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Once A 'Freak', Now A Legend

Michael Jackson is shown in a Santa Barbara Sheriff's booking office in Santa Barbara, California, in 2003, where he was booked on suspicion of child molestation. Jackson was acquitted of all 10 charges, including four counts of lewd conduct. The music icon recently died suddenly at the age of 50. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Thanks for the cue, Michel. I've been following the media coverage of the "King of Pop." The tributes have been amazing. But all the LOVE has made me remember a time when MJ was the subject of more ridicule than respect.

Before Michael Jackson suddenly checked out of this world last week, he could count on me. I considered it my responsibility to defend him when strangers and friends would write him off as a "freak" because of his gender-bending, race-shifting personal expression.

We never met. And we probably had nothing in common. But I empathized with MJ. As a gay man, I too have been scolded and laughed at for not fitting into "normal" social categories. I know what it feels like when the way you live becomes the brunt of vicious jokes. And I know what its like to be the victim of unfounded assumptions. Some call it intuition. I call it judgment. Or at the very least a lack of compassion any human deserves.

Jackson never admitted that he was gay OR straight. There are few people, if anyone, who will ever know. But perceptions are often more important than reality. And stereotypes lurk in our imaginations.

So, when Jackson was accused twice of molesting young boys, was he given the benefit of the doubt?


In fact, many people didn't even think twice. Michael was condemned before, during and after justice was served, even after a jury acquitted the man on all counts. But with little or no evidence to support the notion, the pop icon was publicly deemed a pedophile. He became one of America's greatest fears: a sexually ambiguous man who can't control his twisted desire to violate young boys.

Innocent until proven guilty? Not the King of Pop.

Well, that is until now, as he rests in peace.