Writer and actor Bruce Little (a.k.a. ‘the straight whisperer’) thanks all the straight men – from mechanics to his brother and father – who’ve challenged stereotypes and made his life that much better.

I was about 20 years old, and had to take my banged up baby blue beetle “Betty the Boopmobile” to a garage in Rondebosch, Cape Town to be fixed. The ultra-straight and greasy (yet not unattractive) mechanic scanned me up and down.

He was looking at a camp, skinny, drama student on financial-aid, with cheap highlights. Cliché predicts that he would have hated me, right? Wrong! He gave me two new tyres; panel beat my dented dome hubcaps (by hand) and then sent me on my way assuring me he would send me an invoice. He refused payment and off I drove, never to receive that invoice.

I have many stories like this. I’m not sure why they happen to me. A friend of mine believes that the only explanation is that I am in fact, the “straight whisperer”.

As a gay guy, it is not unusual that I have a very special bond with my mother. She’s my solace against life’s knocks, like a gum guard when ‘kak-luck” tries to kick me in the teeth. Her love and food fortify me to face any battles, providing emotional and physical “padding” (love-handles, Eish!).

It’s also pretty much a given that women, in general, play a very significant role in my life. Most of the friendships I have treasured have been with the opposite sex. I could also write a book about all the wonderful gay men I have known, but here I want to discuss my gratitude for the extraordinary straight men that have featured in my story thus far.

There were truck drivers clearing the road, way beyond the yellow line, so I could slowly pass in my meek 1.3 Bantam bakkie; gorgeous, muscular hetero barmen, dancing in a circle around me (to protect me from a rabid drunk queen with octopus hands); a handsome and well-known soap star (now married) offering to kiss me as a dare during a drinking game – causing me to run for my life screaming. (The kiss would have meant nothing to him, but it would have moved the earth for me, so I bolted!)

Heterosexual men have been good friends and confidantes and have even come to my aid when I have needed them. I’ll tell you about two of my favourites: My dad and my brother. I have received nothing but one-tonne truckloads of love and support from these two great Littles all my life.

Seeing your first born son or older brother on stage in drag or naked (or both!) and showing me nothing but pride and good humour afterwards is not just progressive but exemplary

Even as I have dragged, camped, minced and “poofed” my wares on stages, dance floors and “voorkamer’s” across the country. I know I am beyond blessed to know and love such considerate and masculine gentlemen who shower me with love and approval. Seeing your first born son or older brother on stage in drag or naked (or both!) and showing me nothing but pride and good humour afterwards is not just progressive but exemplary and I am grateful for this.

But my good fortune with hetero men goes further than just the familial bond. Despite being bullied at boarding school (whilst in the closet). I have been lucky enough to be accepted and (often) even loved by most of the straight men that have come to know me since coming out at 18. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about seducing straight men or being able to have my way with them. (Although, I have fallen for one or two of them over the years.)

I’m talking about the unique friendships I have enjoyed with certain straight men, men who are comfortable enough in their sexuality to be completely accepting of mine. I concur that attractive straight men are quite irresistible for most of us gay men (we always want what we can’t have). But they don’t have to be the queer man’s kryptonite.

Once you accept that they are not gay and no amount of tequila will change that, then an amazing platonic relationship can flourish.

One wild drunken night in Cape Town I found myself being cradled by a beautiful young man on the steps of the club, and as I lay in his arms beyond inebriated, he gently sang Will Young’s Evergreen in my ear. He doesn’t have a gay bone in his body and is also married with a child now; not that this makes you a heterosexual. (There are too many wedding rings hiding in rented lockers in bathhouses on a Thursday night for that!) But he’s really not gay.

During long runs of bigger productions like ‘pantos’ I have been blessed with “straight husbands”. Close straight guy mates to share my failed romances with and a fresh and unique perspective of the “other” side of the male psyche.

“Don’t call him back, let him hunt you a bit,” he would suggest and, in return, I could dispense my own advice with a more feminine/intuitive flair, like: “If she says you don’t have to buy her a birthday present, she doesn’t really mean it.” And there’d be a lot of laughter about the differences between gay and straight men, like their choice of underwear and deodorant, when sharing a dressing room.

It was a straight male nurse in a Durban public hospital that caringly and unflinchingly held me over a toilet when I was at my most wretched from a bout of severe food poisoning. And I will never forget a certain buff redheaded actor in SpongeBob The Musical reassuring me one melancholy matinee that if he was gay “he would have been my bitch.” I died and went to Heaven!

I blow kisses (platonic of course!) to all the straight barmen, DJs, sound technicians, venue owners, managers, mates, boyfriends and husbands of mates, and ‘random straight strangers’ that helped a homo out.

Thank you. I know that homophobia, prejudice and ignorance are still rife out there. But to all the straight boys that we love and love us back, I salute you!

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