I’m Eric Gonzaba, a doctoral candidate in History/Art History at George Mason University. I specialize in African American history and LGBT culture. I’m currently working on my dissertation on the history of gay nightlife in 1970s/1980s Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. My dissertation, entitled, Because the Night: Nightlife and Remaking the Gay Male World, 1970-2000 explores the ways nightlife became a mechanism for gay men to resist discrimination from both straight society and other gay cultures. I highlight how nightlife experiences exposed internal divisions within queer communities along racial, sexual, and class lines.
Beyond my dissertation work, I have a deep passion for discovering innovative ways to teach and understand our past, including digital public history. In 2014, I began a digital archiving project documenting the history of modern LGBT communities through t-shirts. The project, Wearing Gay History, currently includes nearly 4,000 historical LGBTQ shirts from nearly twenty archival facilities across the globe documenting the dynamic history of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans people across local and national boundaries. In 2016, the National Council on Public History awarded its top student prize to the project.
When not working on my dissertation or other historical projects, I enjoy catching up on must see TV (Game of Thrones, West World, Handmaid’s Tale), poorly playing the piano, reading my favorite authors (Bill Bryson, Langston Hughes, Nora Eprhon, Truman Capote), or attempting to best friends and family while watching Jeopardy.
And on particularly stressful days, you can find me re-watching my favorite movie that has never failed to cheer me up: The Birdcage.