Dr Love is arguably the first professional to come out of the closet

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

He was mischievous, extravagant, flamboyant, extroverted and just as intelligent. South Africa had never seen anything like him before. He was a medical doctor going by the name of The Versace doctor and later Dr Love.

Love, real name Mveleli Gqwede, is arguably the first black professional to have come out of the closet. But what made his tale even more intriguing is that he had married and had children with Nomxolisi Mji, a creme de la creme of South African beauties of the 1980s.

He came out against many speculations about causes of homosexuality.

"Most people believed that if you were gay you were an ex-convict who became gay while serving his sentence. Others thought gays were impotent.

"But here was a guy with everything going for him, with a career many would consider ultimate and he had no record to promote. It was amazing," says drag queen Iko Mash.

He blazed the trail, for as soon as the media lapped up on Love's phenomenon, many new gay faces crept out of the woods.

"I wouldn't go as far as calling him a pioneer of the homosexuality struggle, but his charisma was disarming. The first time I noticed Dr Love, who was still married to Mji at the time, he was plaiting a friend's hair and looking fabulous at that.

"I looked at him in total awe but he remained friendly yet kept strangers like us at arms length."

For many though, the pizzazz was not enough to save them from the wrath of the homophobic.

"At varsity they told me many times that I needed a good beating to set me straight," says Tumelo Kgafela, a magazine layout designer.

"Eventually I was taken to a kangaroo court where they made me choose between a thorough beating and exile.

" I chose the former because if my parents found out my reason for leaving school the beating would have been nothing.

"The most hypocritical thing happened though. My persecutors started befriending me and hung out with me in my room on weekends. Some declared their hidden homosexual orientation.

"People who mete out their gay hatred are trying to get out of the closet themselves and hate it that they don't have the guts to."

Iko doesn't deny this self-hatred.

"Society's condemnation of gay people is perpetrated in the gay communities. Some gay people are the first to stab others in the back."