Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford famously came out as a gay man during an interview on MTV in 1998. In an interview with The Guardian in 2010, Halford said he came out during a hiatus with Judas Priest as he wasn't sure if the heavy metal world would've been as accepting about his sexuality.
"I understood that it could have been destructive. People were fascinated, but what would the knock-on effect have been? As it turned out, when I came out of the closet I was away from Priest. Back in the 1980s, though, I think there could totally have been a backlash. You protect your interests, don't you? I was also thinking about the rest of the band."
Now in a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Halford expressed some confusion about the fact that being gay was less accepted in the metal scene at a time where glam rock was king and "guys looked like girls."
"When you think about the glam rock movement, what it was, specifically, two bands that really pushed that for me were Mötley Crüe and Poison — and, to some effect, Cinderella, maybe some Winger, L.A. Guns. There was a lot of stuff coming through at that moment in the glam rock era. And definitely Sebastian [Bach], you know, when guys looked like girls. And that worked.
"And I could never quite figure that out, because of the homophobic stuff that was going on in the '80s. And there's all these guys with makeup on, looking … I have to watch my words here, but you know what I'm saying? Looking in a specific way, that everybody else is like, 'Yeah, man, they're really hardcore,' and all that kind of stuff. And then me as a closeted gay man, it's like, 'Am I missing something here? How am I not able to come out for fear of losing my career and my band, but these guys are going out there looking like they do, and everybody's falling over them?' Not everybody, but, you know, just the general perception of the imagery was just, everybody has to look that way. Everybody has to dress that way. It [was] a remarkable time in heavy metal and rock to think about in a broader sense."
Halford later went on to reiterate that he loves a lot of the guys from the glam scene and their music, and that his opinion is in no way knocking them or what they achieved.
"And I love those guys. While we're talking, I must get the message across that I love those guys. I love their music, I love what they achieved and everything. They're very, very important. And maybe there was a sense of opportunity within the LGBTQ community because these guys were there then, doing what they did. Maybe they opened a little tiny chink in the door for acceptance. Because a lot of guys used to go to the shows looking like that. One of my friends here in Phoenix in the '80s used to put the makeup on and the hair and everything. They would look like that, and then they'd go out to see those bands.
"So in terms of the anthropological aspect, the social connection between looking like that and it being cool and accepted without any pushback was quite remarkable. It's a really interesting part of that time in heavy metal. And I include myself — not entirely, in that respect, but if you look at Turbo, you look at the way that we're looking, look at the way Glenn's got his hair and [K.K. Downing]'s got his hair, we were all in that same melting pot, really. The '80s was a remarkable time for metal, glam rock, rock, whatever you want to call it. The visual presentation was extraordinary."
In 2020, Halford said in an interview with Q104.3 that he's thankful he came out during the interview, adding that the metal community at the time was a much more accepting place. And frankly, we're just happy that Halford is happy these days. "…when I did come out, famously on MTV in the [late] ’90s, when I was in the 2WO band with John 5, was that it was the most perfect example of the way the metal community is so accepting and inclusive and welcoming people from all over."