HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel segment on HBO that debuted on March 16th. The segment was on transgender sportswriters, focusing a great deal on Christine Daniels.
One of the transgender sportswriters interviewed for the segment stated that when she heard that Christine had detransitioned to Mike Penner, she feared Christine would experience death by suicide. At the time, so was I; so were many trans activists I know.
Within the program, Gumbel stated that the number of transitioners that experience death by suicide is about one in three. I thought that ratio sounded high, so when I talked to my therapist last Wednesday about that statistic, I told her that. She corrected me, saying the ratio sounded about right to her.
That’s a ratio that’s pretty shocking.
During the past four months, I’ve talked to probably a half-a-dozen mainstream media reporters from a half-a-dozen publications about Christine’s passing. I felt most comfortable talking to the Los Angeles Times’ Christopher Goffard. I knew, from talking to him, his piece would at the very least, be thoughtful and sensitive.
Well, his piece published this weekend. It’s entitled Public Triumph, Private Torment.
Honestly, I can’t review this article dispassionately for accuracy…or, well, by any measure. I feel so much emotion — tied to the series of events outlined in the piece — that I simply cannot look at this article objectively. So, I’m not going to try.
…Under the headline “Old Mike, new Christine,” Penner explained that he would soon assume a female identity and byline, a decision that followed “a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy.”
It was “heartache and unbearable discomfort” to remain a man, he explained. Being a woman promised “joy and fulfillment.” The article ended on a hopeful note: “This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
Gone was quiet, circumspect Mike Penner, replaced by ebullient, outgoing — and instantly famous — Christine Daniels. Celebrity meant a megaphone, and Daniels vowed to use it as an advocate. She told her story at transsexual conferences across the country, becoming a symbol of courage to a transgender community inspired by the most visible coming-out in decades.
A year after the essay, the Daniels byline vanished from the newspaper, and within months Penner was back at work, living as a man and writing under his male name. Once so voluble about the reasons for becoming Christine, Penner was silent about the reasons for abandoning the identity.
This time, there was no essay, no explanation. But friends saw a person in torment. Last November, in the parking garage of the apartment complex where he lived alone, Penner killed himself. He was 52.
From there, Christopher Goffard follows a timeline Christine Daniels’/Mike Penner’s life, from her public coming out to the end of her life by suicide. I’m quoted twice in the piece…I don’t even remember when I gave those particular quotes. However, the quotes are definitely phrased in a way I would have said what was quoted — I’m sure the quotes are accurate.
I learned from the article where Christine’s death occurred. I learned too that her attempt to erase Christine was attempted with the same vigor with which she first erased Mike. I learned much about what I didn’t know about what happened in her life after she stopped talking to many of her trans and non-trans friends from late 2007 to early 2008.
Thinking about trans community in relationship to the article, I note her estrangement from trans community occurred sightly after the Day Of Remembrance in 2007. Something was said at that event to her that resulted in her withdrawal. I know we in trans community have a habit of doing a horrible job of supporting our own. Our propensity to viciously, verbally attack our trans peers at the slightest provocation or disagreement is legendary, and reading the article, one can see this happened to Christine.
In general, I can’t help but wonder if this propensity for community viciousness to one another doesn’t contribute to that one in three statistic HBO put forward to its cable audience.
Somehow, we need to engage community on acting like brothers, sisters, …as siblings.
It’s a melancholy day for me today. Tears seem to be welling randomly as this LA Times article about my friend fill my thoughts. Thoughts too about Angie Zapata, and the trial of her brutal murderer, have filled my mind this past week due to a different narrative about trans existance has been in the news.
I’ll be fine. I’m not suicidal; I’m determined not to be a personification of that tragic one in three statistic for my trans community peers to mull over. I know those feelings of wanting to isolate myself — giving into those feelings of wanting to withdraw into the same kind of shell Christine withdrew into — are feelings I actively counter. I counter these by reaching out to my friends and to mental health professionals when my spirits are down, contraveningly to that desire to isolate myself. I want to live; I have many, many good reasons for living — reasons which include the love of my many friends, my family, my community, and oddly enough, my two pet cats.
I highly recommend reading Christopher Goffard’s piece in the LA Times today. If nothing else, it a humanizing piece on the person who was known both as Christine Daniels and Mike Penner.
* The Closet Kills
* MMC L.A. Memorial Service For Christine Daniels
* LA Times’ Penner: “I am a transsexual sportswriter.”
* Thinking About Mike Penner; Thinking Again About Destransition
* About The “Real Life Experience” and Detransitioning
* Memorial service for Mike Penner (f.k.a. Christine Daniels)
* Grief Process Stage 3: Bargaining Regarding Mike Penner’s Completed Suicide
* Mike Penner (f.k.a. Christine Daniels) Dead Of Apparent Suicide
* Christine Daniels Retransitioning Back To Mike Penner
* Check Out LA Times Sportswriter Christine Daniels’ Transition Blog (Autumn note: The blog is gone.)
Ya know, my heart bleeds for Mike, for his anguish, for his torment, for his feelings of having no hope, etc.. But not for the obvious reason. For Mike was never Christine–he was always Mike. Had he simply prayed to God for understanding, love, guidance, etc., he’d have all the hope in the world to continue living. I know this sounds easily done, but it isn’t. But, it is 100% that it’ll work–every single time. I fault to a point the do-gooders in society that seek a way out that is never that. For their ways are never The Way. I don’t want to sound harsh but I’m less concerned with feelings (or, “style”) at present and more concerned with one’s soul (“substance”). Try what you will in life … but if you don’t have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, you can never be considered a success in this life — no matter what others say. Do you disagree with me? Consider the life of one tortured soul name Mike who tried to become Christine — something he never was. May Mike rest in peace. Let us all learn from Mike’s example of how not to live life.
Reminds me that before I transitioned, I tried to pray away the trans, and actually went to some reparative therapy.
As someone who is an ex-ex-transgender woman, I can say with some authority that praying the trans away and reparative therapy work as well on trans people as praying the gay away and reparative therapy work for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. And, the negative impacts of the ex-gay mill are just as harmful to trans people as these are for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
And probably more importantly, what an unkind thing for the commenter to say on the passing of a human being.