Despite proud Texan parents, Eric Gonzaba is thoroughly Midwestern. Born in Missouri and raised in Michigan, Eric attended high school in rural southern Indiana when he came out as gay sophomore year. Backed by supportive family and friends, he became deeply involved in LGBTQ advocacy. At Indiana University, he served as Outreach Coordinator for the school’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center and the GLBT Alumni Association, tasked with organizing programming and educational events for the wider university community on queer issues. While organizing an event on the history of LGBTQ Hoosiers, Eric became interested in uncovering and telling the histories of queer people outside the coastal gay landmarks of San Francisco and New York. He curated an exhibit on Indiana’s LGBTQ history using only t-shirts archived in a local gay library. Later, as a graduate student at George Mason University, Eric developed the T-shirt project into a digital archive and museum entitled Wearing Gay History. The site contains over 4,500 historical LGBTQ t-shirts from around the world spanning five decades of vibrant history. The site earned a 2016 National Council on Public History Award. Eric’s research focuses on the cultural politics of the late twentieth century United States, with a particular interest in African American and queer history.
In 2019, he became an Assistant Professor of American studies at California State University. While there, he co-founded Mapping the Gay Guides, an online mapping and database project that explores nearly 35,000 listings from historical gay travel guides since 1965. Mapping the Gay Guides won the 2021 Emerging Open Scholarship Award from the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute. In 2021, he began his term as the co-chair of the Committee on LGBT History, an affiliated society of the American Historical Association.