Human Rights Badasses

{August 6, 2007}   Christine Michelle Daniels: transitioning in the public (largely hetero male) eye

Call me cynical, but I kinda laughed when I read the first line in this article from In These Times: “For all of its trappings of money, fame, and corruption, professional sports has a lot to do with character.” But believe it or not, I’ve got good news from the sports world, in terms of treating people like actual human beings. Michael Daniel Penner was a male sports writer who wrote for the Los Angeles Times. She’s now Christine Michelle Daniels, who still writes on sports for the Los Angeles Times. Not only that, but she wrote about her transition for the paper. No hiding, no shame, just honesty and badassery.

I can only imagine how terrifying that was. “Responses to the revelation came in three distinct flavors: kudos from sports fans, effusive thanks from other transsexuals and rants from bible-thumpers.” haha. I’ll settle for the kudos from sports fans. That’s a lot better than I would have expected. Really vitriolic homophobia and sexism come out online (this quote was talking about online comments), and for people in a hypermasculinized field to be congratulatory of a transsexual is huge. I mean, there are places where even a woman from birth can’t be a sportscaster (I tried to google this to find the article I’m vaguely remembering and half the results on the first page were about how hot different female sportscasters are. I want to bang my head against a wall. This is why I have to write a blog on the positive things).

Does this mean all the problems are over and we can all live happily ever after in the sex and gender in which we feel at home? Ha. No. But I think what this accomplished was to make people deal with sex reassignment. Not that all of these fans went and deeply pondered the issue and joined the HRC, but this is out there, in public, in the mainstream, in your space. Your options are: 1) be a jerk about it, or 2) accept it. If you accept it, yeah, you still might make a funny face if you find out someone you know is a transsexual, there’s still room for improvement, but you’re at least acknowledging that this happens and that the people who do it are human beings, not freaks or demons.

The article I linked to mentioned another sports writer, Christina Kahrl, who transitioned (from being Chris) in 2003, and no one said anything about it. They quoted Kahrl as saying that sports is a bridge for Americans, everyone can come together via sports. I’m happy that Kahrl had such a smooth experience, but I’m not that optimistic about the fans; I think a lot of people probably just decided to ignore it because it made them uncomfortable. Daniels didn’t give people that option, or at least made it harder to pull that off.

Christine’s boss actually told her to write the article, but I still give her b/a points for doing it, because she was the one on the line here. Her boss gets points for tolerance though – some people fire transsexuals (speaking of which, please help end workplace discrimination). And of course there were negative responses, and if I wasn’t writing a happy blog I would have a lot to say about them. But overall it sounds like it has gone well. Read about if for yourself at her blog, A Woman in Progress. Even if you think transsexuals are going to hell, it couldn’t hurt to find out what it’s like from their point of view. The rest of the original article has lots of info on sex reassignment as well.


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