A hunky historian whose popular video series brought him Instagram fame and his own YouTube Channel has now written a book about an important chapter in the story of LGBTQ rights.
Dr. Eric Cervini, an “award-winning historian of LGBTQ+ politics and culture,” first garnered attention when he started an account on Instagram to feature “Magic Closet,” a series of one-minute videos about queer-centric topics from history, including the sexuality of figures like Alexander Hamilton and Michelangelo, the intersex goddess Ishtar, and even the question, “Who Invented Homosexuality?”
The Harvard-and-Cambridge-educated PhD and Gates Scholar soon found himself with over 13,600 followers, and decided to take things further. He began producing longer videos and posting them on his YouTube channel, where they continue to gain him new followers and fans. He’s also expanded his audience with a podcast, “The Deviant’s World,” which has dropped two episodes to date.
As if he weren’t busy enough, he’s also written a book about Dr. Frank Kameny, the WWII veteran who was “radicalized” after being fired and blacklisted by the army for being gay and went on to become the co-founder of the Washington Mattachine Society. Titled “The Deviant’s War,” it’s set for release this summer.
One reason that Cervini draws a large audience of LGBTQ+ viewers – aside from his influencer good looks – is that he identifies as part of the community himself.
“I grew up in Central Texas, and was closeted until I was 18,” the historian told LGBTQ Nation.
He went on to explain, “I didn’t have any knowledge of gay history until my 20s. In retrospect, I wish I had had access to a fun, accessible, and easily digestible resource that gave me a sense of the LGBTQ+ community’s long and rich history.”
“[T]hat’s what I’m trying to create with my Instagram page,” he went on. “People can start at the beginning – Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt – and move forward through time with my short posts or 1-minute videos. I try to highlight individual stories that give a sense of their times: what does a Roman emperor’s love affair with another man tell us about sexuality in ancient times?”
As for his upcoming book, he said, “A lot of people think that the gay rights movement began with Stonewall. And while Stonewall was incredibly important, my book focuses on activism that began a generation before the riots: how a small group of activists — led by Frank Kameny — fought the federal government’s gay purges in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Cervini said that he regrets never having met Kameny, who died in 2011.
“I wish I could thank him for everything he sacrificed for our community,” he said. “He died in poverty, and now, we can only thank him by remembering his name and telling his story.”