[NANCY THEME PLAYS]
VOX: From WNYC Studios, you’re listening to Nancy.
VOX: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu!
[THEME MUSIC OUT]
KATHY: Last week, our sound designer extraordinaire Jeremy Bloom brought us an investigation into the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, and it was such a deep dive into something I did not know existed.
TOBIN: Yes! If you have not listened to that episode, go back and listen, because it is so good.
KATHY: And I was so inspired by Jeremy's investigation that I wanted to do some of my own.
TOBIN: You certainly were not going to sit back and let him have all the fun!
[DRIVING ELECTRONIC PLAYS, SLOWLY CRESCENDOING, IN THE BACKGROUND]
KATHY: Absolutely not. As you know, Tobin, I live for the search. So I thought I'd get out there, do some deep dives, find answers to peoples' pressing questions big and small, myth-bust some stereotypes, reveal secret gay histories!
TOBIN: Yes, Kathy, yes!
KATHY: So a few months ago I put out a call to the Nancy-verse to see if anyone had a thing they'd like me to investigate. And folks responded! So I wrangled some Nancy producers to help me out, which we'll get to.
TOBIN: Okay, okay.
KATHY: But first, the tweet that caught my eye was from Corianda, a listener in LA.
CORIANDA: [LAUGHING] Well, I had — I felt like I had very solid, academic, intellectual inquiries for Nancy to explore, and then of course the one I tweeted publicly was to explore where the whole "gays love iced coffee" thing came from.
TOBIN: Oh, [CHUCKLING] this speaks to me because I am one of those gays who loves iced coffee.
KATHY: I mean, I love iced coffee too, and most of my queer friends also love iced coffee, but I didn't know that this was a gay thing. I've never heard of it as a purely gay thing. Please enlighten me.
TOBIN: I mean, I don't know if there’s, like, a ton of deep layers here. I think it’s just, like, a running joke that queer people — uh, and I would say, especially gay men — will drink iced coffee anytime of the year, any weather. It could be the dead of winter, there will be an iced coffee in that hand.
ALIM KHERAJ: It really kicked off when there was this big freeze in New York.
KATHY: That's Alim Kheraj, a journalist in London. Alim wrote an article last year for GQ called "Why Is Iced Coffee So Gay?”.
ALIM: And there was that image of that one man walking through the gale snowstorm grasping this iced latte [LAUGHING] — just, uh, sort of an iconic image.
KATHY: What happened was, during the 2019 polar vortex, the City of New York posted a photo on Twitter of this guy wearing a jacket with a fur hood, outside. You can barely see his face. But what you do see is, clutched in his hand, an unmistakable iced coffee-slash-latte, probably from Starbucks. The caption read: "A New Yorker in the snow carrying what seems like... iced coffee? #onlyinnewyork".
Loads of people on Twitter immediately responded, like, "Gay people, duh.” “Gay rights.” “People are gay.”
ALIM: You know, kinda making the same joke — that no matter the season, that iced coffee is gay.
KATHY: Of course, you can’t actually tell the person in the snowstorm’s sexual orientation. But, from then on, “Iced coffee is gay” memes became, like, a running thing on Twitter.
TOBIN: Okay, okay. And also, iced coffee? Just better.
KATHY: I agree. Okay, so, there are two questions: number one, do gays actually drink more iced coffee? And number two, either way, why did this joke that iced coffee is gay become a thing?
TOBIN: [LAUGHING] I cannot wait for the answers on this journey.
KATHY: To answer question one, “Do gays actually drink more iced coffee?”, I ran two polls — very scientifically — one in our “Friends of Nancy” Facebook group, and then another one on Twitter. And I actually opened it up to all queers. Both questions were basically, “Queers: iced coffee or hot coffee?”.
TOBIN: Okay, okay.
KATHY: And, okay, so here’s the results. First of all, lots of tea drinkers out there. Sorry I couldn't really involve you all in this investigation.
TOBIN: Shoutout to the tea drinkers. [LAUGHS]
KATHY: Tobin, I was shocked by the results.
TOBIN: [CHUCKLING] Okay, what were the results?
