Greek Singer George Perris Reveals He's Gay: 'I'm Relieved, I'm Happy and I'm Proud'

Singer George Perris opens up about coming to terms with his sexuality, his new album No Armor and how George Michael inspired him to live authentically

George Perris is taking his armor off.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the Greek-French singer revealed he is gay.

"I do not consider this a coming out, in the sense that I never went into a closet," Perris, 38, said over a Zoom interview from his home in Athens in early March. "I never hid my life. I've always lived the way I wanted to; it's just that I didn't have the courage to talk about it publicly."

After spending years of struggling with his sexuality, Perris — whose new album, No Armor, drops on Wednesday — is ready to live authentically in the public eye.

"I'm relieved, I'm happy, and I'm proud of myself that I'm able to do this," Perris says.

George Perris
George Perris. Errikos Andreou.jpg

An Athens native, Perris knew he was gay from a young age. But he felt shame and society's heteronormative pressures early on.

"I grew up believing that there was something wrong about me because, at the time, when you were a kid in the '80s or '90s, you came to believe there was something wrong with you," he says. "Back then, people would always use words like 'tolerant' or 'open-minded,' and I always hated those terms because I think they hide a defiance; there's contempt to it. I don't want you to tolerate me. I want you to accept me because we're 100 percent equal."

George Perris
George Perris. Errikos Andreou

Perris hid his sexuality through his childhood, partly because there was so little queer representation at the time.

"I was raised in a society where you had no way of seeing the normality of a gay relationship," he says. "It was not on TV. It was not in the media. It was not a part of any discussion."

Perris reached a turning point in 1998, when pop icon George Michael publicly came out.

George Perris
George Perris. Errikos Andreou

"My first experience with a public figure coming out was George Michael. I was 15 years old at the time, and to me, that was like a revelation because I had never even thought that it was possible," Perris says. "I didn't know You could have a superstar who was an extremely talented and incredible artist and a beautiful man and everything and he was gay, and he was living a normal life."

Despite his George Michael-inspired epiphany, Perris says, "It took me a while to accept it." After coming out to some close friends in his late teens, he told his family he was gay in his early 20s: "There was a little bit of backlash, but everyone was fine, and they all accepted it."

Despite coming out in his personal life, Perris still had some work to do on his journey to self-acceptance. Perris launched his professional career at 18. In the 20 years since, he's become a renowned musician; filmed three PBS concert specials that have reached 160 million total viewers; and recorded three full-length English language albums (the most recent, No Armor, is out March 30).

"Even though in my private life, I wasn't hiding anymore at all, as a singer, as a public figure, it had a cost for me because there was a part of me that wanted to talk about it," Perris says of his sexuality. "A lot of people told me, 'You shouldn't come out,' 'You shouldn't talk about that publicly,' 'It'll destroy your career.'"

Today, "I have nothing to hide," says Perris, who declined to comment on his relationship status but says he'd like to start a family one day.

A philanthropist, Perris is a newUNICEF ambassador focused on addressing child abuse; he also works with the scholarship group the Horatio Alger Association. And he hopes to make a difference by sharing his own story.

"There's a lot of people out there that don't have that luxury," Perris says. "Even today, being gay is a cause for death in so many parts of the world. I think that it's my responsibility, as a human being but also as an artist and a public figure, to speak about this."

Like many, Perris has spent time during the pandemic doing some self-reflection, which inspired his new album, No Armor, a collection of covers of songs that have inspired him throughout his life and in recent years.

"I felt the need to go back to my roots. I realized that the only music that I wanted to hear was the songs that shaped me, the songs that made me who I am," he says of the Greek-inspired LP. The album includes everything from Billie Eilish's "My Future" and the Joni Mitchell-written "Both Sides, Now" to ABBA's "I Have a Dream" and "Somewhere" from West Side Story. And all the tracks are arranged with Mediterranean instruments. "My only goal in music has always been to create emotion and to move people. For me, this is my healing album."

Between the new music and opening up about his sexuality, Perris — hopes to become even closer with his followers.

"I feel the responsibility, as an artist, to be as honest and as true to myself as I can possibly be and to share that with my audience," he says. "There's a difference between privacy and secrecy. I'm not a secretive person. I've never hidden or pretended to be someone else, ever. So I'm sure [me being gay] is not going to be a shock to them or anything. But I feel like my relationship with my fans, my tribe, we just came a step closer. That's what I feel that this will be because they will have the full picture of who I am, free and completely open."

Adds Perris: "This is the final step to my emancipation; now I'm fully emancipated to be the man that I want to be."

Related Articles