Watch: Judas Priest Singer Rob Halford Reflects on Coming Out as Gay on MTV in the '90s

Sunday June 20, 2021
Originally published on June 7, 2021

This Pride Month, metal icon and Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford reflected on his decision to come out as gay on MTV in the '90s.

In an interview with Apple Music's Hattie Collins, the 69-year-old musician looked back on his coming out as gay in a 1998 interview with MTV, describing the moment as "beautiful."

"It was one of those things where I'm at MTV in New York, I'm talking about a project that I was working on called 'Two,' with myself and John 5, the amazing guitar player," said Halford. "I was doing the rounds in New York City and ended up at MTV talking about this project. And in the casual course of the conversation, we were talking about the overall music, and the direction, and the feelings.

"And I said something to the effect of, 'Well, speaking as a gay man, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' And then I heard the producer's clipboard bounce on the floor. It was one of those gay sharp intakes: 'Oh my God, he's come out,'" he recalled. "And so that was it. So it was very simple. I think ... I still say today, if I'd have really thought this through, like today's the day I'm going to come out, maybe I even wouldn't. ... Maybe I may not have come out per se, because it's still a big moment for so many of us — with a close friend, with someone at school, with Mum and Dad, with whomever — to actually say, 'Hey, I'm a gay guy or I'm a gay girl.' It's just a big, big deal. It's just a glorious, glorious moment."

The musician said that he went back to his hotel room knowing his announcement would make headlines. Nevertheless, Halford said coming out gave him "this enormous feeling of freedom, and the pressure was gone, and there's no more talking behind your back because you have all this ammunition of power as a gay person now, as an out gay person."

"Nothing can hurt you because this is it," he added. "You can't throw insults, you can't throw rumors, you can't say anything negative about me because I am who I am. So that's my wonderful memory of my great coming out day."

Halford also talked about being a closeted musician in the '70s while touring with Judas Priest.

"As a youngish guy in a thriving heavy metal band, it was difficult because I was in that place where a lot of us protected everybody else," he said. "[I thought] 'Oh, I better not come out because it will upset my mum and dad. I hadn't better come out because it will upset my friends, I hadn't better come out because it'll upset my bands and my fans and record company.'

"I had all that riding on my shoulders through those moments of Priest when we were gaining headway, particularly in America. It was difficult y'know, I went back to my room and turned on the TV and that was it," he added. "I couldn't go to clubs, I couldn't go to bars because it was suggested, 'Don't do that, because paparazzi might get you and we'll have to do the cover story' and all this innuendo."

Halford went on to say that he "had all these extra pieces piled onto my life at that time" in addition to being in the closet.

Watch Halford's coming-out moment and his new interview with Apple Music below: