Why the loss of this troika means we must assemble more troops in the fight against toxic masculinity

In Christmas Day, 2016, George Michael passed away, as the year we all love to hate pushed a savage pin into the voodoo doll it had ravaged throughout the year, taking some of the best and most treasured talent and ambassadors we have cherished for so very long.

In a year when abhorrent, right-wing hate speech masquerading as free speech was seemingly legitimised by Brexit, and Trump being elected President showcased toxic masculinity, it struck me that we had now lost a powerful and influential troika. David Bowie, Prince and George Michael all redefined gender boundaries, masculinity and sexuality. It now would seem that these building blocks are being rammed by a new surge in popularity for a panophobic train of thought that should really be chained in the dark depths of the shameful past.

David Bowie and his alter ego Ziggy Stardust exposed and challenged the fragility of traditional masculinity. He blurred the lines of sexuality in the right way, long before Robin Thicke’s übermisogynistic dirge was to show how sexist and dangerous the music industry had really become. There was always something about David Bowie I felt at ease with. I think it was his honesty tinged with tongue in cheek mystery. I’d also like to think that Bowie empowered Pete Burns and Alexis Arquette to live their own truth, two revolutionaries we also lost this year. Without him confronting the boundaries of gender and sexuality, I don’t think our society would have become as tolerant, although this has now been exposed as being as delicate as Julianne Moore was on that pane of glass in ‘Jurassic Park: The Lost World’.

Prince Rogers Nelson picked up this baton only too readily during his reign as one of music’s real trailblazers. He was a true and natural talent that would not be diluted or dictated to. He defied race, gender or sexuality stereotyping. He was the undisputed sex symbol who flirted so fluidly and unapologetically with flamboyance. One of the coolest people in the universe with universal appeal. His untimely death was juxtaposed with the ridiculous bathroom bill in America.

George Michael was the darling of the 80s and 90s pop music landscape with his highlighted and perfect hair, the best five o’clock shadow in history and a dream in denim. His being outed in an elaborate sting gave rise to some of the most repugnant tabloid pieces. But he was not apologetic. He refused to be shamed by simply living his life. The only thing I ever thought when I read about the latest tabloid douche vilifying him for his sexuality was that the so-called journalist behind it was playing a game of “Hector Projector”; the most insidious are often the ones with the most to hide. Guilty feet have got no rhythm. Often described as “troubled”, George Michael simply lived his life to the full and never made any apologies, admirably and defiantly so. The gutterpress that reviled him will now try to erase this from our memories heralding him as the legend he always was. We must never forget.

We’ve been living under the pretence that society is more forgiving and more accepting, but as you read this, there may be real plans to repeal some of the equality laws in America and who knows what else with the megalomaniac Pence ever closer to power. The only glass ceiling that was smashed in November was the tenuous veneer of tolerance and equality. Our heroes Bowie, Prince and George would have not only been outspoken on this, but people would have listened and our younger generation would perhaps have felt less vulnerable. I mean we now live in a world where these idiots are saying that God will have taken these three because of the heinous lives they led!

We’re crying out for brilliant people in the public eye to steer us on a better course, but in the words of the formidable Madonna “It’s so hard to find someone to admire”. We are lucky to have such champions and advocates for equal rights such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Dustin Lance Black, Martina Navratilova and Mary Portas so prominently in the public eye, but we need far more modern-day avengers. Luckily, we have promising prospects in Christine And The Queens, Olly Alexander, Charlie Condou, Conchita Wurst, Jane Hill and Frank Ocean who fearlessly challenge the ever increasing resurgence of the archaic notion of a patriarchal society.

Should all the abominable events in recent times lead us to wake up with a jolt, let us never again close our eyes, for this evil is patient and intent on the destruction of a better life we had known. Troops, we must assemble. For we need to be ready to fight it more than ever before.