KATHY: So, in the “Friends of Nancy” Facebook group — which, shout out to the folks who participated, we love you! — uh, the results were basically two-to-one in favor of hot coffee.
TOBIN: [SHOCKED] What?! That, like, spits in the face of everything I know.
KATHY: [LAUGHING] Does it?
TOBIN: It really does. It shakes me. Shakes me to my core.
KATHY: And in the Twitter poll, iced coffee barely eked out a win. Like, just a slight win.
TOBIN: Okay, okay. It’s still surprising to me.
KATHY: So question number one answered, very scientifically, via social media polling. Decidedly, iced coffee is not actually more popular than hot coffee. [BEAT] So on to answer question number two — if iced coffee isn't actually more popular amongst the queers, then why is "gays loving iced coffee" such a thing on Twitter?
TOBIN: Great question.
KATHY: So I went back to Alim to ask him, “What is it about iced coffee that makes it gay?”
ALIM: Of course, iced coffee is, like, not gay, [BOTH LAUGH] because it's — it’s a drink.
TOBIN: Wow! How dare you, sir?!
KATHY: Alim gave me a few reasons why gays might have claimed iced coffee. Reason number one —
ALIM: I think iced coffee, because it can be sort of bastardized in so many different ways, it can be anything. You can turn it into a Frappuccino, or you can turn it into a colorful unicorn drink.
TOBIN: Yeah, yeah! I just feel like, y’know, iced coffee: it’s more free, it’s more proudly itself! It’s extra and it knows it!
[MUSIC SOFTLY CRESCENDOS UNDER THE TALKING]
KATHY: Right! Reason number two — iced coffee being a gay thing — it's an inside joke for us. It's something ridiculous just for us.
ALIM: Honestly, straight people do not get it. They just don't get it.
KATHY: Right. They don’t.
ALIM: You don't understand the language because it's not for you, like, don't try to have this.
[MUSICAL FLOURISH, BEAT]
KATHY: I went back to Corianda and told her everything: the results of my social media polls, what Alim told me about the meme. And she said …
CORIANDA: [CHUCKLING] I — I’m not surprised. I think it's more about [PAUSE] the joy of the meme than it is the reality.
CORIANDA: It’s just a fun thing. [KATHY LAUGHS] That’s what I think it is. And I think — I mean, like, realistically, I drink a lot more hot coffee than iced coffee, because that's what we have at work. [LAUGHS] So …
KATHY: Oh, that's a good point. I do do that, too. Sometimes I’m governed by laziness.
KATHY: Parting investigation thought, Tobin — I like to think of this iced coffee meme as something truly aspirational. Yes, in our reality, more people drink hot coffee, probably because it's the default. But is that really the world that we want to live in?
CORIANDA: Like, in a perfect world, would we all have iced coffees all the time? Absolutely.
KATHY: Oh, yeah.
TOBIN: Okay, that seems like a little bit of a stretch, but I will give it to you.
KATHY: Thank you, Tobin.
[MUSIC PLAYS FOR A MOMENT.]
KATHY: Okay. So, Tobin, I had some lofty goals with these investigations. I wanted to do a million deep dives, get answers for people.
TOBIN: Mhm, mhm. You had a long list of things to research.
KATHY: And then, unfortunately, I got a lil’ sick, so Team Nancy came to the rescue. Enter producers BA Parker and Zakiya Gibbons.
[MAGICAL MUSICAL MOMENT PLAYS]
ZAKIYA: We thought we’d pick up where Kathy left off and do some investigations of our own!
ZAKIYA: And I wanted to use this as an opportunity to get answers to all of my “queeries.” Get it?!
PARKER: Oh, god.
PARKER: And since I'm a straight, I'm here to be slightly confused but happy to be along for the ride.
ZAKIYA: Ayy! And we're gonna answer these “queeries” rapid-fire style! [MAKES FAUX AIRHORN SOUNDS]
PARKER: [IMITATING ECHOING] Rapid, rapid, rapid … fire, fire, fire …
ZAKIYA: Fire! [MUSIC SWELLS FOR A MOMENT] Okay. Our first question — haircuts. It's 2020. The undercut has been here for a long time.
