Feature

Mike Penner

The male sportswriter who hoped to be a woman

Mike Penner1957–2009

On April 26, 2007, Los Angeles Times readers were jolted by an essay in the paper’s sports section titled “Old Mike, New Christine.” The author, veteran sportswriter Mike Penner, announced that when he returned from a few weeks’ vacation, it would be as a woman named Christine Daniels. “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,” he announced. While some readers criticized Penner, many supported him, and his decision drew national attention to transgender issues.

Penner grew up in Inglewood, Calif., and graduated from Cal State Fullerton, said the Los Angeles Times. He joined the Times in 1983, covering “the Olympics, the Angels, World Cup soccer, tennis, sports media, and a variety of other assignments.” All the while, he harbored a secret. “From the age of 4 or 5, I expressed to cousins that I would like to be a girl,” Penner recalled. “For 20 years, I was closeted. I would dress once a month, twice a month.” In 2007, when he came out to his boss, sports editor Randy Harvey, Harvey replied, “Well, no one can ever say we don’t have diversity on this staff.”

Penner began writing as Christine Daniels that May, said the Associated Press. Besides his regular column, he wrote a blog called “Woman in Transition.” Though he briefly became a celebrity in transgender circles, Penner revealed few details about his decision. “At the time of his announcement he was married, and he declined to discuss his family situation. He said he was undergoing female hormone treatments, but declined to say whether he planned to undergo a sex-change operation.” Eventually, Penner stopped writing his blog and in October 2008 resumed writing under his old name.

Although the Los Angeles County coroner’s office has not yet determined an official cause of death, colleagues said it was an apparent suicide.

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