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A University Press magazine

December 2016

Rising from the ashes Inside: People, Transgender, Yawn, and more


YAWN — PAGE 10

PEOPLE — PAGE 4

WISH — PAGE 17

TRANSGENDER — PAGE 8 © University Press 2016

SANCTUARY — PAGE 12


UPbeat

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December 2016

PEOPLE

‘Stuff’ of Dreams Jennifer Ly Bunnies. Tofu. Dinosaurs. Spiders. An energetic Jennifer Ly sits cross-legged on a carpet surrounded by stuffed animals of all sizes as she gleefully pulls out one after another of the soft creatures and objects, many of which she made herself. “There is happiness attached to each stuffed animal,” she says. Jennifer graduated from Lamar University in 2014 with a studio arts degree — the last person with an emphasis in fiber art. Each plushie has a personal significance to Jennifer, whether they are made of synthetic or natural components, like cloth or yarn. “The material is nostalgic to me,” she says. “My dad always won me a stuffed animal at every carnival we went to. Other kids played with toys and action figures, but those stuffed animals were my toys.” It is the personal ties she has to her stuffed animals that led her to build a hand-made stuffed animal business — Jenni Bean Plush. Jennifer feels that fiber art is a medium that many artists do not explore today, and that makes it even more unique and special to her. “I feel like I have a duty to continue fiber art, and I hope that I’m doing so through the stuffed animals I create,” Jennifer says. She is honored to be the last of many fiber art majors at Lamar University.

Story and photo by Andre Woodard


December 2016

PEOPLE

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Miss Globophobe Kourtney Magnes Everybody loves balloons. Kids fill the house with them for parties. National conventions fill arenas with them. The brightly-colored, helium-filled playthings are fun for all. Well, maybe not all. Kourtney Magnes is a “globophobe.” She has had a fear of balloons for as long as she can remember. “It started in middle school with that game where you have to sit on the balloon in a chair,” the Vidor senior says. “I got really scared when everyone started playing it, and I refused to play and started hyperventilating.” Kourtney says that it is scariest when the balloons explode. “I guess the prospect of them always being able to pop just gives me really bad anxiety,” she says. The Lamar University accounting major had to face her fear in 2013 when she was crowned Miss Houston. When her name was announced it was accompanied by a balloon drop. “This was a huge deal for me to be able to be around so many balloons — especially with a pointy crown on,” she nervously laughs. However, while it may seem silly, Kourtney says people need to understand that her phobia is very real. “It is an actual, legitimate fear, and people shouldn’t take that lightly or make fun of someone for their fears and phobias.”

Story and photo by Gabbie Smith

Shots for Schools Aaron Lavergne cannot resist a shot glass. Not that there has to be anything in it, mind. He just loves collecting them. The Houston senior began collecting the diminutive glasses his freshman year in high school when he started traveling around the country with his parents to visit colleges. “The first shot glass came from Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles,” Aaron says. “I was there for a convention. From then on, everywhere we would go, my mom would book a tour of the schools in the area and it was just history from there.” The Lamar University Student Government Association president says he traveled to around 45 universities, including Maryland, Northwestern, Purdue, Tennessee and Florida. Each shot glass stands as a memory technique for the school he visited. “It helped me remember what I liked about certain schools and what I didn’t like, down to the fact that this school had too much grass or this school was too far into the city,” he says. “It was pretty rewarding to do all those tours of different campuses and know that the school I was picking I was really sure of where I wanted to be.” Aaron says despite making his choice to come to Lamar, he still collects shot glasses when he goes to new cities or countries. “I picked shot glasses because I already had a lot of hats and shirts. I wanted something that I could use in the future, now I use them whenever I go out.”

Aaron Lavergne

Story and photo by Cassandra Jenkins


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December 2016

PEOPLE

Motocross Dreams Rayce Romero Bikes zip around corners and dirt flies as Rayce Romero makes the last few tweaks on his cherry-red bike. The Groves junior balances his time on campus and time on the track in order to pursue his motocross dreams. “The end goal for me is to do this for a living, but I’m hoping my degree can get me involved and working with corporations in the industry if I ever do go pro,” he says. There is a lot of technique and training that goes into motocross. “Most people don’t understand the physical demand of the sport and the time it takes to be good at it,” the business major says. “The faster you go, the harder it is to hold onto the bike, so I’m at the gym about four days a week and I try to go out and ride at least three to four days.” A large part of motocross is maintenance of the bike. “You are always working on the bike, which can become a money pit,” he says. “I am always having to look up YouTube tutorials and do research in order to be able to fix problems that come up.” Rayce says the small accomplishments are rewarding. “It’s great to beat my own personal lap time and take steps towards my main goal,” he says. “But racing on my own is the biggest thing I have accomplished.”