PARKER: It's tried and true.
ZAKIYA: And it feels like it's time for a new queer hairstyle! But what's it gonna be? I asked hair colorist Lucy Jacobi, who works at Arrojo NYC.
ZAKIYA: What is gonna be this new decade’s, like, new, hot, queer hairstyle?
LUCY: Like, a really fucked up mullet. Like, long in the back, short in the front.
PARKER: Mullets? Really? Wasn't this already a thing?
ZAKIYA: I know, right? It definitely was. Ellen Degeneres had one back in the day! So, just to make sure, I called up Maddy Court, who is @xenaworrierprincess on Instagram — that’s “worrier,” like she’s worried — she's kind of the queen of lesbian memes. And she had the same exact thought!
MADDY: Definitely, unequivocally, mullets.
ZAKIYA: Did you hear that? Definitely, unequivocally, the mullet.
PARKER: I mean, a dreadlocked mullet could be a thing, and you could be the trendsetter for that.
ZAKIYA: Hey, it could be a thing, but I will not be the person to usher it in.
PARKER: Be the Neil Armstrong of the dreadlocked mullet.
ZAKIYA: I could be the Shirley Chisholm [PARKER LAUGHS] of the dreadlocked mullet. You know what? Let's move on. Question number two — so, I'm bi and people have always told me that I sit in chairs weirdly. Like, I’ll sit with my foot under my ass, or slumped over, or leaning to one side.
PARKER: Yeah, this is very true. I've seen this countless times in the office, back when we could leave our homes.
[MUSIC PLAYS UNDER ZAKIYA’S NARRATION]
ZAKIYA: But then, one day, I was scrolling Instagram, and I saw this meme that said, “Finally, a chair for bi people.” And it was a picture of someone sitting in a weird position in this very untraditional office chair that had two levels: like, one for your ass, and one below to rest your leg on, or your foot on. It allows you to sit in all sorts of yoga poses. And that's when I thought, “Do I sit like this because I’m bi?!”
PARKER: Zakiya! That's offensive. I'm offended for you.
ZAKIYA: Whatever. I hit up the guy who designed the chair. His name is Pack Matthews. Because I wanted to know if he knew that he was making a bi chair.
PACK MATTHEWS: Yeah, I didn't know until people started describing our chair as “the bisexual chair.” [ZAKIYA LAUGHS] And I was like, "Where is this coming from?” [LAUGHS] I mean, we're flattered.
ZAKIYA: Can bisexual people get a discount for this chair?
PACK: [HESITATING] Um?
ZAKIYA: I'm mostly kidding. [BOTH LAUGH] I’m, like, 99% kidding.
ZAKIYA: Okay, Parker. I don't really know how to answer why or if bi people sit in chairs funny — but it seems to be a not-just-me thing. Also, side note — I really want one of those chairs. Okay, next.
PARKER: Question number three — you've got Cher, Britney Spears, Ariana … they're all gay icons, albeit very straight white ladies. And I wanted to know, who is the next straight white lady gay icon? So I dug deep. I called my friend Thomas, who is my pop culture expert — he’s in the know — to find out who that gay icon could be.
[DUA LIPA’S “NEW RULES” BEGINS TO PLAY UNDERNEATH THE NARRATION]
PARKER’S FRIEND THOMAS: Oh, yeah, it's Dua Lipa.
PARKER: Dua Lipa? Uh, okay.
ZAKIYA: [INDIGNANT] Dua Lipa? I mean, she’s fine, I guess.
PARKER: She is a Grammy-award winning Best New Artist, thank you! [IMMEDIATELY REGRETTING IT] I dunno why I’m hyping her so much.
ZAKIYA: Uh, but I mean, my gay pop icon will forever be Janelle Monae.
[A BEAT FROM JANELLE MONAE’S “PINK” PLAYS: “PINK IS MY FAVORITE PART”]
PARKER: Alright, next!
ZAKIYA: Question number four. There's this stereotype that has long permeated lesbian culture, and it’s that lesbians love cats.
