Transgender Sportswriter committed suicide after long conflict
Mike Penner, a seasoned sportswriter for the LA Times is dead at the age of 52, in an apparent suicide. He was an extremely popular sports journalist with many years in the business, and a major name staff editor for the LA Times. One colleague has called him, ". . . one of the most talented writers I have ever worked with."
Penner went public with his transgender identity in 2007, and began to write under the name of Christine Daniels. See also this Now Public story by NP Staff Editor Jon Azpiri.
(* UPDATE details: For an excellent in-depth look at the phenomena of "Transgender Regret" as regards Mike Penner, see this Now Public article by NP editor Rhonda Mangus. (*A link there to an excellent USA Today article examines Sexual re-assignment regret in the case of Penner prior to his suicide.) For more details about Penner's 'transgender regret', in 2008, a gay blog featured "Christine Daniels re-transitions back to Mike Penner". (*A lot of comments left there, some from transgender people who have also had thoughts of "re-transitioning back".)
That is the surface story, behind which a greater tragedy may have played out: That Penner/Daniels was not successful in his transitioning from male to female.
We know that many of his colleagues could be blunt, producing stings worse than any Jay Leno jokes, as was the case with sports journalist Paul Oberjuerge:
“I hate to be judgmental about these things, but Christine is not an attractive woman. Which probably isn’t a surprise when you’re 50 and have spent your in-the-world life as a fairly drab guy. Who has a fairly prominent Adam’s apple (not all of us do) … Who also isn’t exactly petite. Maybe 6-1, 200?
So … she looks like a guy in a dress, pretty much. Except anyone paying any attention isn’t going to be fooled — as some people are by veteran transvestites.
Another guy in the business was sitting near me when “Chris” wobbled by on her mid-size heels, and she demurely said hello to this other guy, who is about the same age as the two of us. And this guy said, “Hey, Mike … uh, Christine.” He was embarrassed because he wanted to get it right, but he didn’t. Christine said something like, “Some habits are hard to break.” She was kind about it.
The thing is, and maybe this is cruel, but there were women in that room who were born women in body as well as soul. And the difference between them and Christine was, in my mind, fairly stark.
It seemed almost as we’re all going along with someone’s dress-up role playing “
And here is what someone replied on another blog :
Wow. I guess he ended up a trans-transsexual, or a trans-morphingsexual? Was his therapist just plain wrong, or a scam artist who makes a lot of money telling people that they really were born whatever they think they are, regardless of underlying mental issues, as long as the money keeps coming?
What is particularly frightening about Penner's suicide, is that we are left with the question: Why did this transition fail? Was the delusion his, or society's?
We know that Penner stopped using the name of 'Christine Daniels' and returned to his male name and pronoun, but why? Had he been mistaken, in his identity confusion? Or was it the unkindness of the sports culture which did him in. Clearly, the original elation he felt in his 2007 blog posts as 'Christine' had dissipated, and turned into a suicidal despair, and this has import for the Transgender community, and should be reflected on and discoursed about.
There was a transgender site , on which it was speculated - while Penner was still alive - that the LA Times had fired 'Christine Daniels' and that Penner had stopped communicating with other transgendered persons. (See GenderLife Forum, 'What ever happened to Christine Daniels?') Was this his own choice? Or was something else at work?
Mike Penner was pronounced dead on Friday at a California hospital. There will be an autopsy and official cause of death by the LA coroner.
The Times reports that Mike Penner aka Christine Daniels, was believed to have committed suicide. Penner began using the name Mike Penner again last year.
Mike Penner covered Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the Olympics, World Cup soccer, tennis and other sports.
“Mike was one of the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with, capable of reporting on any number of topics with great wit and style. He was a very gentle man who will be greatly missed. This is a tragic ending and a difficult time for all of us who knew him,” said Times Sports Editor Mike James.
Times Editor Russ Stanton said Penner “respected our readers a great deal, enough to share with them his very personal journey.”
Mike Penner wrote openly about his experience as he changed over from Mike Penner to Christine Daniels. He wrote a story for the Times called “Old Mike, New Christine” in April 26, 2007, and wrote how he was taking a few weeks off and upon his return he would be a woman.
“I am a transsexual sports writer,” Penner wrote. “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’s statement shocked many but his employers were supportive.
As Penner himself noted, when he revealed his plans to Times Associate Editor Randy Harvey, who was then the newspaper’s sports editor, Harvey “leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, ‘Well, no one can ever say we don’t have diversity on this staff.’”
At the time of his death he was writing a column for the Times called Totally Random that focused on offbeat, lighthearted and historic moments in sports.
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