Best of 2012 | Glory Holes of the Old Republicby Trevor Kleinhans / Illustration by Sasan / 02.01.2013
Originally published 04 May 2012
Next to Mini Town, down the road from the Durban ice rink, are public toilets frequented by gay men. Being homosexual was a sin (and illegal) back then. There were no places gays could meet except in private homes and public toilets. Suggestive graffiti written on toilet walls was a kind of chat room. Sending messages. There were gouged holes between cubicles or in toilet doors. The glory holes of the gay world. Part of an exciting sex game going on in public bathrooms all over the city and the country, at that time. An addictive game, cruising for hours in public toilets waiting for the right guy to begin playing with himself at the urinal.
I would take a piece of toilet paper and lick it so it stuck on the toilet door just above the glory hole, so it hung like a curtain making it possible to pick and choose guys. Dirty old men wouldn’t qualify but hot ones got the curtain lifted. Most toilet locks were broken so you had to keep a foot against the door but if he was interesting you let it swing open.
This was risky because the police patrolled these toilets. Plainclothes cops even set up gay men. Entrapping us. The game was exciting and dangerous.
They got me at 19, cruising these toilets. There were two cubicles in there and a stainless steel urinal. One of the cubicles had a glory hole. It was occupied on this perfect summer night. Who could be in there? An Adonis or a creep? I stood at the urinal, pulled out my cock and began playing with myself. The mating call of the toilet world. I kept glancing over my shoulder, trying to see who was behind that door. A lone eye watched me through the glory hole. I imagined it belonged to a beauty in his twenties, which gave me an erection. I stroked myself and the door opened a little. The man inside had a great face. A good catch.
Then he opened the door and cried, “you are under arrest!” My worst fear had come true. I got my dick back in my pants and he took me outside and called his partner. They arrested me for soliciting and bundled me into the van headed for C R Swart Police Station. I was devastated. Would they tell my parents? Humiliate me? What was going to happen?
“We caught another faggot,” they said as we entered the police station. The other cops laughed. “You’ll get more than you asked for in the cells tonight.” A bored constable took my statement. When I asked him what’ll happen to me he said, “the magistrate will decide.” I wanted to cry but held back my tears. I knew they would only make things worse.
I had my fingerprints taken and felt like a criminal. They kept joking about the little gay boy caught with his pants down in a public toilet. Finally they told me I could pay an admission of guilt fine of R100. It was a lot of money in those days. I was coaching ice skating part-time and luckily had that much on me. I paid and walked out feeling like a murderer.
The gay lifestyle of that era was wild. Things are much easier and more upfront today. Public toilets were important gay pick-up spots back then where cottaging and cruising happened. Another prime zone for me was the beach opposite Addington Hospital. 101 Beach was a cruising spot once the sun had set. A pleasant walk from my parent’s apartment. Pretty safe back then too. I was a deeply closeted homosexual at this point. Never had girlfriend. A girl would show interest and I’d run a mile. Female sexuality still scares me.
Anyway I began venturing to 101 Beach. It was often a total waste of time but you never know. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I eventually got a Mini and would park and sit on the rock wall where intense cruising went down. It was waist high with a grass verge facing holiday and residential apartments. On the other side of the rock wall was a grassed bank and the beach itself. There was a bad restaurant and a surf-lifesaving club nearby. It made for an ideal cruising ground. Lots of nooks and crannies.
It was dead before 8pm and from a distance you could gauge whether it was going to be a good night. As I approached my heart would race at getting lucky. I eventually even knew who the cars belonged to. Dirty old men would sit in their cars and play with themselves. They would try and attract your attention, but being cruel and young, I looked the other way.
Friday nights were best. Things stayed busy past 3am. Cars idled up and down, slowing to have a good look. If interested, they parked right where you sat. Drivers would leave the vehicle and if they were worth following the game would start. Which brings us to my second encounter with the SAP, less than a year later on a beautiful Friday evening. The moon shone on the warm Indian Ocean. A perfect night for romancing. The moonlight lit up our cruising ground and I spotted a stocky blond. Effeminate men don’t do it for me. I am gay because I like men. Anyway I followed him along the beach. He would stop and I would stop. The Mini Town arrest made me cautious but he was just my type and seemed interested. So I tested him out.
He followed me towards the shoreline. It was secluded and the moonlight shimmered on the ocean. The dreamy setting made me drop my guard and I decided to walk us back to the dark entrance of the lifesaving club. Light from a street pole made shadows where I hid as he approached. I stepped into the light expecting the blonde but it was a dirty old man. We’d made eye contact when I parked earlier. He must have been watching me all along. Thankfully he walked straight past. I waited then stepped back into the light as another shadow approached. It had to be him. He had been chasing me for an hour by now.
It was him and in the shadows I unzipped my Bermuda shorts. He approached and watched me play with myself. I was anxious for him to take out his cock. But he didn’t. Damn. Here I was exposing myself to him and he was shy or something. He indicated for me to follow him with a flick of the head. He walked back to the car park and climbed into a white Opel so I got into my own car.
I thought he had an open piece of land nearby in mind. It was used by romantic couples to have fun in their cars. He drove towards the end of the gravel car park and I followed. But he soon stopped and switched off his headlights leaving a small gap between our cars.
I rolled down my window, still playing with myself, and watched him. Still he did nothing. What the hell? Then bright lights hit my car and two policeman appeared telling me to get out. I didn’t even have a chance to put my dick back in my pants. They made me put my hands on the roof of my car. Moonlit guy was another undercover policeman.
He came up to me and said, “Shove that fucking cock back in your pants, you faggot. I’m not gay. You’re coming with us.” These cops were even more hostile than Mini Town. He told me to get back in my car and climbed in next to me. We followed the van all the way to the Point Road police station. He didn’t say a word. Even when I asked if I was in serious trouble? We all walked into the charge office where they filled out yet another charge sheet for indecent exposure and soliciting, and took my fingerprints. Another admission of guilt fine. R100, then free to go.
That ended my career as an outlaw. Officially at least. Not because I stopped cruising or cottaging, but because the country went mad. Crimes were political not sexual. Cops had the whole apartheid crisis on their hands. They stopped setting traps in public toilets. Police resources were spent on defending white minority rule rather than catching faggots.
*Extract from Secrets Make You Sick – an autobiography by Durban businessman, Trevor Kleinhans.
**Illustration © Sasan.