Burning Soul Courtney Lachausse

Story and photo by Hannah LeTulle

Courtney Lachausse bends over her dining room table, a hot tool in her hand, as she burns a flower pattern into a wooden frame. Courtney says wood-burning is a nonverbal release. “Painting wasn’t expressive enough for me,” the 27-year old said. “Wood-burning is like a more brutal way of painting. It’s a really patient process and it’s therapeutic. It totally takes my mind off of everything else — in that moment, I feel free.” She has been creating her art for seven years. “It’s cool, because I burn images of nature on a piece of nature as my canvas,” she says. “Different types of wood respond differently, so you have to learn the wood. You have to just flow with it.” Courtney displays and sells her work in local businesses and online. She tries not to wonder what people think of her creations, because then she says she starts making mistakes. “Once you put it down, there’s no erasing it. If it doesn’t speak to my soul, I don’t do it — I have no need for it,” she says. “It’s all about beautiful burned-in wood, or as Bob Ross would say, ‘It’s your world.’”

Story and photo by Danielle Sonnier


PEOPLE

Spoon Love

Lauren Graham is alone. That is not a comment on her relationship status — unless one counts her relationship with spoons. “It’s weird, I know, but it is unique,” she says. “I’ve never met anyone else who collects spoons but there has to be someone out there.” The Beaumont sophomore has collected spoons since she was seven-years old. “One of my best friends bought me a spoon on a trip she went on and told me it was a collectable,” the corporate communications major says. “From then on, I’ve been collecting.” Lauren has more than 100 spoons from various locations all around the world. “I have spoons from Italy, Russia, Canada, almost every state in Amer-

Story and photo by Shelby Strickland

December 2016

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Lauren Graham ica — you name a place and I’ve probably collected a spoon from that state or country.” She plans to continue collecting until she fills an entire wall in her home. “Each spoon represents an experience I’ve had, or stories of experiences I’ve heard from friends and family. They’re all from places I’ve been or want to visit.” Each spoon has a symbol or picture that represents the place it is from. While she may never meet that perfect someone who shares her passion for the cutlery, Lauren has one thing going for her. “On the bright side, I’ll never have to worry about cleaning dirty spoons when I want to eat a bowl of cereal.”


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December 2016

SEEKING COMMUNITY

Local people seek to educate about complex transgender issues

4 in 10 transgender people contemplate suicide, according to the Williams Institute.

Earlier this year, transgender issues were thrust into the national spotlight when the Obama administration threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that did not allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, citing Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in any federally funded educational program. Whether a transgender person can use the bathroom of their choice is just one issue of many that transgender people face on a daily basis. Gender dysphoria is the distress a person feels when body and gender do not match. Rose, who requested her last name to be withheld for reasons of privacy, said she struggled with gender dysphoria for 15 years. “The first hint of it really started at 11 when I hit puberty and body hair and things started changing, and I wasn’t comfortable with the changes,” she said. “I began to become uncomfortable with how my body was developing.” Rose said she first discovered cross-dressing at the age of 13, thanks to the film, “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar,” but had no concept of transitioning, which is when a transgender person physically transitions into the gender with which they identify through hormone replacement therapy and, sometimes, surgery. It wasn’t until Laura Jane Grace, lead singer for the band Against Me!, transitioned in 2012 that the idea hit home that Rose could transition, too. She said it highlights the importance of transgender representation in media. “It made it tangible for me to see them go through that and realize that it’s a real thing that people do, not just something you see in movies or hear about in tabloids,” she said. Dr. Cate Carabelle is a clinical psychologist who has treated transgender people in Southeast Texas since 2004. Prolonged gender dysphoria can lead to a transgender person feeling cut off from society, Carabelle said. “They don’t feel they’re living their authentic self,” she said. “Their identification differs from their external appearance. Most of the time it’s something that starts very early in life and there’s a feeling, at first, of not feeling

UP photo by Noah Dawlearn

OK, not feeling quite right. As the brain matures and we mature socially, it becomes clear that their gender identity is different from what they were born with on the outside. A lot of times that leads to experimentation with cross-dressing and a lot of unhappiness, a lot of confusion — feelings of isolation and lots of depression.” Riley, who requested his last name not be used for reasons of privacy, said transgender people are often ostracized due to their visibility. He said he felt especially isolated in high school. “My business was everybody’s business,” he said. “We all knew each other, so word spread really quick. I didn’t experience as much resistance from the students as I did from the teachers. As far as it went with my classmates, it was just kind of awkward because people didn’t know how to talk to me. I

