Musician Rufus Wainwright has revealed how his parents “reacted horrifically” when he came out as a gay teenager in the late 1980s.

In an interview with the Observer on Saturday, the 40-year-old American-Canadian songwriter talked about his childhood, his relationship with his husband, as well as his reverence for Sir Elton John.

“Coming out to my parents was a nightmare,” he said. “They reacted horrifically. There was fear, worry, shouting.

“I can’t blame them. I was 18 and if you were a gay male in the late 80s you were basically presumed dead because of the Aids epidemic.”

He added his relationship with his husband, Jörn Weisbrodt, has helped define who he is.

“In the past 10 years, Jörn has taught me to chill out and not take myself so seriously. He’s eternally patient. He’s also very tall, and everything is in proportion.

Wainwright also praised Sir Elton John, who got him into rehab in 2003.

“I think of him with a certain reverence,” he said. “He helped me out when I was at my lowest. He’s a friend, but I don’t feel as if I can just ring him up to shoot the breeze – he’s the king.”

Wainwright announced in February 2011 that he had had a child with Lorca Cohen, daughter of Leonard Cohen.

In 2010, he said he “knew” American rapper 50 Cent was gay, adding: “It’s okay, 50 Cent. Feel free to call me anytime. My boyfriend and I are experts. You can come over for dinner. And maybe dessert.”