8 February 2021, 19:30:00
Top Left: Pinetum Pieta by ecabsmalta
Top Right: Council of Europe Garden in Gzira by tropter.com
Bottom: Pembroke Beach by MyGuideMalta.com
Beats have a long history within gay communities. In years past when the vast majority of men who have sex with men (MSM) faced violence and ostracism, the confidentiality and access of beats made them the only space some people could use to get their rocks off. In the '60s and '70s - and probably long before - the beat scene exploded with men gathering in parks, toilet blocks, reserves, and any space they could find to get some good sex.
Over the years, Malta's gay men also claimed their right to public places. Streets, parks, public toilets, cinemas and beaches afforded them a "useful cover" to wander aimlessly in search of others.
Public places mostly patronized by straight society by day were transformed, at night, into cruising areas for gay men. Many of the beats were located in and around Malta's major towns. Those at Valletta, Floriana and Porte-des-bombes were in operation at least since the 1940s. Beats offer little scope for emotional intimacy and social interaction however they did foster informal, useful and not so obvious networks.
Although they were an opportunity for fun, beats also became a space of violence. Anecdotal evidence within the MSM community shows that in some occasions individuals ended up victims of mugging, theft, beatings and harassment that often goes unreported to the Police.
Chetcuti, J. C. (2009). Queer Mediterranean Memories - penetrating the secret history and silence of gay and lesbian disguise in the Maltese archipelago. Australia: Lygon Street Legal Services.