was suddenly like this outsider, I guess. I wasn’t a girl and I wasn’t a boy. I was other.” The targeted discrimination of transgender people often takes the form of “misgendering” the transgender person, or intentionally referring to the person by the wrong gender. This can cause feelings of dysphoria and distress. “It’s pretty awful, especially if you know the person,” Nathan, who asked that his last name not be used for reasons of privacy, said. “Like, you’ve already come out to them, you’ve been out to them for months, maybe even years, and they still misgender you. You feel like you just got your heart ripped out of your chest. “There’s a lot of dysphoria that goes along with it, too. It’s like, ‘Oh, am I not acting manly enough? Am I not portraying myself masculine?’” This is done, often times, because the harasser knows how much work goes into the transition, Carabelle said. “Sometimes, that’s the easiest way to lash out at something you don’t understand or something you feel negative about,” she said. “They misgender purposefully to hurt the person because unless they’re a stranger, they know a transgender person has worked very hard to get where they are.” Riley’s parents are Muslim, and while his mother is understanding, communicating with his father can be difficult, he said. “My dad is more traditionally Muslim, and every time I talk with him it always gets heated and we can’t have a normal discus-

I was suddenly like this outsider ... I wasn’t a girl and I wasn’t a boy. I was other. — Riley


December 2016

IN

TRANSITIONING WORLD

UP photo by Kyle Swearingen

Rose, photo far left, visited the UP offices to be interviewed for this story. Nathan, above left, and Payshunz Nagashima, above, discuss transgender issues at the Logon Cafe.

sion,” he said. “With my mom, it’s easier, because she’s very open and she doesn’t think I’m going to hell. Our lives are kind of able to exist without clashing because my mom has her beliefs, and I respect that. “Being told I was going to hell if I identified a certain way, that didn’t scare me straight — it just made me a very anxious child.” Other than at school and at home, another place Riley ran into discrimination was at work, he said. Part of the discrimination arose because Riley is “queer,” which is defined as having a non-binary sexual orientation. “I was out at work as both queer and trans, and my boss took it upon himself to tell my parents that I had a girlfriend because he is also Muslim, like my parents,” Riley said. “He thought my parents should know so they could stop me. So, he told my parents I had a girlfriend when my parents didn’t know, and that caused me a lot of problems at home. It was a bad experience. I just don’t bring it up at work or school anymore.” According to Brynn Tannehill of the Huffington Post, 40 percent of trans people attempt suicide. This isn’t because the person is trans, Tannehill writes, but is a combination of factors that naturally raise the chances of

suicide, such as rejection, discrimination, physical abuse, internalized transphobia and “intersectionality.” Payshunz Nagashima, educational chair and volunteer at PFLAG, an organization for parents, friends and families of the LGBTQIA community, said intersectionality is when multiple minority identities interact, such as being a Muslim transman or a transgender woman of color. These intersecting identities can lead to social disadvantages and, as a result, a lower quality of life due to discrimination and pay inequality. “Gay men, from an economic standpoint, are on par with straight males in income potential, and as (gay male) couples, tend to have a slightly higher income than a heterosexual white male, but that’s because a heterosexual white male is married to a woman who doesn’t have the same economic opportunities,” Nagashima said. “Transwomen of color live on less than $10,000 a year. Being trans, being female, being black — that’s why I talk about intersectionality.” So far in 2016, 21 trans people have been murdered in the United States, most of them transgender women of color, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Riley said that violence is one source of anxiety and is one rea-

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Story by Tim Collins

son trans people keep quiet. “We’re definitely in a society where it’s like, you live in a place where there’s so much violence around people like you, that you don’t want to speak up about being who you are, you know?” he said. “I’m scared for my safety. Constantly. I know it would be worse for me if I was a trans girl, because transwomen face more violence on average than transmen. My family, just because we’re Muslim, we’ve faced hate crimes before, so I know what that’s like. “I’m only really vocal about my gender identity with friends. It’s scary hearing stories on the news about what happens when people don’t think your gender identity is valid. It’s definitely scary.” This is why a support system is important, Nagashima said, to combat violence and to be an outlet through which trans people can reach out to others who understand them. Small schools don’t always have Gay/Straight Alliance organizations for LGBTQIA youth. Riley said this is one reason he felt isolated. “There were like two queer people,” he said. “When I decided to come to Lamar, the first thing I did was look into queer organizations because that was something that I always wanted to be a part of. I joined the Lamar Allies and it’s been a drastic change in my life. For the first time, I’m surrounded by people who understand me and don’t treat me like a separate class of person.” Dr. Pamela A. St. Amand, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Legacy Health Community Services in Beaumont, said that it can be critical for a community to support transgender people and all members of the LGBTQIA community because they are at risk. “If there’s not support, it can be very dangerous,” she said. “Some kids, especially young adults, might even stop taking the hormones because they’re not able to live peacefully in their job, at school or with their parents, causing so many issues that they stop the hormones even though they really want to transition.” This is why seeing a therapist can be helpful, St. Amand said. “Most of the time, what I tell my adult patients is that it’s helpful to see a counselor, not because you’re trans, but because the rest of the world isn’t,” she said. Nagashima, who identifies as transmasculine, said that organizations like GSAs, PFLAG, GLAAD, Beaumont Pride and Lamar Allies are important because people often confuse sexuality with gender identity. “We try to educate people, and the simple way to do it is, ‘Gender is about who I go to bed as. Sexuality is about who I go to bed with,’” he said. “Every month, when we

See TRANS page 19


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Host of Josh Yawn builds on Lamar

Yawn standing next to his refurbished arcade game.

