Public Triumph/Private Torment: L.A. Times on the Life and Death of Christine Daniels

The L.A. Times posts this piece today about Christine Daniels, the late sportswriter at the paper whose coming-out as trans briefly energized the community, and whose de-transition back to Mike Penner served as an object lesson in the risks of public exposure for trans people.

Public Triumph/Private Torment

By Christopher Goffard

March 27, 2010

christine_danielsIn late April 2007, Mike Penner published an article unlike any of the thousands he had written for the Los Angeles Times. It was brief, just 823 words, and placed without fanfare on the second page of the Sports section that had been his home for 23 years.

Under the headline “Old Mike, new Christine,” Penner explained that he would soon assume a female identity and byline, a decision that followed “a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy.”

It was “heartache and unbearable discomfort” to remain a man, he explained. Being a woman promised “joy and fulfillment.” The article ended on a hopeful note: “This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

Gone was quiet, circumspect Mike Penner, replaced by ebullient, outgoing — and instantly famous — Christine Daniels. Celebrity meant a megaphone, and Daniels vowed to use it as an advocate. She told her story at transsexual conferences across the country, becoming a symbol of courage to a transgender community inspired by the most visible coming-out in decades.

A year after the essay, the Daniels byline vanished from the newspaper, and within months Penner was back at work, living as a man and writing under his male name. Once so voluble about the reasons for becoming Christine, Penner was silent about the reasons for abandoning the identity.

This time, there was no essay, no explanation. But friends saw a person in torment. Last November, in the parking garage of the apartment complex where he lived alone, Penner killed himself. He was 52.

The duality that defined the sportswriter’s life divided the grieving…(to read the full article, click here.)


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3 Comments

  1. Colin D
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Wow. Very gentle and – if an unbiased reporter can be – almost loving tribute to Christine. Of course, I am NOT unbiased, so that’s how the article read to me.
    I was thrilled that Christine was so accepted at the LA Times and that she was going to remain a sports writer there. It felt like another wonderful picture of a trans person being mainstream and helping to remove the stereotypes. I was very proud of her and admired her courage, being so public (as I do JFB).
    I even wrote her an email once and I happened to have a signature line at the time extolling the wonders of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. She wrote back and said, “I’m with you on the Krispy Kremes, brother!” What a delight.
    I never even tried to switch my thinking back to “Mike”. I felt very strongly that she was hurting too much inside to keep it up and that Christine still lived deep down in that unhappy soul. Her death hit me hard.
    Rest in peace, Christine. You are obviously not forgotten.

  2. Meri B
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this up. There are many lessons to be learned from it.

  3. David Weinstock
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I read this article the other day and wondered if you knew him. Sad story.

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