The Daily Beast's Jacob Bernstein is the first writer who wasn't a friend to put together a somewhat lengthy examination of the months leading up to Mike Penner's suicide. In Requiem for a Transexual Sportswriter, he describes Penner becoming more and more reclusive, even after he dropped his identity as Christine Daniels. Christine Kahrl, the transexual writer for Baseball Prospectus, also discusses her advice against that Daniels not write the highly-read Los Angeles Times piece that announce her transformation.
Kahrl strongly advised Penner to be more cautious about coming out so prominently as a transgender person too early in the process. (Kahrl did not talk publicly about being a transsexual until after completing her transition from male to female.) “The transition is difficult enough as is,” she explains. “To make it a public thing in front of millions of people—you could call it crazy or bold or courageous or nuts, and it’s all of those things at once…. My advice was not taken.”
Today, Kahrl can understand why the Times is proud of how they handled Penner’s transition (“They made all the appropriate public showings of support and that’s what you hope for from your employer”), but she thinks the initial article—and a blog that followed it, called “Woman in Progress”—were both big mistakes. “It should have been treated as a human-resources matter, not a public-relations opportunity,” she says. “When you put yourself on a stage in front of millions and you’ve been propelled into the role of a celebrity in a community of people that has almost no national celebrities, it’s impossible to go back from it. She or he was permanently ‘Mike Penner-comma-transsexual sportswriter.’ You could not turn the clock back.”
The story says that when Penner returned to the Times staff, he prevailed on the paper to erase the old blog entries.
Photo from the Daily Beast