Courtesy photo

In the fall 2006 issue of UPbeat magazine, a story ran about an accomplished LU communication student who had already broken into the entertainment industry at age 22. Ten years later, Joshua Yawn is still working in television and has moved back to Southeast Texas where his production company, Joshua Productions, is about to begin its fifth year. “Southeast Texas feels like home,” Yawn said. The Lamar grad spent his final semesters at Lamar honing his craft for his future career in the television industry. “During that last year I was a little more relaxed because I’d gotten stuff out of the way, so I got to focus on what I was passionate about,” he said. “I made a lot of really close friends, really strong relationships that I cherish. They are really a big part of what I’m doing now so, it all worked out. As a broadcast major I wanted to be a TV host — I aspired all my life to do that.” At a young age, Yawn had a one-of-a-kind experience that solidified his passion for TV production. “I was a big fan of Marc (Summers), growing up on ‘Double Dare.’ So back in the late ’90s, when people had their AOL profile as a sort of precursor to social media, I had on mine that I wanted to do (TV hosting) for a living and that my hero was Marc Summers,” Yawn said. “I said all this stuff about what a big fan I was, and in July of 2000, I was 15 years old and sitting at home when the phone rang. I said, ‘Hello,’ and a voice said, ‘Is Josh there?’ and I said, ‘This is he,’ and the voice said, ‘Hi, this is Marc Summers.’” Summers had been searching his name on the internet and found Yawn’s post, then fate took over. “This is a really good story,” Yawn said. “(My family was) planning on going to Universal Studios Orlando on vacation, and Marc asked, ‘Have you ever been to Nickelodeon studios?’ I said, ‘Oh, well, my family is actually planning on going there in a couple of weeks.’ Marc said ‘Double Dare 2000,’ which was the revival of ‘Double Dare’, which he was a producer on, was going to be in production that week, and told me to hold on. “So he calls the executive producer on three way and gets her on the phone and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a friend that’s coming’ — and he doesn’t know me from Adam, never met me! (He says) ‘I’ve got a friend that’s coming and I want him to be able to shadow


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experiences

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Story package by Haley Bruyn

foundation to produce dreams

“I have just the best memories of being15-years old and... being a kid in a candy store.” you for a week while he’s there.’ She said, ‘OK, Mr. Summers,” and so I actually got to do that.” Yawn says the experience was one in a million. “That was my first time ever in a TV studio,” he said. “It was weird enough that Marc Summers called me, but super weird that the timing worked out that I got to go shadow the executive producer on the show. “I have just the best memories of being 15-years old and just sort of being a kid in a candy store. One, the show that inspired me to get into TV — I’m like, here — and then two, just absorbing everything that I could about the business that I wanted to get into.” Since then, Yawn’s professional career has been one project after another. “I worked in series TV for almost a decade — at the same time I was in college, in fact, and I was traveling,” he said. “I was a host briefly on the Game Show Network in LA. I worked two seasons on a show for Nickelodeon, behind the scenes, which was called ‘My Family’s Got GUTS,’ a revival of the original ‘GUTS’ show, so I worked on that. “I worked with the casting department for ‘The Biggest Loser,’ ‘Last Comic Standing,’ ‘Supernanny,’ and several other shows for NBC and ABC, and then just decided, after 10 years I wanted to be at home. So I came back and started my company, Joshua Pro-

ductions. The first thing we did was a game show called ‘Family knows Best.’” Yawn’s company produces TV commercials, safety videos and long format videos, and he is working on a documentary with Summers about his life and career. “The documentary is the first thing, movie-wise, I’ve ever done,” Yawn said. “I never really aspired to do anything movie related, and this just sort of came up, but because it was Marc (Summers), it really appealed to me.” Yawn said he is thankful for being busy and the growth that the company has had over the past four and a half years,. “The original goal was just to be a production company, but someone said, ‘We want to advertise on your show but we don’t have a commercial. Can you make us a commercial?’ So we did — and the phone kept ringing,” Yawn said. “Quickly, we realized that was the avenue that was serendipitously given to us to follow — so we did. That kind of organically molded the company and dictated our trajectory just by happy accident.” Visual media isn’t the only thing Yawn produces. He had a successful career as a DJ and lecturer that he says helped him in is career as a host. “I cut my teeth as a DJ and then ended up producing a series of instructional things for DJs and writing a book

