How Elton John became an LGBTQ advocate and icon
12 June 2021, 16:00
We take a look at how Reginald Dwight became one of most famous openly gay musicians of all time and how he positively impacts the LGBTQ community to this day.
June is Pride Month, a time of the year when we celebrate LGBTQ+ people across the globe.
However, it isn't just a time to look back at the rich history of the community, but it's also an opportunity to raise awareness of issues still affecting its members today- many of whom still face prejudice and discrimination across the world.
Elton John is a huge advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and is undoubtedly one of the most famous openly gay musicians of all time... but it wasn't always that way.
When did Elton John come out as gay?
Elton John officially came out as gay to Rolling Stone magazine in 1992, but his romantic relationships before this weren't so simple.
In 1969, Elton John was engaged to be married to his first girlfriend Linda Woodrow, but he ended the relationship two weeks before their wedding date.
Elton and his writing partner Bernie Taupin penned the 1975 track Someone Saved My Life Tonight about the experience. The "someone" in the title is thought to be friend Long John Baldry, who along with friends, convinced Elton not to marry Linda and pursue his music career instead.
In 2019 - the same year the icon's Rocketman biopic was released - Linda (whose surname is now Hannon) told Good Morning Britain: "We decided to get married. We went and we found a flat in Mill Hill. We bought furniture for it.
"I went off to the antiques store and bought myself an engagement ring, because neither him or Bernie (Taupin) had any money. so I was kind of having to support them.
"His mother had ordered the wedding cake and it's true what the song says. He did come back at 4 o'clock in the morning and tell me that it was over."
In 1970, Elton John began his first gay affair with the music manager John Reid. Their relationship - which is depicted in Rocketman - ended five years later, but Reid remained Elton's manager until 1988.
Though this did not mark the end of Elton John's heterosexual romantic relationships, he did go on to be a trailblazer soon after by discussing his sexuality publicly for the first time ever.
In 1976, Elton John came out as bisexual in Rolling Stone magazine, where he featured on the cover.
During the interview the Your Song singer bravely declared: "There’s nothing wrong with going to bed with somebody of your own sex. I think everybody’s bisexual to a certain degree. I don’t think it’s just me. It’s not a bad thing to be. I think you’re bisexual. I think everybody is."
In the same interview, Elton revealed that he still craved love and attention and shared his then-belief that a loving relationship would last longer with a woman.
Elton John met German recording engineer Renate Blauel in 1983 while the star was finishing his Too Low for Zero album, and they quickly became close friends. After travelling with her on the Australian leg of his tour of the same name, Elton John proposed to Blauel.
The couple wed on Valentine's Day 1984 in St. Mark's Church the area of Darling Point in Sydney, Australia.
They were married for four years, but the pair divorced in 1988 and Blauel largely retreated from the public eye.
It was after this marriage that Elton John was to break down even more boundaries, telling Rolling Stone in 1992 that he was "quite comfortable being gay”.
In the same year, the piano man founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation to help fight disease which had affected so many in the community, including his friends Ryan White and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
The Tiny Dancer singer has since raised hundreds of millions for the cause, hosting galas and balls as well has his famous annual Academy Award Party since 1993, while using his public profile to raise awareness of the disease and provide funding for education and research.
It was also in 1993 that Elton John was to begin the most important relationship of his life after meeting former advertising executive and now filmmaker David Furnish.
The couple have gone on to be crucial advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, speaking out in favour of same sex marriage, and of course being among the first to tie the knot themselves.
The pair were among some of the very first couples to have a civil partnership in the United Kingdom, getting hitched on 21 December 2005 (the very day the Civil Partnership Act came into force).
They have since been married, tying the knot again on 21 December 2014 - the ninth anniversary of their civil partnership. They share two sons; Zachary Jackson Furnish-John and Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John.
Being happily married for many years, Elton John now seeks to help many others to do the same. In 2017, he urged Australians to vote in favour of same sex marriage, taking to Instagram to share an image of his husband on their wedding day while addressing his first marriage to Blauel.
He wrote: "Many years ago, I chose Australia for my wedding to a wonderful woman for whom I have so much love and admiration. I wanted more than anything to be a good husband, but I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness, and caused me huge guilt and regret."
He continued: "To be worthy of someone's love, you have to be brave enough and clear eyed enough to be honest with yourself and your partner."
The legend added: "For David and I, being able to openly love and commit to one another, and for that to be recognised and celebrated is what makes life truly worth living."
View this post on Instagram
I'm so excited to be back in Australia for a series of shows. Many years ago, I chose Australia for my wedding to a wonderful woman for whom I have so much love and admiration. I wanted more than anything to be a good husband, but I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness, and caused me huge guilt and regret. To be worthy of someone's love, you have to be brave enough and clear eyed enough to be honest with yourself and your partner. Almost 24 years ago, I met the person with whom I could be fully myself. When we married in 2014, it felt like that fact was accepted by the world. For David and I, being able to openly love and commit to one another, and for that to be recognised and celebrated is what makes life truly worth living. That acceptance and support makes us want to be as kind, responsible and productive members of society, as well as the best parents, that we can be. I love Australia. I love its spirit, its lack of pretence, its passion. I hope it can embrace the honesty and courage that seeks gay marriage as an expression not of desire but of love. #loveislove #marriageequality @davidfurnish
If anything, finding love and happiness with David Furnish has made Elton more vocal on LGBT rights than ever.
As an openly gay artist, and one of the biggest singer-songwriters of our time, Elton John has often talked about how proud he is to be gay and also offered advice to the LGBTQ youth.
In 2019, when asked in an interview with Variety what he'd say to any LGBTQ kids struggling right now, he responded: "Just be yourself. Don't let anybody do you down.
"I've been very privileged, because I'm in a business that accepts gay people, although I came out pretty early... I'm very privileged. There are kids that aren't privileged. They come from poor backgrounds. Their parents don't understand. Religion gives them a hard time."
He continued: "If you're unhappy at home, leave. Leave. Don't let anybody torture you for being gay or for your sexuality. Leave. Life is full of adventures. Always have hope in your heart, stay away from drugs and just try to be as true to yourself as possible".
He declared: "It's wonderful to be gay. I love being gay. I really do. I think I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had if I hadn’t been gay. And I’m very proud of that. I'm very proud that I can appreciate that.
"I was never uncomfortable being gay. I didn't know I was gay until I was 23, so I mean I got off to a very slow start [...] and I made up for lost time.
"Be proud of who you are. There are so many wonderfully diverse people in the world. Straight people, gay people, transgender people. We're all God's kids".
Elton John's journey to becoming an out gay man may be a long and complex one, but the legendary singer-songwriter has long been an icon and a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ community and will be for many years to come.
If you would like to find out more, need support or wish to donate to LGBTQ+ causes, visit the following:
Tel: 0345 330 3030
LGBTi Equality: Amnesty International
Tel: 0300 330 0630
0207 263 7070