Michael Jackson and Thomas Spellman
“Watching the color of the university change.” At StoryCorps, spouses Michael Jackson and Tom Spellman discuss the growing acceptance of LGBT people by Texas A&M and reflect on their own roles as Aggies and long-time community builders.
- [Michael] I knew it was all going on and everything, the problem is is [sic] that, because I was working, I was not your typical student. I was disassociated from just coming and enjoying the student experience. I was here to get a degree and just happened into a very homophobic, white-bred place. One of the other sided things that I love over the last number of years is watching the color of the university change, not realizing that when I came here, I came from Pasadena, Texas and my, I used to joke, and this was back in the 80s and I didn't realize how true it was, I came from the home of the KKK in Giles, 'cause the KKK actually had a bookstore and would parade in hoods in Pasadena, Texas and Giles and Urban Cowboy movie and all that was really big and so, I came from what was, now I realize, a very white high school and white area, not noticing this 'cause I was just in it. I wasn't in any way--
- [Tom] At that point, the only people of color you saw on campus were custodians.
- [Michael] Mhmm.
- [Tom] Mostly, and very few students.
- [Michael] I came from white and I ended up in a white university and I didn't realize what I was missing and all that and so, I'm very hardened to see those changes also in our community here, that now we can, I want to say, last statistic I saw was that we had over, we were up to the 30 to 50 percent range of people of color coming to the university. Shoot, they didn't even allow women to come to the university until 1970s?
- [Tom] Late 60s, early 70s.
- [Michael] Late 60s, early 70s, something like that. And so, so I didn't realize what I was getting into and I ended up in this extremely homophobic place, but one thing that we found about the local community is that you have major gay populations in cities within two to three hours and most everybody who comes to Texas A&M comes from Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and so they would come here and to them it was no big deal. I'm gonna go home and be gay on the weekend. You know, they're gonna go back to the big city where there's lots of gay bars and they could be anonymous there. And then they would come back here and they would be straight all week and then they'd go back out of town on the weekend. I didn't have the money to do all of that, so I stayed here and was part of the little bar community that there was here and that's why I was always there whenever Tom showed up.
- [Michael] But that is, so I was involved in the community and was doing things to build community outside of the university, but there's very little disassociation from the university locally, so if you have an organization, we were just talking about this at the tailgate. There, a person was just talking about, there's a GLBT professional network on campus and they have socials every two weeks and the person was like, oh well I thought that was only for A&M people and it's like, nothing in this town is just for A&M people in the gay community because we're too small.
- [Tom] There's not enough of us to be that exclusive.
- [Michael] Right. We're just too small to be that exclusive. We would have no membership if we relied upon one segment of a community to build community. And again, so we, that was talking to somebody who graduated in 2015 and is actually trying to build a leather organization locally. And from the standpoint, if they want to do education, outreach, service and philanthropy through building a leather community locally, we were just amazed at that--