Courtesy photo

The crew for the documentary called "On Your Marc,” in Bloomington, Indiana at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. Josh Yawn is pictured to the right of Marc Summers, center. for DJs, and then ended up giving seminars and workshops for DJ’s in Vegas,” he said. “It was one of those things that you do for a season and then you move on.” Yawn also makes time in his schedule for his other passion — restoring vintage arcade games. “From time to time I think about opening up a second business and having a true, old school ’80s-style or ’90sstyle arcade, because I have a storage unit with 40 or 50 arcade games,” he said. But a second business isn’t the reason he works on his games. “It’s kind of fun, at the end of the day, to just go home and get dirty, to get your

mind off of problem solving for someone else — whether it be through marketing or advertising or trying to write a good script or edit something just so and things like that — and just wrap your head around a different kind of problem solving,” Yawn said. Though his video game hobby may seem like a total departure from his company, Yawn said the two actually mingle very nicely. “We have (an arcade game) in the office, and it’s completely branded to the company,” he said. “I did a refurb, and it plays like 30,000 games. I always say we don’t have bad days in the office, we just

See YAWN page 20


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December 2016

STILL A SANCTUARY

PHOTO STORY BY NOAH DAWLEARN

Humane Society rebounds after fire, seeks volunteers On the evening of March 15, the Humane Society of Southeast Texas was destroyed by a devastating fire which took the lives of 67 dogs. The fire started from a faulty wall socket. It has been seven months since that tragic night, but the Humane Society has continued to serve as a sanctuary for companion animals by providing temporary shelters that can house up to 130 animals. Some of the animals are not cur-

rently in the shelter but are in the care of foster parents who take animals into their homes and give them the necessary human interaction they need. Some of the animals have been abandoned or abused and require extra love and compassion to be comfortable around humans again. Volunteers help these animals transition back into normality by regularly interacting with them. Some dogs enjoy being petted, cuddled and loved, while other

dogs prefer a long run or a game of fetch. Similarly, some cats crave cuddling and compassion, while others enjoy playing with toys. The Humane Society is still raising funds to build a new animal sanctuary, and they are always looking for volunteers. For more information about volunteering, or to donate, visit www.humanesocietyofsouth easttexas.org, or email hsset nowandforever@gmail.com.


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Make-A-Wish trip not quite a wish come true

I am a Wish Kid. No, I didn’t have cancer. I could sit here and quote the Make-A-Wish Foundation on their policies and try to explain how I got a wish, but just to keep it simple, I will say I had chronic kidney disease, was dying a slow and painful death and I was under the age of 18 at the time so they granted me a wish. I first heard I was getting a wish when they sent two volunteers to my house to ask me what I wanted to do. I gave them three options. The first, and highest priority, was to get laser surgery to remove stretchmarks that steroid treatments ripped into my skin. They told me right away that they wouldn’t do this. Apparently I was ‘missing the point’ of the wish. The second wish was to star in the next “Finding Nemo” movie (this shows both my age, 16, and my maturity level) or any animated movie if there wasn’t going to be a “Finding Nemo 2.” The fact that there is now a “Finding Dory” tells me this wish was possible and they just didn’t see the potential in my voice. My third possible wish was to go to the Grammys, and this was the one that ultimately was approved. I went to the 55th-annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2013. It was a total of 150 days after I received my kidney transplant and I felt great. The volunteers gave me the option of taking a family member or friend along, as well my parents. I chose my cousin, but by the time we went on the trip she was pregnant so she lost her spot. I replaced her with my brother. After all, it was his kidney I got, so I kind of owed him one. My brother was living with us because he moved back when I first got sick, but he had a pregnant wife and a 16-month-old son by this time. My parents decided to pay for them separately and saw it as a family vacation. The wish started with a trip to Dave and Busters in Houston. The company gave me a card full of money to play games, a basketball with their logo, and a cute little teddy bear that I refused to give to my nephew because he would drool on it. They also gave us a free meal, and my family only had to pay for their adult beverages. It was great. If this was any indication of how spoiled I would be on my trip, I was down. There was also another little boy getting his wish granted that day, but I didn’t talk to him to see what he was getting. The next part of my wish came with a shopping spree at Macy’s at Memorial Mall. I had a woman who shopped with me the entire time and took me to a booth to get my makeup done. I strategically asked for the Dior booth because the only makeup I had at the time was drugstore and I wanted a luxury experience. It was amazing. They made me look and feel beautiful, and then they gave me a bag full of Dior goodies. I still have them to this day and use them for special occasions. Who cares that makeup