[MUSIC FROM ANDREW LLOYD WEBER’S MUSICAL CATS PLAYS UNDERNEATH]
ZAKIYA: In fact, Autostraddle did a survey about it, and found that lesbians are more likely to own cats than any other group of people. I wouldn't know, as I, myself, am a dog bisexual. So, I hit up Dr. Rachel Corbman, a visiting professor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wake Forest University. She curated an exhibition all about lesbians and cats.
RACHEL CORBMAN: My theory is that cats have a lot of associations with femininity and, also, like, kind of dangerous and deviant forms of femininity. So, um, you think of cats and witches, cats as pejorative terms for vagina … After the 1970s, sort of a defiant reclamation of cats within different lesbian subcultures. Lesbian feminists were reclaiming cats.
PARKER: And now, furthering this educational moment —
ZAKIYA: — our final “queery,” question number five, is a question that I handed off to you.
PARKER: Yes. And thank you for now making my next family Thanksgiving more awkward.
ZAKIYA: You’re welcome!
PARKER: You told me queer people love soup and you wanted to know why. And so I went and asked my sweet, sweet god-sister, the undercut champ of Baltimore, why queer people are so obsessed with soup, to which she said:
PARKER’S GOD-SISTER: That's not a thing, Parker.
PARKER: That's what I thought. I know that's not a thing.
ZAKIYA: [LAUGHING] Okay. First of all, you're making it seem like us queers just put soup on a pedestal. I'm just saying that us queers like to eat some soup. I'm always being invited to soup-cooking parties, soup potlucks, even soup exchanges!
PARKER: But, I mean, everyone loves soup! It's delicious and it's cheap. But then I talked to my friend Kiana, and she leaves me impassioned messages like this:
KIANA: Why do I like soup so much? Lemme tell ya! Even though they look so easy and simple, those bitches take hours. It's almost like, you know, romancing a lesbian. It seems really simple — but in actuality, extremely hard.
ZAKIYA: True, true, true. But also, Parker, I — I have a confession. I actually don't like soup.
PARKER: Wait, what!?
ZAKIYA: I don’t like it.
PARKER: This would've been good information to know about weeks ago. Why did I … ?
ZAKIYA: I feel like — well, it’s still — even though I don’t like soup, it’s still something I was curious about, and it still holds up. I’m just a special anomaly, okay?
PARKER: First of all — so, it’s already not a thing, and you have increased it to being even less of a not-thing!
[ZAKIYA AND PARKER CONTINUE TO FIGHT WHILE THE MIDROLL MUSIC PLAYS]
KATHY: Coming up, one more investigation from Zakiya!
TOBIN: And it is a doozy. Nancy will be right back.
[MIDROLL MUSIC OUT]
PARKER: What is wrong with — ?!
ZAKIYA: It’s a thing.
PARKER: No one is carrying soup around Brooklyn!
ZAKIYA: [EXCITEDLY, PASSIONATELY] Queers!
[MIDROLL ENTRANCE MUSIC PLAYS]
TOBIN: So, Zakiya.
TOBIN: You have been working on a super-secret investigation!
ZAKIYA: Super-top-secret classified … except it's not, ‘cause I'm about to tell you!
KATHY: Right, right, right. [TOBIN AND ZAKIYA LAUGH] Okay.
TOBIN: Okay. What have you been looking into?
ZAKIYA: So, uh, yeah. A listener asked us, [BEAT] “When did gloryholes become a thing?"
KATHY: That's a good question!
ZAKIYA: I know!
TOBIN: That is a great question!
ZAKIYA: That's why I was like, "This deserves my undivided attention.” [TOBIN LAUGHS, BEAT] Do y'all know what a — what a gloryhole is?
TOBIN: A hole in a wall through which one person may present their … something … to be something-ed [KATHY LAUGHS] and then another person on the other side of the wall will do that something. Uh … and my mom can hit fast-forward right now, about 15 seconds. [BOTH KATHY AND ZAKIYA LAUGH] Umm … oral sex.
ZAKIYA: Right. I talked to a scholar of human sexuality, Dr. Chris White. He's a gloryhole expert.
