out.
I don’t know if people realized, but in press when I was asked about my sexuality, I never denied being gay. I always said the only acceptable answer in 1997, which was “I’d prefer not to talk about my private life" -- which was code for "of course I’m gay.” Journalists knew I was gay, my entire record company did. I just didn’t feel ready, emotionally to be on the cover of People magazine saying, “I’m gay!.”
My coming to terms with my sexuality was a painful process for me. I was very confused and I wanted children and I’d been married to a woman and was sad and confused for much of my Savage Garden career. Had I been outed or forced to go on the record, I honestly don’t know if I’d be here today. I was extremely depressed and sometimes suicidal back then. I always say that coming out has to be on your terms. It has nothing to do with career -- being outed is about being forced to be confident and comfortable in your skin before you are ready to.
When did you know you were gay?
I mean, deep in my subconscious I probably knew when I was a very young child, but I was conditioned to hide those instincts. Little things like being corrected if I said I thought a boy was “cute” or being mocked for wanting to be Wonder Woman -- although my beautiful Mother did make me a ‘Wonder Man’ outfit! You don’t know you’re gay until someone else tells you. At least that was my experience. It was something I kind of shelved and then life happened and I fell in love with my female best friends. One of which I married.
The first time I consciously knew I might be gay was sometime during promotion for the first Savage Garden album. I was traveling the world and meeting obviously gay men, or men that were gay, but didn’t fit the small stereotype the media had portrayed to me. I remember thinking maybe I was gay but I didn’t do anything about it. At my Australian record label I recall having what I thought was a secret crush on an advertising executive named Justin. I thought no one knew.
My publicist at the time got me aside and bluntly asked me, “Are you gay?” I was so taken aback. I showed her my wedding ring and said “I’m married!” and she said, “How come you blush every time Justin walks in the room?” It was the first time anyone had ever seen behind my facade, exposed something so secret that I didn’t even admit it to myself.
That’s when the conversation started, and truthfully it was a painful journey. I didn’t want to be gay. I loved my wife, we were trying to have children and I knew I was going to lose the fantasy of a white picket fence and the family I wanted that I’d never had as a child. It was a year of marriage counseling and conversations with our families before we realized I had to live a different life. I came out before I’d even held a man’s hand, let alone kiss a man!