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Shortal: One of these times—if it wasn’t that time, it’s going to be another time—it’s going to be like when …

Clark Kent goes into the phone booth and he’s just Clark Kent, and when he comes out he’s Superman because there’s a transformation.

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in March, Jana Shortal pulls up in her Honda Civic and walks into Spy House Coffee in Minneapolis.

This woman asked because her son is 18 and he asked her if CNN was a Democrat channel. Do you think someone at the level of the NFL only watches, like, one other team?

Fair question, but that’s what we’ve come to, right, that you’re one or the other. The woman was asking what to tell her son, and I’m like, you need to be a conscious consumer, just like you are with food. You need to find out what foods are bad for you, and what foods are good for you, or what foods work for your body, and you need to do the same with news. No, you watch every form of football you can find, to formulate new ideas and new plays.

But, the last thing that should happen is for journalists to get scared and stop being journalists because it’s too hard.

I know for me, I’ve worked harder in the last year of my life than I have in the previous 17 years, and that’s okay. I think right now we have to, and we’ll see what that looks like.

“No, I am a hugger,” she says, as she goes in for the embrace. She is quirky, confident, casual, personable and happy. Earlier in life the southern Illinois native struggled, fighting depression, an eating disorder and identity issues, she said. But by the time I got to my last three years of college, I never, ever, ever wanted to leave. My first job was 20 miles away, purposefully, so I never really had to graduate from college. Milked that one until that job was terrible and I got a really good opportunity to move to a really big market, so I finally had to leave college.

But over the years, she has become comfortable with herself, and now she stands out like no other broadcaster in the Twin Cities. And then I wound up making friends toward my sophomore year. How did you find storytelling and journalism when you went to college?

To be objectified in that way, it really feels strange. I didn’t want it to be on live TV, because I didn’t know how I was going to react.

What do you think teenagers should take away from your experience? I wanted to tape it but only do it in one take, because I wanted it to be real.

I had no idea that anyone would read it or share it—read it, sure—but I didn’t have that kind of reach. I’m not popular like the main anchors, I’m just a regular reporter. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the fourth grade and you’re doing it on the playground, or you’re a grown woman working for a major newspaper and you do it in your column. And I think the response wasn’t because people felt sorry for me. And it’s also, because there’s no lights and windows for reasons of our safety, it’s an open killing ground if someone wanted to do that. every queer space that literally allowed me to become myself, and I could just see it, and it was horrifying. Then I got home that night, and I don’t know if you guys watched any of the coverage, but I was watching CNN, and I know other people did it, but Anderson Cooper went on the air and read 49 names.

I never thought it would make that much of an impact. It was because they felt empowered that somebody said “No. Probably I did the very next morning because I didn’t sleep very well that night, because that whole night was really just like I was living outside of my body. And that’s pretty preferable because you’re unique. I know people would say, “It’s easy for you to say,” but I was never supposed to be here, ever. It took 16 minutes, and all he did was stand there and read their names, ages, and where they’re from, and he was weeping, and I was just like—I was sick.

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