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Penner dies; went public as transsexual

11/28/2009

LOS ANGELES -- Veteran Los Angeles Times sports writer Mike
Penner, who attracted national attention when he announced two
years ago he was a transsexual and was changing his name to
Christine Daniels, has died at age 52, the newspaper reported
Saturday.

The Times said Penner was found dead at his Los Angeles home and
the cause of death was believed to be suicide. He had returned to
using the name Mike Penner and was a columnist for the newspaper at
the time of his death. A Times spokeswoman said she did not know
the exact day he died.

In 25 years with the newspaper, Penner covered Major League
Baseball, the National Football League, the Olympics, World Cup
soccer, tennis and other sports. A fluid writer with a sharp wit,
he worked at various times as a reporter, columnist and the
newspaper's Los Angeles Angels beat writer.

"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."

Penner revealed that journey on April 26, 2007, when he wrote a
story for the Times headlined "Old Mike, New Christine," in which
he revealed he was taking a few weeks vacation and when he returned
to his job as a sports writer it would be as a woman named
Christine Daniels.

"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."

The announcement sent shock waves through the sports world, but
Penner's bosses 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."'

After his vacation, Penner did indeed return as Christine
Daniels, not only continuing to report on sports for the Times but
also authoring a blog called "Woman in Transition," detailing his
experiences.

Making public the transition, he once said, was the hardest
thing he had ever done.

"How do you go about sharing your most important truth, one you
spent a lifetime trying to keep deeply buried, to a world that has
grown familiar and comfortable with your facade?" he asked.

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.

However, he eventually dropped the "Woman in Transition" blog
and returned to writing under the name Mike Penner.

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. His last one appeared in the paper on
Nov. 15.

Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not
immediately available.