April 29, 2007

LA Times Sports Columnist is a Transsexual

Now that's not the kind of headline you see every day, but it is true. Los Angeles Times sports columnist Mike Penner announced in his column on April 26 that he was leaving for vacation and coming back in a few weeks as Christine. He is also able to see where this fits in with the big picture:

I am a transsexual sportswriter. 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 realize many readers and colleagues and friends will be shocked to read them.

That's OK. I understand that I am not the only one in transition as I move from Mike to Christine. Everyone who knows me and my work will be transitioning as well. That will take time. And that's all right. To borrow a piece of well-worn sports parlance, we will take it one day at a time.

As extensive therapy and testing have confirmed, my brain was wired female.

A transgender friend provided the best and simplest explanation I have heard: We are born with this, we fight it as long as we can, and in the end it wins.

I gave it as good a fight as I possibly could. I went more than 40 hard rounds with it. Eventually, though, you realize you are only fighting yourself and your happiness and your mental health — a no-win situation any way you look at it.

This AP story contains some reactions:

"Mike Penner has been an exemplary contributor to the Los Angeles Times sports pages for over two decades and today's column is no exception," Randy Harvey, the newspaper's sports editor, said in a statement. "The decision to go public cannot have been an easy one and, while we do not make a habit of commenting on the personal and private lives of our journalists, we do look forward to continuing our relationship into the future."

John Amaechi, the first NBA player to publicly come out of the closet as being gay, said he read Penner's column Thursday after returning from a speaking engagement in Berkeley at the University of California.

"It's incredibly bold and far more courageous than anything I could have done," said Amaechi, who spent five seasons in the NBA. "I commend him."

Gay and lesbian activists praised Penner and the Los Angeles Times.

"Christine's still-unfolding story sends a powerful message about the importance of living openly and honestly as does the Times' public support of her transition," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

God bless "New Christine" as she enters what will be a fascinating (given the nature of the sports world) and hopefully fulfilling walk in the next chapter of her life.

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