Adviser Update Adviser Update Spring 2017 | Page 37

37 33 question worse. “I don’t know a single person who wants to stand out in a bathroom,” Howe said. “There is no factual need to worry about it, because there have been transgenders in bathrooms for a long time.” Many of her insights–such as those on gender-neutral bathrooms and the changing of her name– drifted from the profound to the mundane, often in a matter of seconds. Why Bethany Grace Howe? It has the same number of syllables (rhythm) and initials as Barton Grover Howe. Why worry about gender-neutral bathrooms? According to Howe, they’ve been around for years. “They’re called porta potties.” Although Howe frequently turns tragedy into comedy with an acerbic tongue, she wouldn’t release her JEA session’s audience on time, telling them she had something important to say and asking them to stay in their seats while she said it. She said she wanted to make sure everyone in the audience knew she didn’t come to the conference to become some example of how to come out as a transgender. Because her audience already knew she saved two co-pays (her humor) by having an existential crisis at a doctor’s appointment over the summer while she was there for another issue, Howe’s sincerity and belief in the seriousness of transitioning one’s gender identity was never in doubt. In closing, she said no one has an obligation to come out. The only obligation anyone has is to live safely and happily. That means that anyone who is aware of his/ her own transgender status has many options; one can come out to everyone, to friends only, to family only, to friends and family only or even stay closeted. For those who might be interested in helping non-transgender people with the fear of accepting others, Howe said, “Get people to understand their own values and their own identity expression, and get them to understand what it would be like to have that taken away.” “That will help people who are limited about gender issues,” she said. MICHELLE HARMON Michelle Harmon, MJE, is the Journalism Education Association State Director for Idaho. She has been a newspaper adviser for Borah High School in Boise, Idaho for 14 years. In addition, she is a regular contributor to Harmon can be reached at mharmon3@ or @mrharmon on Twitter.