Title: Oral History Interview with Joseph A. Herzenberg, November 1, 2000. Interview K-0196.
Interviewer: McGinnis, Chris
Interviewee: Herzenberg, Joseph A.
Abstract: In this interview, longtime Chapel Hill, North Carolina, city councilman Joseph A. Herzenberg describes his experiences as a gay man in a southern town. He remembers a life relatively free of discrimination first as a young man growing up in New Jersey, where his parents accepted that Herzenberg and his brother were both gay; then at Yale University, a homophobic place where nevertheless Herzenberg did not experience a great deal of direct discrimination; as a member of Chapel Hill's gay community, a community that flourished in the diversity of a college town; and finally in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, where Herzenberg has enjoyed a long career in local politics. Herzenberg seems to be an active member of the gay community, helping found gay advocacy organizations, for example, or urging the president of the UNC system to respond to a homophobic threat. However, in this interview, he more often positions himself as something of an observer of, rather than a participant in, gay life in Chapel Hill, remembering parties he did not go to, romantic encounters he did not participate in, or homophobia he feels he rarely experienced. The result is a thoughtful interview that will be useful to researchers interested in the experiences of gay men in the South and the rhythms of the gay community in one southern town.