Australian country singer Michael Waugh has said he hid his sexuality for years after suffering intense homophobia growing up in regional Victoria.
The singer has released four albums since 2016 and won a Golden Guitar award earlier this year for 2021 record The Cast.
Speaking to News Corp, Waugh opened up about his decades-long struggle with crippling shame over his sexuality.
He explained he was bullied and bashed at his country high school and the experience “taught” him to hate the parts of himself that gave away his sexuality.
“For me, it was the way that I walked and the way that I talked and that I could not hide who I was,” he said.
“I hated my body for betraying me because it literally put me in positions of danger. There were places in the school that I couldn’t go to without fear of being beaten up.”
After one violent assault, Waugh recalled a teacher at the school suggesting the young Waugh had brought the assault on himself for joining the school play.
Even years on, the singer said, he “didn’t realise how loud those voices were still in my head.” For decades afterward, Waugh hid his sexuality.
But in early 2020, both his parents John and Eileen sadly died within six weeks of each other. Waugh then lost his brother Dan to cancer in late 2021.
The family losses made the singer-songwriter realise that “life was too short not to be me”.
“Especially watching my sister-in-law with my brother, in those last couple of days as we sat vigil with him,” he said.
“I thought, life is too short not to celebrate your love. The inspiration of that relationship … I just knew I had to be me.”
Michael Waugh pays tribute to Beccy Cole
Michael Waugh’s new single Four Square is out now, and he’s currently on an Australian tour.
Waugh said after coming out, he worried fans who “represented more traditional representations of masculinity” would lose their connection to his songs.
But he said he’d received messages of love and support from fans and the country music community.
“There’s a song about my dad, Dairy Farmer’s Son,” he explained.
“I remember this one show, this really big guy in the front row was just weeping. And says to me ‘I don’t cry. I don’t cry. And your story made it okay for me to do that’.”
Waugh also credited gay country music trailblazers like Beccy Cole as a big inspiration.
“Beccy is one of the inspirations that, okay, you can be you,” Waugh said.
“There’s also [fiddle player] Pixie Jenkins and John Williamson’s [late] manager David Woodward. I love they’re the pioneers of this space,” Waugh said.
“They made it more okay for me. But really it was about the voice in my head.
“You have to silence the voices in your own head before you can make your voice heard.”
Waugh added, “That queer little kid in Maffra felt like he was the only one going through this.
“What we do through the arts is to connect, to say you’re not alone.”
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.