Sportswriter Takes Transgender Identity Public

This week veteran sportswriter Mike Penner crossed a line, and there is no turning back.

Using his newspaper -- the Los Angeles Times -- as a platform, the prolific Penner announced yesterday that he was taking a vacation and that when he returned, things in his life would be very different, including his name:

"I will come back in yet another incarnation. As Christine," Penner wrote.

Writing under the byline of Mike Penner for the last time, the 49-year-old journalist candidly described the pain of a lifetime feeling like a woman trapped in a man's body.

"It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words," Penner confessed. "I am a transsexual sportswriter."

Transgender is the term used to describe "people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth," according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD).

The term transgender can include not only those who pursue sexual reassignment, as Penner has, but also cross-dressers and other "gender variant people," according to GLADD.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, DSM- IV, "suggests that roughly one per 30,000 adult males and one per 100,000 adult females seek [sex-reassignment surgery]."

Penner said the research suggests nature, not nurture, is primarily responsible for the confusion that can produce a life of agony.

"Recent studies have shown that such physiological factors as genetics and hormonal fluctuation during pregnancy can significantly affect how our brains are 'wired' at birth," he wrote in the Times. "As extensive therapy and testing have confirmed, my brain was wired female."

Mostly Positive Reaction

Buoyed by the mostly positive response to her revelation, Christine Daniels consented to have the tables turned on the journalist and be the subject of a follow-up story by a fellow Los Angeles Times reporter.

She walked into the lobby of the Times building yesterday afternoon as a woman.

According to the story posted last night on latimes.com, the tall Daniels (her middle name as a man was Daniel) wore slacks, a blouse with flowers, a bit of make-up and a wig of long, strawberry blond hair that she will don while growing out her own hair.

"Writing that piece, which I didn't initially want to write, ended up becoming one of the best things I have ever done," Daniels told Times staff writer James Rainey.

"And a day I dreaded all my life has ended up being one of the best days I've ever had."

By the end of the day, the Times reported Daniels had received 538 e-mails. Only two of them negative.

Like the personal e-mails, postings on the latimes.com message board were largely positive. But there were some who took issue with both Penner's story and his decision to live as a woman.

"It's a pity you couldn't get the substantive therapy you needed," said one, according to the Times. "There's nothing 'natural' about what you describe, and the fact that your DNA doesn't change is proof."

Daniels' role as a transgender sports reporter could pose unique challenges. The world of sports and sports reporting is more associated with maleness and traditional masculinity than perhaps any endeavor, other than warfare. Though women have staked out turf on the playing field, sports are still mostly identified with masculinity.

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