A glory hole is stirring controversy at a museum in Western Australia after the state museum acquired the hole—carved out of an old wooden toilet door—when local man Neil Buckley saved it from a soon-to-be-demolished train station in Perth.
Before the state decriminalised male homosexual acts 1990, this station was a popular beat where queer people could meet and have casual sex, according to SBS. Neil donated the item in the view that it represented a historically significant piece of LGBTQI+ culture.
“It’s really an important part of social history and this is how we used to have sex at a time when it [homosexuality] was illegal,” he said, in conversation with Perth Now. “Because it was illegal we had to go to a beat that was off the main drag and that was the only place many men could meet other gay men because it was still illegal in clubs.”
Alec Coles, chief executive at the Western Australian Museum, is inclined to agree. He suggested that the acquisition and display of the glory hole was in step with a museum’s duty to show items which reflect every aspect of social life—no matter how scandalous or deviant certain people might deem them.
Others, meanwhile, have questioned how appropriate it is to put the object on show in such a publicly accessible space. Western Australia’s Shadow Culture and the Arts Minister Tony Krsticevic argued that the glory hole was too “tacky” to exhibit in plain view of the public, in a venue that will no doubt see its fair share of children.
“While it is appropriate for the WA Museum to chronicle the rich and proud LGBTI community as a significant element in the State’s history, such an object is too tacky for display at what will be such a great new venue,” he said. “I’m not sure it is a suitable exhibit to be seen by school-children who will flock to the new WA Museum when it is completed.”
As Neil pointed out in an interview with The Perth Voice, however, there’s also probably a significant demographic of people who’d love to see a glory hole behind the velvet rope of a museum exhibit.
“I am sure this exhibit will bring back a lot of fond memories for many of the men who used beat culture as a way to meet other gay men to form a friendship, partnerships and a quickie,” he said.
“Beat culture is not often talked about, but most of the gay community has done it at one time or another. Sadly this culture has now disappeared with the installation of automated toilet cubes and gay pick up apps like Grindr [and] Scruff. [But] Beats were an important part of gay social life and culture: they were a great place to meet, make friends, and have a great anonymous sexual experience.”