Jackie Benavides, left, poses with singer Adele and fellow Make-A-Wish kid, Tina Peterson at the 2013 Grammy Awards red carpet. Autograph legend: 1. John Legend; 2. Neil Patrick Harris; 3. Ne-Yo; 4. Kaley Cuoco; 5. Justin Timberlake; 6. Sting; 7. Adele; 8. Kelly Osbourne; 9. Carrie Underwood. goes bad when it has sentimental value? After my makeover, I was taken to try on dresses for the Grammys. I tried on four dresses and walked out to a room full of compliments, but on the fifth dress I fell in love. It was a long dress with a black, one-shoulder top connected by a line of sequins to a long multi-colored bottom. The back was open and the bottom flowed with every step I took. It was truly magical. They gave me six-inch heels to complete the look and I said, “Yes to the dress.” The day of the event hovever, I opted for a pair of flats that were ripping at the edges because, you know, comfort. Macy’s gave me two outfits for the trip as well. I swear, I never stopped smiling.

Finally, we flew to LAX from Hobby airport. We all piled into my brother’s truck and drove the hour to Houston. We had to pick up my grandpa so he could drop us off and we wouldn’t have to pay airport parking. So, we had a car seat, a pregnant woman on my brother’s lap in the back, and every other seat full. Thank goodness we didn’t get pulled over. I found out, after talking with other Make-A-Wish families at the Grammys, that they all were picked up in limos. Oh, cool. We were stereotypical Mexicans. No biggie. Anyway, we get on the plane — my first plane ride since I was a baby — and passed around my nephew to entertain him. I was happy, my family was happy, everything was great. We got to LAX and a concierge was there to pick us up with a sign just for me. It was really exciting. We were driven to the hotel which was huge and beautiful. We went

See WISH page 18


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upstairs to put our luggage away and found that there were two double beds and no sofa. We called the front desk to get a rollaway bed and they said they couldn’t send one because it would be against regulations. Great. So, I slept on the floor all six days that we were there. I found out later that other families on the same trip had multiple rooms. We were crammed into one. You say we could’ve pitched in and bought another room? Just to give an idea of where we were staying, there were Gucci watches and purses on display in the lobby. There was a beautiful piano that constantly had a professional playing. We didn’t have Gucci lobby money to be spending on this trip if we wanted to eat and enjoy things. We were given a lot of freedom on this

trip. There were very few mandatory events planned. There were three other families on the trip and we all got tickets to go to Universal Studios — front-of-the-line passes. We all just happened to choose the same day. It was pretty empty the day we went so I was able to ride everything I wanted. We went to a rehearsal for the Grammys. I was only allowed to take one family member, so I took my mom. That day, all the wish kids got swag bags. I am talking Spyder headphones, random food storage containers, jewelry and, best of all, a cupcake made by a woman who won “Cupcake Wars.” I ended up saving the cupcake and taking it back to the hotel, where I split it six ways so everyone could try it. Unfortunately, it was filled with raspberry jam so it made a mess, but we all savored our tiny morsels. The swag bags were so full that my mom ended up holding the bag because it got too heavy for me. After the free stuff, we went to Staples Center to watch rehearsals. We saw Mumford and Sons and Fun rehearse, but then we were kicked out when Justin Timberlake wanted a closed arena. I don’t want to say diva, but…. On the next free day, my brother wanted to go to Disneyland, so we did. I didn’t realize how huge that place is, but the fact that there were trolleys and escalators everywhere blew my mind. After visiting one little theater, the day went downhill. We tried going to Cars Land, but my sister-in-law noticed she had lost her phone. We spent the next six hours looking for it, retracing our steps. Luckily, somebody had turned it in to lost and found, but my Disneyland experience was already ruined. I didn’t ride anything. On the day of the Grammys, we were taken in a limo. It was great, right? Well, except my sister-in-law couldn’t go, my brother had anxiety both about leaving her and going to a crowded place, and I had this crazy conspiracy theory that I was epileptic because I’d had seizures in the past — you don’t wanna know. OK, I was scared of the shadows cast by ceiling fans for the longest time. So, piling into a limo with three other families was a struggle. We got in last and sat closest to the door so we could jump out at any moment. When we got to the Staples Center, we were able to walk behind the red carpet. We walked an orange carpet. Seriously, there was a separate walkway for not-im-

