Oral History

The University of Michigan LGBTQ+ Oral History Project was launched by the Spectrum Center and other institutional stakeholders in the summer of 2019. Led by undergraduate students under the guidance of the Spectrum Center and its partners, this three-year project focuses on helping current students connect to LGBTQ+ stories and experiences of the past, as well as provide opportunities for scholarly research. By diversifying the University of Michigan archives with experiences not often represented in library records or academia, we have the opportunity to connect intergenerational communities and elevate the value of storytelling in education.

Here is a series of audio excerpts from the LGBTQ+ Oral History collection. Full length versions of the recorded interviews can be accessed through the Bentley Historical Library.

Chris Armstrong

Christopher H. Armstrong was the first openly gay student body president of the Michigan Student Assembly at the University of Michigan. While president, he was virtually attacked by Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General, Andrew Shirvell. Armstrong spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper to talk about the experience, and today works for the Office of the University of Michigan Development as the Spectrum Center Special Gifts Officer.

Harold Gatewood

Harold Gatewood is a 2001 graduate from the University of Michigan. In this interview, he reflects on his experiences growing up in Chicago, going to school and working for the University of Michigan from 1995 to 2010, and reflecting on the intersections between race and sexuality. Harold currently works in health care in the greater Chicago area.

Jess Jackson

Jess Jackson, MBA, M.ED is a multimedia designer, community architect, educator, and healing practitioner. Her human-centered approach, cultivated by direct service in education, has impacted a wide range of national and local community-based activism.

Mari Longmire

In Mari’s words: a funky, spunky, queer artist lost in thought, but found in community. A bridge builder to the radical possibilities of every moment—within the limits of a day job. A Pisces, so I prioritize rest, but dream with my eyes open.

Mary Heinen McPherson

Mary Heinen McPherson is a Master Social Worker and a Senior Administrative Specialist. She was sentenced to prison in 1976, is Glover v. Johnson’s lead plaintiff, and earned three degrees. Since her release in 2002, Mary co-founded the Prison Creative Arts Project and the National Prison Arts Coalition. She was an Open Society Foundation Fellow in 2011, received her MSW from U-M in 2012, and became PCAP’s Program Manager in 2016. Mary works to start a Center for the Study of the Carceral State.

Saawan Tiwari

Saawan Tiwari (Class of ‘20) identifies as a gay genderqueer person of color aspiring to work as a costume designer. Originally from Sacramento, CA, they came out senior year of high school, at which point they very quickly started wearing women’s clothes and embracing androgyny in gender expression. When they were interviewed, they had just moved to Brooklyn, NY during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.