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.
Oral History Excerpts
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.
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 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, 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.
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 (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.
Jim Toy is a long-time activist for social justice. After earning an MSW from the University of Michigan, Jim worked for the University for over twenty years. Jim has mentored several prominent community members and touched the lives of many through finding the Spectrum Center, the Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front, and several other LGBTQ organizations. Jim is currently retired and residing in Ann Arbor, still contributing to local initiatives related to the University and Southeast Michigan.
AK Krauss (they/them) graduated from the University of Michigan in 2019. While at U of M, they were the Resident Advisor for the Gender Inclusive Living Experience, a member of the Educational Theater Company, and a facilitator for the Change it Up! Workshops. Since graduation, they are pursuing a Master’s in Social Work at The University of Texas Austin.
Sergio G. Barrera is a native of Pharr, Texas in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, where he grew up on both sides of the border simultaneously. Barrera identifies as a Queer Chicano and Fronterizo. His studies revolve around Latinidad, social identity theories, masculinities among men of color, performance, and the performing arts through an embodied and critical consciousness approach.
Caroline Michele Uy
Caroline Michele Uy (they/them/theirs) is originally from Los Angeles, CA. They identify as non-binary and queer. Caroline is a 2020 graduate from the University of Michigan, and received bachelor’s degrees in Theatrical Design & Production, focusing on stage management, and Cognitive Science, focusing on language, with a minor in German.
Meet the Team
Anooshka Gupta (she/her)
Anooshka Gupta graduated in May 2021 with double majors in Communications and Media and Sociology and with a minor in Intergroup Relations. Currently, she works the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium as a Community Organizer.
Jensen Hash (they/them)
Jensen was an LGBTQ Oral History Project Team Member from 2019-2020.
Parker Kehrig (ze/he/they)
Parker is a senior in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. In their spare time they make art, bake for their friends, and yell about wealth redistribution.
Lio Riley (he/they/ze)
After joining the project as a student lead in Fall of 2019, Lio started leading the LGBTQ Oral History Project from Summer 2020 onward. He is set to graduate with his Bachelor’s in American Culture and Sociology this May, and has started working towards a Master of Social Work. After completing their MSW, Lio hopes to continue working with trans and queer populations. They are interested in exploring transformative justice work and the role that creative storytelling plays in that. Currently, Lio is using the skills learned from this project to complete their honors thesis in American Culture, exploring community care practices of transgender undergraduates.
Xochi Sánchez (she/they)
Xochi is an undergrad student at Penny Stamps School of Art & Design. Already working with audio and storytelling, she has been thrilled to work the project and preserve the stories of the LGBTQ+ community where she can.
Katrina Stebbins (she/they)
Katrina is a senior studying History of Art and Community Action and Social Change. She is the newest member of the Oral History Project team and is thrilled to be learning more about the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor’s queer history through the project.
Eryka Swank (she/they)
Eryka is a Michigan native from Kalamazoo. With help from the Kalamazoo Promise, Eryka graduated from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a BA in Community and Global Public Health and minor in Gender and Health. Throughout their time at Michigan, Eryka served students in several offices throughout Student Life including facilitating Relationship Remix, managing the Talk About Wellness Project at Wolverine Wellness, and leading the Spectrum Center’s LGBTQ Oral History Project. Eryka is passionate about health equity and providing culturally humble care to those interested in connecting people with appropriate health resources. Eryka currently serves as a PrEP Navigator for the Oakland County Health Division.