CHRIS WHITE: This is not a purely academic exercise for me.
ZAKIYA: He gave us an official definition:
WHITE: A glory hole is usually found in a public restroom. And someone has gone in there and taken it upon themselves to bring a drill or a saw or something and cut a hole in the partition. Someone has gone into a space that was not created for sucking dick, and made a gloryhole so they could suck dick.
ZAKIYA: Gloryholes are a part of gay men's cruising culture. But of course they aren't just for gay men — all types of people enjoy anonymous dicks through holes! But because of the particular oppression and homophobia that gay men have faced and, for some, continue to face …
WHITE: A lot of these places were created so that men could go and have anonymous sex with other men without being found out, especially at a time when it was not acceptable to be gay.
ZAKIYA: And that's still the case for many people. For others who feel safe being out, they still enjoy cruising at gloryholes because of the thrill of having an anonymous and spontaneous hookup, and because, you know, sometimes it's a turn-on to do something that you're not "supposed" to do.
KATHY: Okay, but who's cleaning the hole before that happens?
TOBIN: Oh, sweet, sweet Kathy. [KATHY AND ZAKIYA LAUGH]
ZAKIYA: Okay. Now, to get to the question — what's the oldest gloryhole I could find? If you all were to guess how far back gloryholes go, what would your guess be? Like, what year?
[MAGICAL JOURNEY MUSIC PLAYS IN THE BACKGROUND]
KATHY: I'm gonna guess … just because I was obsessed with Greek mythology, I'm gonna say around then. Whenever “then” is.
ZAKIYA: Whenever Greek mythology was?
KATHY: Yes. When there were gods. [KATHY AND ZAKIYA LAUGH]
TOBIN: Yeah. It's a forgotten chapter of The Iliad. [LAUGHS]
KATHY: That's my guess, is then.
TOBIN: I'm going to make a more contemporary guess, because my associations would be more with, like, the gay scene happening in the ‘80s in New York, and so I would — I'm just gonna make a wild guess, and say sometime around then is, like, a first known, recorded, formal instance of a gloryhole.
KATHY: I can't wait to be right.
ZAKIYA: So, the first thing I had to do for this investigation was learn something about architecture. Because, see, you can't have a gloryhole without a wall.
KATHY: That is … [ZAKIYA LAUGHS] the deepest thing you've ever said to me.
ZAKIYA: But it's true! So I had to find out when stall doors went up in bathrooms. You know, when bathrooms stopped being communal. And it turns out, walls in bathrooms went up in the late 900s. And it all started with Western European monks at monasteries, because all of a sudden there's this panic from the people who run the monasteries that …
ANISE STRONG: … Monks are gonna see each other's genitals and they're going to go straight from that, to wanting to touch each other's genitals, and uh, all of a sudden, you have an orgy in the bathroom going on every night.
ZAKIYA: That's Dr. Anise Strong. She's a historian who specializes in the history of gender and sexuality. I asked her if monks were actually getting busy in the bathrooms.
STRONG: People usually don't go through the trouble of passing lots of rules and laws and reshaping the architecture of their structures at significant expense if there isn't at least some legitimate fire behind that smoke.
ZAKIYA: And she also says that the “walls-in-bathroom” trend, of course, eventually extended beyond monastery bathrooms and into the general public. So, thank you horny monks for the stall doors! Okay. So, now we know where the bathroom walls come in, but when did the holes pop up? Okay, so. Y'all remember Pompeii?
KATHY: Uh, yeah, sort of.
TOBIN: Oh my god, was some poor person calcified next to a — ?
KATHY: No! [LAUGHS]
ZAKIYA: Yeah, a body was calcified, and, you see [BEAT] his dick in a hole. And —
TOBIN: Are you serious?
ZAKIYA: — and on the other side someone was calcified with a dick in their mouth.
KATHY: Tobin, I have to say, I cannot tell whether or not she's lying right now.
ZAKIYA: I'm lying! [ALL LAUGH] But what was preserved was a mysterious hole used for sexy purposes.
KATHY: [INDIGNANT] How do you know that?