portant people. We were put in a section at the end of the “real” red carpet with a reporter for TV Guide Network. She was nice, but she really wanted attention. As celebrities came down the carpet we were told to shout if we wanted to meet somebody. I shouted for a few people, but my favorites never really came through. Taylor Swift blew us off because she said she had to, “Get ready to open the show.” Giuliana Rancic stopped by and invited the kid in the wheelchair to her restaurant in Chicago. Another girl with us said she bonded because they both had cancer. I just said, “I feel like I know you,” Who even says that? Sounds like a stalker. Regrets. Neil Patrick Harris came up, and my mom and I shared a moment of excitement — we’re both big fans and he was refreshingly not his character on “HIMYM.” Justin Timberlake came by and I saw that he was wearing too much makeup. Ne-Yo came up and I asked if I could hug him. Best hug ever. Trey Songz came up, too, Jackie Benavides wears a dress provided by and gave me a kiss on the cheek, so of Macy’s, left, to the Grammys where she met Neil course I couldn’t wash my face that night. Chris Brown walked up with his goofy nose Patrick Harris and got his autograph. ring and I was disappointed in him — but we were standing and just stared at us a at least he didn’t punch me. He did draw a second and walked off. I wanted to talk to cute picture for the kid in the wheelchair, her and get her autograph but it just didn’t though, so I couldn’t be mad at him. happen. I got a blurry picture of her At this point, I should apologize for my though, so there’s that. obvious jealousy of the kid in the wheelFinally, they told us to go take our seats chair. But he did get a lot of extra attention. Dude, I was dying too. He wasn’t even and we did. I had hid a jumbo Rice Krispie in my clutch purse and pulled it out as very nice, but I digress. Then there was Adele. Oh my goodness, soon as we got to our seats. As I was munching, Beyoncé walked by. Like any she was and is my favorite person. My sane person would, I yelled at her how hands started shaking when she came up much I loved her and sat back down when to me. I said to her, “I love you” and she she didn’t even flinch. Leona Lewis walked said, “Thank you,” with an English accent by, too, and I yelled once again. She lifted which made it so much more sincere. I her hand in an almost wave and I was sathugged her and she was so soft and warm. isfied. A lot of other random people came by My brother left a little after the concert and I got their autographs just because started and, to my surprise, I didn’t have a they were there. There was some guy from panic attack or seizure. I watched as Carrie The Police, Fun, Little Big Town, Skrillex, Underwood sang her heart out. I saw the Kimbra (who had a really pretty dress that collaboration of Bruno Mars, Rihanna and I ‘accidently’ reached out and touched), some guy named Sting. I was so into the and some people that my dad kept yelling show that I didn’t even ask my mom for at me to go get. the M&Ms we snuck in her purse. I waited and waited, but never got to Although my wish didn’t go perfectly, I see Bruno Mars, Rihanna or Beyoncé, so, am forever grateful to Make-A-Wish benight was ruined. I did see Jennifer Lopez, cause they did give me a once-in-awho has been my favorite Latina since she lifetime experience. played Selena, but she had way too much Even better, I got the wish and makeup on to where it looked cakey. She didn’t end up dying. also was awkward. She walked up to where


December 2016

TRANS

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have our meeting, we start off with an educational portion before we go into our support groups. Typically, I try to address whatever is going on currently so that I can provide additional information aside from what people already read about.” The November meeting, for example, discussed the Transgender Day of Remembrance, so we’ll be discussing topics like that. Carabelle likened the “Bathroom Bill” furor from earlier this year to bullying the transgender community, which is relatively small in comparison to the larger LGB community. “The ‘Bathroom Bill,’ and everything that’s covered by the media is sort of an anomaly, because this is a group of people that just want to be themselves,” she said. “They don’t want to have a spotlight shown on them, and they don’t want an issue made of the bathroom, and they don’t want an issue made of their lives. They want to live their lives the way they feel they need to live. I see it as really bullying a very small community that doesn’t want to be in the spotlight.” Trans people transition into the gender they identify with through injections of either estrogen or testosterone. Getting hormones can be difficult and can present many obstacles, Carabelle said. “In situations like that, a lot of people will do things that are dangerous, like buy online, and their care isn’t monitored by a doctor,” she said. “It’s also stealth. When you live in a rural area, or even in Jefferson County 10 years ago, it’s safer emotionally to buy online. It’s not safer physically, but it’s hidden. “Personally, I think that people have a great fear that their doctor will say, ‘That’s nuts. That’s not right,’ or even, around here, we have doctors who are opposed to things like that because of a religious belief. That’s where a support group becomes really helpful.” Rose said the trans community is the reason she received her hormones, and for that, she’s grateful. “If I hadn’t had the very positive and healthy trans community behind me, it would have been a lot more difficult,” she said. “I had a situation, when I had first started

Gender is about who I go to bed as. Sexuality is about who I go to bed with. — Payshunz Nagashima

