Transexual Sportswriter Broke The Mold
Photo: Jason Smith
I managed to unearth this story after conducting a simple search on Google related to LGBT athletes and news. My first thought was, how come we didn’t hear a thing about this on the national level?
Mike Penner was a sportswriter for the L.A. Times, which is easily regarded as one of the top-selling (and top-read) newspapers in the country. Penner made waves in 2007 when he came out as a transsexual and wrote about it in a sports column for the Times. He changed his name to Christine Daniels and began living fully as a female. I remember the column distinctly. It was heartfelt and open, and revealed years of gut-wrenching insecurity and pain. All that Daniels asked was that readers didn’t treat her any differently. She wanted to remain a respected sportswriter in a male-dominated industry, and the Times backed her completely.
The column read: “I am a transsexual sports writer. 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.”
I blogged about the story when it broke on a lesbian news-related website, and spoke about how courageous I thought Daniels was. She was a truly gifted writer was even honored by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association. After she came out, Daniels was continuously invited to events and speaking engagements by numerous groups and organizations in the LGBT community. She continued to write about sports for the Times under Christine Daniels, and it seemed as though she had reached a place where she was happy and content with who she was.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
On November 29, the Times reported that Daniels had died. She was only 52 years old. The details surrounding her death are sketchy at best, and the paper itself believes that it is a case of suicide. Some co-workers say that Daniels was still struggling with her sexuality and gender. This would make sense, since she transitioned back in 2008 and began writing once again as Mike Penner. While so many unknowns remain, one thing is for certain. Christine Daniels was surrounded by people who respected and supported her, regardless if her gender or sexuality. The sad part is that he/she didn’t reach out to anyone, and that she chose to take her own life instead.
In every facet of sports, whether competing or reporting, women constantly have to prove that they are as good, as knowledgeable, and as talented as men are. Christine Daniels took that to a whole other level when she came out. It helped people to realize on some level, that the world of athletics is blind to gender and sexuality. If you know sports, you know sports. If you are a gifted sportswriter, you’re a gifted sportswriter. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, a man, or anything in between. People will still read your column.
You can read the brilliant Penner/Daniels column here.
Blogger Bio: Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a versatile writer, having experience as a journalist, copywriter, author, freelancer and blogger. She is the author of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her recent novel, The Crabapple Tree, was published in May 2009. In addition to writing short stories and novels, Lyndsey also contributes regularly to a variety of national and local publications. Visit lyndseydarcangelo.com for more information.