Is history too raunchy for us?

• Neil Buckley and Michael Middleton with the glory hole after retrieving it from a Gosnells train station toilet before it was demolished.

IN late 2018 a local story of an old toilet stall door featuring a “glory hole” drilled for men to have sex through, went global when local gay activists donated it to the WA Museum (‘WA’s glorious history’, Voice, December 8, 2018).

“I had a friend call me, he was over in San Francisco,” one of the door’s donors, Neil Buckley, recalls. “He rang me and said ‘your picture’s in the San Francisco gay newspaper’.”

Four years later the door hasn’t yet featured in a display; Mr Buckley is returning to the museum this week for a panel discussion: ‘The Door’ and queer sexuality in public space.

“I’m a bit shocked the museum has put the door back into the closet,” Mr Buckley told us this week.

Apart from a couple of local conservative politicians calling the door too crass to display, the international reaction was positive, with many publications praising the museum’s thoughtful and mature approach in accepting the door as a part of local history. 

“They did get a lot of international, good publicity… [but] they’re having a ‘country town’ approach by just storing it,” Mr Buckley says. 

“Perhaps they’re not ready to take the leap into being a modern museum, and they’re just afraid…

“Is it just gay sexuality they’re afraid to show? Is it sexuality in general?”

The panel will address a growing issue in recent LGBTQI+ history; the desexualising of their identities to make them more palatable to the dominant culture.

Mr Buckley says a lot out of gay history is left out if you can’t refer to sex; it’s what gives the door its historical and political potency. 

“The glory hole’s really a symptom of all the homophobic laws and discriminations that were going on: So glory holes were created by straight people.

“That’s why we have glory holes, because of the discrimination, and the public outings. This is where people had to go to have community. 

“It wasn’t only about sticking your dick through a glory hole – people would go to meet and have conversations about life, about queer life.”

A lot of veteran LGBTQI+ folk have commented in recent years that even Pride parades are becoming pretty prudish.

Mr Buckley recently returned from Sydney WorldPride, where he attended as Mother Gretta Amyletta, a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, an order of gay activist nuns that evokes the countercultural rights movement of the ‘70s and ‘80s compared to today’s corporate-heavy Pride parades. 

“The Pride parade is quite boring now,” Mr Buckley says. 

“There is a sanitisation going on. I’ve sort of got the feeling it’s the gay mums and dads out in the suburbs who’ve never been to a protest” who are driving the move away from the risque. 

“What they need to realise is, for the people who fought for their legal rights, this is our history.

“If we don’t talk about our history it will be lost. So much of our history has been lost because we haven’t been able to talk about it, [and] our history is to do with sexuality.”

If you got your Voice super early you might still be able to get a ticket to the panel discussion on March 9 at the WA Museum at 6.30pm. Mr Buckley will be speaking alongside Graham Grundy from the 

Gay and Lesbian Archives of WA, researcher on Indigenous education, identity politics and queer identities Braden Hill, artist and social history curator Jo Darbyshire, and facilitator and history academic Lauren Butterly.

But beyond the talk, Mr Buckley says he’s considering a push to find the door an alternative spot for exhibition if the WA Museum doesn’t plan to put it on display any time soon.

Mr Buckley says it would be a shame if the door leaves WA, but it’s important that these histories are displayed in public before they’re forgotten from living memory.

“I’m thinking about asking, if they won’t show it, whether they’d give it to MONA or the Sydney Powerhouse Museum.”


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