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ROBERT SMITH, host:

We'll take a moment now to remember a trailblazer, a veteran reporter at the Los Angeles Times named Mike Penner. He died this weekend at the age of 52.

Mike Penner made a name for himself in L.A. as a sportswriter. He covered the Olympics, World Cup soccer, Major League Baseball. Then, two and a half years ago, he showed up at work � and in print � as Christine Daniels, writing the line: I am a transsexual sportswriter.

A few months later, Daniels sat down with NPR's Madeleine Brand and talked about growing up as Mike Penner.

Ms. CHRISTINE DANIELS (Sportswriter, Los Angeles Times): From the age of 4 or 5, I expressed to cousins that I would like to be a girl, and they said: Well, what would you do? They were more curious about this and they weren't demeaning at all, they were just curious. What would you do? And I said: Oh, I'd wear a dress and wear ribbons in my hair and walk like this. And they were just, okay, cool, you know? As I grew older, I found that wasn't the social norm.

And I just felt that I kind of got a raw deal on this thing, and yeah, I wish I could be a girl. I really envy girls. But I didn't think there was anything I could do about it. And so I just tried to make the best of � best of being Mike for a lot of years.

MADELEINE BRAND: And when did you decide, I think I'm ready to change, I think the time has come, I no longer want to be Mike anymore?

Ms. DANIELS: Yeah, that started bubbling up in late 2004 to the point where I was dressing at home and I wasn't going out, and you look in the mirror. I mean, for 20 years, I was closeted. I would dress once a month, twice a month. Then in 2004, it was starting to get to every week. It's called a gender dysphoria, and it builds in transsexuals.

I have a friend who is about along the lines of her transition as me, and she just said: Christine, we're born with this. We fight it as long as we can, and it always wins. And I said: I have to - I just have to find out about this. I don't want to die without knowing � without knowing if this is really me.

SMITH: Mike Penner lived and wrote as Christine Daniels for more than a year, returning to the press box but also blogging about the transition. Daniels' writing became a source of hope for people across the country with gender-identity issues.

Then last October, the byline Mike Penner returned to the newspaper, without an explanation this time. And Friday night, Mike Penner died. The cause of death has not been determined, but the L.A. Times reported it was believed to be a suicide. Mike Penner was 52 years old.

This is NPR News.

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