Coming Out as Transgender at Work

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I just finished reading this stunning piece by Los Angeles Times sportwriter Mike Penner. It begins:

During my 23 years with The Times’ sports department, I have held a wide variety of roles and titles. Tennis writer. Angels beat reporter. Olympics writer. Essayist. Sports media critic. NFL columnist. Recent keeper of the Morning Briefing flame.

Today I leave for a few weeks’ vacation, and when I return, I will come back in yet another incarnation.

As Christine.

Holy sashimi. What a lead. It continues:

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.

I don’t know Mike, but I’m familiar with his byline and I have a few friends who work at the LAT. In other words, I feel like I know him. It occurs to me: this could be anyone on my staff, too.

I’m trying to imagine being in his, soon to be her, shoes. I’m imagining growing up wanting to be a journalist, and finally landing that dream job of jobs, a full-time post at the LAT. He doesn’t delve into it in his piece, but I’m imagining the hyper-macho world of sports journalism, and how he’s going to adjust in that realm. What’ll happen the next time he steps into the Angels’ locker room?

I’m imagining the many hours of staring at the computer as he wrote those words: “I am a transsexual sportswriter.”

He tells of breaking the news to his colleagues, his boss, his soccer buddies. His boss had a funny reaction:

When I told my boss Randy Harvey, he 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.”

Revealing a secret about yourself at work is wrenching enough. It’s exponentially more so when you’re in the public eye. Penner chose to seize the moment and his platform and share his story with the world. In doing so, he’s done an incalculable service to the many others who must struggle with his predicament.

Carry on, Christine. We’re with you.

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