ZAKIYA: Let me break it down! So, archaeologists discovered the remains of a bedroom in Pompeii — which would have been from the sixth to seventh century BC — and:
STRONG: Someone standing outside this particular bedroom could have looked through a peephole directly at the bed where there might have been a couple making love.
ZAKIYA: So, peepholes are the distant cousins to gloryholes. Dr. Strong says there's a lot of evidence, especially in ancient Rome, of people looking through holes to watch people have sex. Like, voyeurism was all the rage back then.
STRONG: This is true for both male-female couples and for male-male couples.
KATHY: Okay, low-key, I was right. I did say ancient Greece, ancient times.
ZAKIYA: No, Kathy! It was a peephole, not a gloryhole.
STRONG: That hole is about five and a half feet off the ground. [LAUGHING] So, in order to put your penis through it, you'd have to do some fairly impressive acrobatics.
ZAKIYA: Some people even theorize that peepholes are the predecessors to gloryholes. You know, people went from peeping to peeping and sucking.
So when did people start actually getting freaky through a hole in the wall? Maybe it started with Shakespeare! In A Midsummer Night's Dream, there's a scene where two lovers are jailed next to each other in separate cells. But there's a small hole in the wall that's between them. And one says to the other:
[ELIZABETHAN MUSIC PLAYS]
THISBE: My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones. I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.
TOBIN: Wait! Yes! Holy shit!
TOBIN: This whole scene — like, I remember this whole scene! That is a fucking gloryhole!
ZAKIYA: Right? Here are two very horny people, separated by a wall with a hole in it. Like, this definitely has to be a gloryhole.
STRONG: This is, in fact, very specifically not a gloryhole — which doesn't mean that it's saying that gloryholes don't exist. [BEAT] This is a hole in the wall that is not big enough to even kiss through. Lovers say, "Hey, if you were a nice wall, you would be big enough to join our bodies through it. But you're not, so all we can do is talk through this wall."
ZAKIYA: So we have kissing, and wishful thinking about being able to fuck through this hole in the wall, but as for this specific hole in Midsummer Night's Dream? Not a gloryhole, unfortunately.
TOBIN: Damn it, Shakespeare!
ZAKIYA: I did so much research, combed through so many historical papers, and had so many awkward phone calls with academics about gloryholes, but nothing.
ZAKIYA: I started to lose hope — started to think I was going to let my dear listener down and come back empty-handed, with no answer about what the oldest gloryhole is. [BEAT] But then, I found one!
KATHY: [GASPING] Where?
ZAKIYA: So, the first documented case of a gloryhole was in 1707.
TOBIN: Wow, we were both so wrong.
ZAKIYA: There was a court case, uh, called “The Trials of Thomas Vaughn and Thomas Davis.” [TOBIN GASPS]
KATHY: Two Thomases!
ZAKIYA: Yes. Two Thomases. ‘Cause I guess it was, you know, 1707 England, so everyone’s —
KATHY: [LAUGHS] There were, like, four names.
ZAKIYA: — Thomas. There's a transcript of a court case between the two Thomases. Here's an excerpt from the court document. Keep in mind, this is from 1707. And it starts with Thomas Number One.
[YE OLDE MUSICK PLAYS]
NARRATOR: He having had occasion to go to the Burrough of Southwark, to a Customer of his about some business, in his return took Water, and Landed at the Temple Stairs, but having occasion to untruss a Point, went down to the Temple Bog-House —
ZAKIYA: Thomas Number One had to pee, so he went to this public bathroom called "the Temple Bog-House.”
NARRATOR: — where he had not been long before a Boy in the adjoining Vault put his [BEAT] Privy-member through a Hole —
ZAKIYA: And Thomas Two, in the next stall, put his dick through a hole in the stall door.
NARRATOR: — which he perceiving was so surprised that he immediately went away —
ZAKIYA: And the first guy, Thomas Number One, was like, “Ahh! What the fuck!?,” and left.
NARRATOR: — but he was no sooner come out, but the Boy follow'd him, and cry'd out stop him, saying he would've buggered him.
