Chris López and Gabe López

Chris López always knew there was something different about her youngest child, Gabe. Assigned female at birth, Gabe felt like he was a boy.

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Gabe was always more comfortable in clothing traditionally worn by little boys — cargo pants and superhero shirts — but switched back and forth between these outfits and those often worn by little girls. Just after his seventh birthday, he convinced his parents to let him cut off his long hair and get a mohawk — a haircut he had been wanting for years. Around this time period, Gabe started dressing only as a boy and answering exclusively to “he”.

At first, Chris was concerned that Gabe, being so young, might change his mind. She was scared of how people would treat him as he transitioned. But after seeing how Gabe responded to the changes in his hair and clothing, she felt confident that he had made the right decision.

Gabe, who’s nine years old now, has been attending the same school since kindergarten. In the fall of 2016, when he started third grade, he began having others refer to him by his preferred gender pronouns —”he” and “him” — for the first time.

In 2015, the López family attended a camp for transgender, gender creative, and gender non-conforming youth in Tucson, Arizona.

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Gabe and his mother came to the StoryCorps MobileBooth to talk about how that camp transformed his life.

A version of this broadcast aired May 1, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, and was rebroadcast on March 3, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Middle photo: Gabe López. Courtesy of Chris López.
Bottom photo: The López family.

Marilyn Hillerman and Andrea Crook

After graduating high school, Andrea Crook (right) moved from her parent’s home in Northern California to Los Angeles. She was on her own for the first time in her life and had never before knowingly experienced the symptoms of mental illness.

A few years later, when she was 24, Andrea began having paranoid thoughts, delusions, and her behavior became erratic. One day she picked up the phone and called her mother, Marilyn Hillerman (left), who knew by the tone of her voice that Andrea needed her help.

Almost 20 years later, the two of them sat down for StoryCorps in Sacramento, California, to discuss that call and its aftermath.

Andrea is now married with two children, and serves as a client advocate liaison for Mental Health America of Northern California.

Originally aired October 9, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Andy Downs and Angelia Sheer

Young Andy Downs with his father, pilot Brent Downs, and his mother.On Oct 4, 1971, George Giffe, a 35-year-old Tennessee man suffering from mental illness, hijacked a charter plane at gunpoint from the Nashville airport. He also claimed to be in possession of a bomb.

Running low on fuel, the plane’s pilot landed in Jacksonville, FL, where the FBI was waiting. After a brief standoff, Giffe killed the two hostages who remained onboard before turning the gun on himself.

One of the two was Brent Downs—the pilot of the plane.

downs4At StoryCorps, Brent’s son Andy (pictured above with his mother Janie and his father) spoke with Angelia Sheer, the daughter of the man who killed his father.

This tragedy helped shape the way in which law enforcement subsequently handled hijackings after a federal appeals court ruled in 1975 that the FBI acted negligently when agents ignored the safety of the people onboard (the plane is pictured above sitting on the tarmac in Jacksonville, FL).

Originally aired October 2, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photos courtesy of Andy Downs.

Patrick Kreifels and Michelle Kreifels

Michelle Kreifels was born with an intellectual disability. She grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska, the fifth of seven children, and her family treated her the same as everyone else.

Her youngest brother, Patrick, brought Michelle to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship and how their differences have brought them together.

Originally aired June 7, 2015, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Mussarut Jabeen and Yusor Abu-Salha

In May 2014, Yusor Abu-Salha (right)–one of the victims of the February 10, 2015 shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina–recorded a StoryCorps interview with Mussarut Jabeen (left), who was her third-grade teacher.

In fact, all three of the victims–Yusor, her husband, Deah Barakat, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha–attended Jabeen’s school.

Mussarut Jabeen returned recently to talk about Yusor’s death.

Originally aired February 13, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Jenny Carter and Sean Carter

Sean Carter was a college student putting himself through school in Wichita Falls, Texas, when he was in a serious car accident.

He was riding with a friend who had been drinking, and sustained a traumatic brain injury in the crash.

Today, Sean is unable to walk and speaks only with the aid of a computer. At StoryCorps he interviewed his mother, Jenny Carter, who is his full-time caretaker.

Originally aired February 6, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Shane Fairchild and Sayer Johnson

blue-and-shaneShane Fairchild (above left), a transgender man, lived with his wife, Blue Bauer, a transgender woman (pictured at left), for almost six years.

Blue transitioned when she was 54 years old. She and Shane met at a bar and were inseparable. But then Blue got lung cancer. She died on April 12, 2013.

Shane sat down with their friend, Sayer Johnson (top right), to remember Blue.

Originally aired January 25, 2015, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Photo Courtesy of Shane Fairchild.

Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein and Colleen Kelly Starkloff

In his early 20s, Max Starkloff was in a near-fatal car accident, which left him quadriplegic and living in a nursing home.

One day he came across a young woman who worked there, named Colleen. At StoryCorps in St. Louis, Colleen Kelly Starkloff (right) sat down with her daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein (left), to remember Max.

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Originally aired January 16, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo of Max Starkloff courtesy of Colleen Kelly Starkloff.

Sandra Sowder and Marcia Sutton

Sandra Sowder (left) and Marcia Sutton (right) met in a small town outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Over time, they fell in love. When they made their relationship public, their worlds turned upside down.

The couple sat down together at StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

Originally aired September 21, 2014, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Alton Yates and Toni Yates

As a teenager, Alton Yates (pictured above) did a job that helped send people into space.

yatestaIn the mid-1950s, before NASA existed, Yates was part of a small group of Air Force volunteers who tested the effects of high speeds on the body. They were strapped to rocket-propelled sleds that hurtled down a track at more 600 miles per hour and stopped in a matter of seconds. These experiments helped prove that space travel was safe for humans.

At StoryCorps, Yates told his daughter, Toni (pictured together at left), that—for him—the story starts in high school, shortly after his mother died.

Originally aired August 29, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

After leaving the Air Force in 1959, Alton Yates became involved with the Civil Rights Movement in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. On August 27, 1960, he attended a sit-in that turned violent. It became known as Ax Handle Day.

 

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