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Historic glory hole saved from demolition, may go on display in museum

The artifact was saved from destruction in a Perth bathroom.
Photo credit:
Wikipedia

Currently, at The San Diego History Center, the exhibit  LGBTQ+San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs, is providing a rare glimpse into the city's queer past, but even they may have given pause to display something as provocative as a glory hole. 

But that is exactly what the Western Australian Museum is doing for their similar collection. And some are not really comfortable with the country's gay sexual history. 

The piece in question is an old wooden stall door saved from a train station toilet near Perth. There is a hole cut into it which men would use for anonymous sex. 

At the time the door was in place, homosexuality was illegal in Australia and "gay beats" were a network of places in which gay men could go and among other things, socialize. 

The door was saved from destruction in 1997 by Neil Buckley from Perth who is also a part of the charitable LGBT organization Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. 

“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,” Buckley told The Perth Voice.

“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," he explains. “Beat culture is not often talked about, but most of the gay community has done it at one time or another."

That sect of the gay underground has disappeared with the onslaught of automated toilet cubes, and the use of location-based gay pick-up phone apps said Buckley.

Alec Coles, the chief executive of the museum is in agreement that the door is an important item and should be on display as a sociological benchmark. 

“Clearly the LGBTQI community is a very important part of Perth’s society,” he told PerthNow. “We often talk about museums as safe places for unsafe ideas."

Coles adds: “Places you can explore topics that are maybe controversial, sometimes contentious, sometimes even confrontational, but the kind of places they can be explored in a responsible and measured way and hopefully without rancour.”

Ultimately though the museum's curators will have the final say on whether or not the door will take a spot in the showroom.

Not everyone agrees that it should be available for public viewing, namely the state’s Shadow Culture and the Arts Minister Tony Krsticevic.

“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,” Krsticevic 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.”

They could post a sensitive content warning, but Buckley believes that would depend on how the door is presented, "I would like to think we would always be sensitive," he said. “We are representing diverse views of many people and diverse views of people who may be offended … and we take that into account as well.”

Currently, a new museum is being added at the Perth Cultural Centre and should be ready by 2019–20.