Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman of the rock band Queen, was one of the most influential performers in the history of pop culture. Despite his outsized personality and undeniable talent, however, Mercury struggled with his sexual orientation throughout his life.
Mercury was born in Zanzibar in 1946 and grew up in India before moving to England in his teens. It was there that he connected with Brian May and John Deacon, and Queen was formed. Coincidentally, “queen” is a slang word used to refer to a flamboyant or effeminate gay man. The band went on to become one of the biggest and most successful rock groups of all time, thanks in large part to Mercury’s powerful voice and unmatched stage presence.
Despite his success and public image as a charismatic rock star, Mercury struggled with his sexual orientation throughout his life. In an industry that is largely hostile towards LGBTQ+ people, Mercury faced pressure to hide his identity and sexual orientation. In addition, his family practiced a religion that considers homosexuality to be demon worship. According to Biography Mercury’s parents were told the male lovers at his home were gardeners. Mercury kept himself in the closet for his family and the public.
This was particularly challenging for a performer as famous and flamboyant as he was, and Mercury was often subject to rumors and speculation about his sexual orientation. Rather than having a PR relationship put in place by management, Mercury set up his own complicated love affair. He dated and eventually proposed to Mary Austin but she eventually called off the wedding. “I told him, ‘Something is going on and I just feel like a noose around your neck. I think it’s time for me to go,’” Austin once told OK! This was when he told her he was also attracted to men.
Mercury and Austin remained close friends and she traveled with him for shows even after their romantic relationship ended, allowing many to believe they were still a couple.
Some people have linked Freddie’s lyrics to the LGBTQIA+ community, including Bohemian Rhapsody. According to Tim Rice, a good friend of Mercury, the lyrics, Mama, just killed a man, could be Freddie saying he’s killed off his public image as a straight man. When bandmate Brian May was asked about the songs meaning he said, “I don’t think we’ll ever know, and if I knew I probably wouldn’t want to tell you anyway, because I certainly don’t tell people what my songs are about.” And, “Freddie was certainly battling with problems in his personal life, which he might have decided to put into the song himself. “
Freddie also spoke on the song’s meaning during an interview with Kenny Everett, a London DJ. When asked about the meaning of the song Freddie answered, “It’s one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them.”
In a 1985 interview with the British music magazine “The Record Mirror,” Mercury finally spoke out about his sexuality, stating, “I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear.” Despite this public declaration, Mercury remained deeply closeted for much of his career, for fear of the consequences of being openly gay in the public eye.
Perhaps Mercury would have come out later in his career if he had not passed away at such a young age. Peter Freestone, Mercury’s personal assistant once stated, “The reason he never spoke about himself was because immediately he made any statement to the press, it would reflect on the band. Freddie never wanted anything to take away from the image of Queen,” in regards to Mercury coming out. Freestone was a consultant for the film Bohemian Rhapsody, which openly shows Mercury as queer.
Freddie Mercury remains an iconic figure in the LGBTQ+ community. He remained true to himself and his music, even though he couldn’t be publicly out. He pushed against gender norms and his influence is still seen in both the music and fashion industry. His legacy continues to inspire and influence generations of fans and musicians, including Harry Styles who plays Bohemian Rhapsody before the start of his concerts.