Yungblud interviewed Michael Hall about the homophobic attack he suffered, and why he still has hope. Image: The Big Issue
In October last year, Yungblud played at the O2 Academy Birmingham. Glad to see the return of live music after the pandemic restrictions, 30-year-old drag artist Michael Hall travelled up from his home in Essex for the show.
In the queue outside the venue, Hall got dressed up in his favourite crop top and skirt and perfected his makeup. He was ready to party, but by the end of the night he and his friend were the victims of a shocking homophobic attack.
“There is an adrenaline boost after a gig, and we wanted to ride that high,” says Michael. “So then we was like, ‘Right, let’s go to The Nightingale’, the biggest gay club in Birmingham.”
It was in this supposedly “safe space” that Michael and his friend were beaten up by four men who called him a “faggot”, before punching him and choking him with his chain necklace.
Yungblud was horrified by the assault, and so he wanted to give Michael a platform to talk about what happened, and “turn trauma into art”.
Yungblud: After a member of my family – as I always call you, my family – goes through a period of immense trauma or hardship in life, the first thing I always think is, how can I make them firstly, feel heard? Secondly, feel like they can express their story, in order to help other people across the world? So initially, I just want to say thank you so much for doing this because you are so brave, and you are so inspiring to me. Would you mind giving us a brief description of what happened?
Michael Hall: When we got to the club, it was just really strange. We stuck out like a sore thumb. We were on the dance floor. We’re in a gay club. I’d already been abused on the streets. And now we’re in a safe space. All of a sudden, a boy grabbed my chain. And he went, “You need to leave right now, you fucking faggot.” I was like, “I’m in a gay club?” Then another guy punched me in the mouth. Then someone’s hit me around the back of the head and I’m on the floor. Afterwards when we got outside they was all being arrested. I looked and I just remembered them being really big. I wanted to cry. It was very scary.
It just made me so angry. Ultimately, hate is just a mirror. I think it reflects an insecurity within themselves.
For ages afterwards I didn’t want to go to a club. When I went back I wore a T-shirt and a pair of jeans and a coat in a club. It didn’t feel like me. So the main thing I’m saying is never let it change you. You’ve got to keep true to yourself. The anxiety goes away. Don’t let that stop you from going out, making more memories, more friends.
One thing I always said was: be 100 per cent yourself, because if you’re only 80 per cent yourself, you’re only going to find people who are 80 per cent right for you.
That’s all I wanted Yungblud to ever be, I wanted it to be a place where you can come no matter what you are. If you want to dress in a suit and slick your hair back and come from work, or you want to come in the most flamboyant outfit ever… you’re there for a mutual reason: to love and to accept. That is absolutely my dream. Everybody of every size, shape, colour, gender has the right to walk down the street, and everything’s just positive.
I grew up in Doncaster, which is the same as Birmingham but a bit further north. But I think by obtaining that pain, I had to force myself to look inside myself. People were making me feel like shit. But I found you lot and that’s how I formulated this idea to spread positivity, no matter what. It’s about standing up for your friends and it’s about standing up for yourself.
Music is the cure, isn’t it? I remember when I was so low and depressed, and stuff I would listen to, like Stevie Nicks, would literally calm me. I can’t express how much music has changed my life. I wouldn’t probably have any friends if it wasn’t for music.
All I wanted to do in my life was communicate. I felt like I couldn’t talk about my feelings. Then I started to write songs. And in those songs, I could say what I was too afraid to say face to face.
One more thing, Michael… do you have anything you want to say to anybody out there about the experience you faced and how you’re dealing with it? Or how you want to express yourself to the world?
Never change from being authentically you. For anyone. Because, at the end of the day, you’re the only person that you’ve got. Sometimes people are not going to be accepting or understanding and that’s okay. It’s life lessons. But if you be true to yourself and love yourself, you will be so much happier.
You can still buy the Yungblud Edition of The Big Issue online here.
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