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hormones, where something ended up falling through and it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to continue hormones because I didn’t know where else to get them. The community came together and said, ‘Well, no, you can get them over here.’” The hormones are crucial, St. Amand said, because her patients often go through a positive transformation once they are in the body with which they identify. “Once you start them on the hormones, they usually present you with a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, because they can be who they are and be seen as who they are,” she said. Nathan said the physical transformation, while positively uplifting and a source of renewed self-confidence, can take some getting used to. “My voice has definitely deepened,” he said. “I have increased body hair, my face slimmed up — it’s not as round, it’s more defined — and I’m starting to lose my hairline, which is weird. I have a little bit of facial hair. I have to shave for work, but I’ve been off for a few weeks, so there’s a little bit. I shave at least once a week, which is huge for me, because I never ever had to do that before, like, ‘This sucks.’” Despite the transformation, Riley said his mother has a hard time letting go of who he once was. “No matter how long I identify a certain way, or if I’ve been on testosterone for 10 years and look completely like a man, I feel like they’re going to still call me by my birth name and call me a girl,” he said. “That’s how they see me. That’s what my mom said. She said, ‘You’re like my baby girl and I don’t want to lose you.’” Carabelle said she thinks the transgender community is brave, because there are so many trials and tribulations to go through.

Infographic by Trevier Gonzalez

“There are a lot of sacrifices they have to make, and it’s not a choice,” she said. “I think that’s important for everyone to understand, that it’s not an, ‘Oh, I’m gonna wake up one day and I’m transgender!’ It’s not like that. It’s a very hard path to take. But on the other side of it is almost always increased personal happiness and confidence, and a whole new life.” Nathan said one of his biggest supporters has been his mom. “She’s done so much research,” he said. “She’s gone to support group meetings with me, and she’s become one of my biggest supporters by educating herself, and she also educated others around her. “It was hard at first, but it’s blossomed into this beautiful thing.” Nathan said he would extend his definition of family to cover the trans community because of all the support they’ve given him. “They have really become like my chosen family, my second family, and I would not be where I am today had I not had the support of them,” he said. “I have received nothing but love and support from every single one of them. I mean, I’ve grown up here my whole life. I think it’s a great community, and I think Southeast Texas in general is a great community. People tend to write off transgender people before they’ve met them, so reach out. Be open-minded and educate yourself.” For more information, visit glaad.org, transequality.org or wpath.org. Those in need of crisis prevention should call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866488-7386. Local organizations such as PFLAG, Beaumont Pride or Lamar Allies may be reached through their Facebook pages.


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Josh Yawn worked behind the scenes on Nickelodeon’s revival of the TV game show “GUTS,” called, “My Family’s Got GUTS,” in 2008. He worked with the contestant department.

Courtesy photo

YAWN

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have days where we play the arcade a little more. “Clients come in and say, ‘I want to play this game, I bet you don’t have it,’ and it’s on there. It’s a great way to level the playing field and build rapport. It’s actually gotten me work.” Yawn has accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, and said he is grateful for the opportunities he has had. “A lot of these projects overlapped in weird ways,” he said. “If you really stacked them end to end, it would seem like I’m 80, but a lot of these things have happened at the same time.” “It takes time to build up a body of work and a portfolio and in (Joshua Production’s) first couple of years we didn’t do a whole lot. But I’ve recently looked back and it’s like, ‘Wow. We’ve actually done a lot.’ I’m not patting myself on the back when I say that. I guess, since you focus on one thing at a time, you really are building a body of work.” Yawn said ending up in Beaumont was not origi-

nally part of his plan. “If you would have told me 10 years ago, when I was coming out of Lamar, that 10-years later I would be here, doing this now, I probably would have said there is no way it’s going to happen,” he said. “I was in LA, New York, Orlando, and sort of scattered around all sorts of different places. I really had my eyes set on things that were not here. I did those things, and they were fine, but I’m happier now being back in Texas. If I hadn’t done those things elsewhere, I wouldn’t be equipped to do what we’re doing with Joshua Productions. “Career wise, I’ve had a great run in everything that I’ve done. I feel like if I never hosted again I’ve accomplished what I dreamed of accomplishing. If I never did anything else voiceover wise, which was never a big passion, then I would be fine with that. I feel like the stuff that I did do was enough, so that made it fairly easy to walk away from that and do what I’m doing now. “I have never dreaded a single day going into the office or going to work, or going on a shoot or doing what we do. I sincerely love it.”

Even though the production community may not be as large as those in LA or New York, Yawn says the talent and passion is just as plentiful. “It’s insane the number of people that have gone off and worked on huge projects, and also choose to live in Southeast Texas — it’s unbelievable the amount of talent that is here,” he said. “People that are here are here by choice and so I think that their level of passion and the level of commitment is a lot stronger than your average freelancer out West or out East. There’s a great energy that can’t be duplicated — not that I’ve found anywhere else, anyway.” Yawn said that having a true passion for what you’re doing is important. “Being really good at what you’re doing is really important,” he said. “So I think equally important to that would be building relationships and realizing that the person you’re sitting next to in class, you never know who they may end up being one day.” Yawn said he is excited to see where his career goes from here. “And I’m looking forward to being in UPbeat in another 10 years,” he said.


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