L.A. Times Transgender Sports Writer Dead of Suspected Suicide

November 29, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Mike Penner, a popular sports beat writer for the L.A. Times for a quarter of a century, was found dead at his Los Angeles home, the day after Thanksgiving, of an apparent suicide. Penner shocked his readers in an April 2007 column when he announced that he was a transsexual and that he planned to transition to living his life as a woman, named Christine Daniels. Penner wrote for a short time under the byline Christine Daniels, but then quietly returned to Mike Penner, without explanation.

Penner, just 52-years-old was hailed by Times Sports Editor Mike James, as a kind man with enormous talent. “He was one of the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with. He was a gentle man, a kind man. It’s just a tragedy,” wrote James on the paper’s website.

Penner struggled with his transgender issues his entire life. And once he admitted to the world that his “brain was wired female,” he became a source of inspiration to the transgender community, as he chronicled his transformation into Christine Daniels on a blog, “Woman in Progress.”

Penner’s “coming out” column honestly described his life-long struggles with his sexual identity:

“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. 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. When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment than you ever imagined possible, it shouldn’t take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do.”

Associate Editor Randy Harvey, who was the paper’s sports editor at the time, said the transsexual column allowed Penner to explain in his own words, a decision that “we realized would be a human-interest story and a news story. We didn’t want it to be filtered through someone else’s lens.”

On Friday, November 27, 2009 Mike Penner-Christine Daniels, entered the final round with his transgender fight and ended his life.

Penner is survived by his brother, John, a copy editor at The Times, and his former wife, Times staff writer Lisa Dillman.


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