Los Angeles Times reporter Mike Penner, who publicly chronicled his gender transition and returned to the paper under the name Christine Daniels, died Friday evening at age 52.
The cause of death has not been determined, but the newspaper reported that it was believed to be suicide.
Penner made a name for himself in Los Angeles as a sportswriter. He covered the Olympics, World Cup soccer and Major League Baseball. Then, 2 1/2 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 talked to NPR's Madeleine Brand about growing up as a boy. "From the age of 4 or 5, I expressed to cousins that I would like to be a girl," Daniels said. "And they said, 'Well, what would you do?' They were more curious about this than — they weren't demeaning at all, they were just curious.
"I said, 'I'd wear a dress and wear ribbons in my hair and walk like this,' and they were just, 'OK, cool.' As I grew older, I found that wasn't the social norm.
"I just felt that I kind of got a raw deal on this thing, Daniels said. "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 — the best of being Mike. For a lot of years."
Daniels talked about a friend who was in a similar stage of transition. "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 just have to find out about this. I don't want to die without knowing — without knowing if this is really me.' "
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.
Last October, the byline "Mike Penner" returned to the newspaper — without an explanation. Then Friday night, Penner died.