ZAKIYA: And the guy who pulled his dick out, Thomas Number Two, followed Thomas Number One out of the bathroom and shouted for help, claiming that Thomas Number One was trying to have sex with him.
[YE OLDE MUSICK PLAYS OUT]
TOBIN: Wait, wait, wait. So it was a trap?
ZAKIYA: How did you know to understand that from all of — ? Yes! You're exactly right. [TOBIN LAUGHS]
KATHY: No, no, hold on. What? I don't understand what is happening.
ZAKIYA: So, the guy who stuck his dick through the hole was blackmailing the guy with the full bladder. But the guy who just wanted to pee was like, “Um, what you’re doing is extortion. That’s super illegal, so I'm gonna take you to court." So they go to court with extortion charges, and “buggery"charges — which is gay sex — and that's how we have a court record of this first ever documented gloryhole!
KATHY: Wow. The legal proceedings.
ZAKIYA: I know! They were thorough in 1707.
KATHY: Seriously! Yeah.
ZAKIYA: So, the reason this gloryhole was even documented in the first place came out of the fact that, at this point in England, sex between men was illegal — even punishable by death.
And, you know, laws prohibiting sodomy persisted up until modern times. Like, it took until 2003 for the U.S. Supreme Court to ban anti-sodomy laws. And despite this, some states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books.
So gloryholes have always played a part in men finding each other — while keeping their identities safe.
WHITE: So, there was this sort of network, and these messages being left about where to go. You could go to these gloryholes and people would write on the walls in, like, Sharpie, um, “Be here at this time,” or “Hot action here from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Thursday,” or whatever. There would also be notes, like, “Heads up, police are patrolling it,” or whatever, “so watch out.”
ZAKIYA: And Dr. White says that feeling is what defines gloryholes the most — the finding each other.
WHITE: It's very pure. Nothing else matters at that moment. And I think especially when you think about these men who, um — before our culture and our society changed, when they desired that deep connection with another man and the only way that they could get it was to go and have that through a gloryhole, it was putting everything at risk, you know? Your family, your job, your life, possibly! To go and to take this risk, to go and have this connection with another man in a way that you can't in the other parts of your life.
TOBIN: I mean, I never thought I would say this, but you have me convinced that, like, the true gloryholes are, in their own ways, like, little monuments to queer ingenuity. Like, they're sort of like little — I don't know, like, little bits of evidence of, like, resilience almost.
ZAKIYA: Yes! So much of queer culture is embodied in gloryholes: the resilience, the resourcefulness, the strong sense of community that kept these spaces alive, the DIY vibe of literally carving out a queer space where there was none. And now, all kinds of gloryholes exist! Ones in bathrooms, ones in bathhouses and adult video arcades, ones that people make in their own bedrooms. And of course, good ol' fashioned gloryholes in bathrooms are still out there — there’s even message boards where people swap notes on where to find gloryholes "out in the wild.” And there are still rogue gloryhole drillers out there, slinking around in the black of night, drill in hand, keeping the tradition alive.
TOBIN: Yeah. It's like, they can try to keep us apart, but we are gonna burst through that wall and find each other. [KATHY AND ZAKIYA LAUGH]
ZAKIYA: Yeah! It's like they say in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way."
KATHY: Deep. [TOBIN AND KATHY START TO SING THE JURASSIC PARK THEME SONG, AND ZAKIYA LAUGHS] What even is this episode about? [TOBIN CONTINUES TO SING WHILE KATHY AND ZAKIYA LAUGH]
[NANCY CREDITS MUSIC PLAYS]
KATHY: That's our show. Friendly reminder that, if you tell someone about the show, we'll send you a Nancy patch. Go to nancypodcast.org for more info.
TOBIN: Producers —
KATHY: Zakiya Gibbons and BA Parker!
TOBIN: Sound designer —
KATHY: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Editor —
KATHY: Sarah Geis!
TOBIN: Executive producer —
KATHY: Suzie Lechtenberg!
TOBIN: I'm Kathy Tu.
KATHY: I'm Tobin Low.
TOBIN: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
PARKER: Well, and then you get, like, the word “gloryholes” in the Jurassic Park font!