Exhibit shares GLBT history through T-shirts


Senior Eric Gonzaba, Outreach Coordinator for IU's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services, works amid an exhibit of historic T-shirts Tuesday in the GLBT Center office. "Wearing History" showcases pride shirts from the Indianapolis Chris Gonzalez LGBT Library and Archives. Buy Photos

Shirts of all kinds, from colorful and funny to dark and somber, dot rooms of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services Office.

Senior Eric Gonzaba, outreach coordinator for the GLBT office, created an exhibit titled “Wearing History — An Exhibit on LGBT History Through T-shirts,” which features 16 shirts related to LGBT history from the past 30 years.

“I don’t think there’s anything like this that I’m aware of,” GLBT office Coordinator Doug Bauder said.

Bauder mentioned the importance of T-shirts in today’s culture and said these shirts in particular show courage and activism.

Gonzaba thought of his idea after senior Stephen Clarence Hammoor, IDS Special Publications editor, did a “Pop-Up Museum of Queer History” in the
GLBT office.

“I think sometimes students think of history as something very distant from them,” Gonzaba said.

Gonzaba started to do his own research on LGBT history and found little information in state archives until he came across the Chris Gonzalez Library and Archives in

The archives had tubs of more than 350 LGBT shirts. He said he started looking at some and found them intriguing, especially the ones that had to do with Indiana. He started researching the stories behind these shirts and that research developed into the current exhibit.

“Hoosier LGBT history is still alive,” Gonzaba said. “Students are always interested in stuff that is new and unique.”

Gonzaba said he looked at every T-shirt and noticed themes. He divided his shirts into four categories: pride, humor, advocacy and politics.

“The four themes try to embody the different experiences the LGBT community has gone though,” Gonzaba said.

He said his favorite shirt is one he made and donated to the exhibit. It is an “I heart Hillary” T-shirt he wore to a rally in which Bill Clinton was campaigning for his wife. The letters are in black, and the heart is a rainbow.

Another shirt memorializes transgender people who were murdered. It was made in 2002 before a vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The shirt reads, “1 year and 27+ murdered transgender people. Remember our dead 11/20/02.” The back has the names of transgender people who were murdered and the dates “12/01-10/02.” Two Hoosiers are on the list of those murdered.

One of the stories Gonzaba researched involved a young transgender woman named Gwen Araujo from California.

At age 17, she had been living as a female, her preferred gender, for a year and a half. During a house party, at least three classmates discovered that she was born male. They allegedly beat her, took her into a garage where they strangled her and then disposed of her body 150 miles away.

The exhibit will be in the GLBT office this week and next. Bauder said about 12 people have stopped by the past two days.

Freshman Tyler Ellison said the shirts were interesting.

“Anyone wearing a shirt catches your eye,” he said. “It’s a subtle way of getting a message in someone’s head. The way it is (set up) seems very informative. I like how it’s integrated all around the room.”

Bauder said he hopes people stop by not just for the exhibit but also for the many resources the office can provide.

“Often, a student comes in here with an idea or dream of some kind, and I think we can help them realize that,” he said.

Bauder said he wants students to realize the GLBT community has a past.

“I don’t think young people appreciate history by and large,” he said. “I think GLBT students can benefit from knowing that we have a history. People can be involved, and some may be inspired. I want people to come in here and have a personal experience.”

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