Sitting poolside at a Beverly Hills hotel's restaurant, sportswriter Christine Daniels catalogs a few moments in her childhood--as Mike Penner--when her inner female rose to the fore.
There was the day her boy cousins encouraged her to demonstrate how she would look and walk as a girl--and Mike eagerly did. And the time an effeminate neighbor boy invited Mike over to play with Barbie dolls--so Mike happily left G.I. Joe behind. And the Halloween night Mike pleaded to dress up as Batman, because the superhero's tights resembled those of the girl next door.
"I can remember being 4 or 5 and wishing I was a girl," says Daniels, dressed demurely in a patterned blue-and-white dress topped with a thin sweater. She's tall for a woman, and her handshake could crush walnuts, but otherwise she's a convincing femme. She's also the most famous new trans woman in the United States.
On April 26, in a prominently placed column in the Los Angeles Times's sports section, the woman formerly known as Mike Penner--a 23-year veteran of the paper--introduced readers to the person she has become. Within a day, the column ("Old Mike, New Christine") had gotten nearly half a million online hits--one of the most frequently viewed articles at www.latimes.com in the past year--and Daniels had received 538 personal e-mails. Only two were negative.
The revelation, Daniels says, wasn't her idea. "Once I told Randy Harvey, the sports editor, he decided it was news," she says. Harvey said word was bound to get out anyway, so Daniels should make the announcement herself. "Controlling the story made a lot of sense to me," she says. Expecting everything from hate mail to pretests, instead she received notes such as "Welcome to the sisterhood," "You're a hero," or "You're a heroine." "I prefer the latter," Daniels says.
If she had known she'd be showered with such acceptance, perhaps Daniels would have come out sooner. But working in sports, she was understandably wary. "Could you have picked a worse profession to do this in?" one sportswriter friend asked her. "With all the narrow-minded, homophobic, bigoted assholes in our profession?"
Daniels, 49, was born in Inglewood, Calif., and spent nine years in Catholic schooling. She thought it was the strict school environment that had turned an effervescent, wisecracking kid into a shy young man, but looking back she now believes it was gender …