By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"Next time I saw her, I said, 'I know who you are!' and she was terrified," Horn said. "I thought she'd get a good giggle out of it. She was angry at me for weeks."
Still, Daniels accompanied Horn to her first ear piercing.
Daniels also began helping others with their transitions. She counseled Diana's upset wife when she learned of her husband's transgenderism. After Horn and Diana took Daniels to Metropolitan Community Church, Daniels began floating the idea of forming a group that would call itself the Social Butterflies, transgender women who have regular outings at trans-friendly restaurants.
And that was all before she became famous.
By late 2006, Mike Penner could no longer keep Christine Daniels out of Dillman's range. The reason was hormones.
After a couple of years of socializing at Countessa's, praying at Metropolitan Community Church, undergoing individual and group therapy and attending conferences around the country, Daniels was emerging fast and furiously. Presenting as Mike, in fact, had become tormenting. When the time came for Daniels to revert to male mode toward the end of outings or visits at Countessa's, Diana recalls, a devastating mood swing would occur. "He'd be lying on the floor crying," she says.
Mike was reserved, even shy. As Christine, he transformed into an extroverted, emotional person. LaCoe recalls that at church, Daniels would sob on cue when the Rev. Neil Thomas would declare, "God loves you the way you are, he accepts you the way you are, your status has nothing to do with your salvations."
Reilly, in his eulogy column, described the jarring difference thus: "Christine was the opposite: gregarious, 100 mph talker, always looking to cover an event, to be seen, the Funmeter pegged, the curls bouncing. She was flirty, always lightly grabbing your arm when she talked, covering her mouth when she laughed, which seemed like all the time."
Penner moved out of the suburban Orange County home he shared with Dillman around New Year's 2007. The couple knew hormone therapy would prompt physical changes Dillman could not ignore, so Penner moved into a 700-square-foot apartment at the end of a circuitous and dank hallway in L.A.'s fortress-like, nondescript Westwood Villa Apartments.
LaCoe lunched with Daniels at a Japanese restaurant just before New Year's and heard about the couple's final Christmas together, in which "they exchanged practical presents that would be useful for life alone," LaCoe says, adding that Daniels seemed convinced that Dillman eventually would come around and embrace her.
In the months that followed, Daniels became consumed by her transition, speaking endlessly about her desire to have sex-reassignment surgery.
The handful of American surgeons who perform sex-change operations follow a Standards of Care model requiring male-to-female patients to undergo a rigorous regimen of hormones and electrolysis to remove hair from not only the face but also the genital area. Surgery must be approved by at least two psychiatrists who can vouch for mental stability and, most importantly, the patient must live publicly as the target gender for at least a year.
Daniels' friends found her eagerness at once heartening and worrisome.
In late February 2007, Penner sat down with his boss, Los Angeles Times Sports Editor Randy Harvey, who noticed that the writer's hair and nails were longer. Penner broke the news of his transition.
By all accounts, Harvey was exceedingly gracious, dissuading Penner when he suggested a move to the entertainment section of the paper. Harvey also told Penner something that Daniels' transgender friends had been arguing: A male sports columnist at one of the nation's biggest newspapers cannot transition on the job and change bylines without making news. Harvey persuaded Penner to write about the transition.
"Other people have second-guessed me, and certainly I have second-guessed if that was the right thing to do, to encourage Mike to write that column," Harvey says. "Would things ultimately have turned out differently? I don't know. I thought it was the right thing at the time."
So write it, Daniels did. The piece that appeared in the L.A. Times on April 26, 2007, cleverly headlined "Old Mike, New Christine," was a landmark. It was a breezy declaration that after 23 years writing as Mike Penner, he would take a break and return to live — and write — as Christine Daniels.
In an eloquent 826-word column, Penner summed up the typical journey of those who accept what they always sensed, that they were born into a body of the wrong sex, and that with this acceptance comes a duty to change: "I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words."
The piece was an instant Web sensation; a team of transgender friends screened Daniels' e-mails and tabulated that more than 1,000 came in within the first 48 hours. Just seven were negative, says Winter, Daniels' friend in Seattle. Overnight, Daniels became one of the most famous transgender people in a culture that has precious few transgender celebrities.
Supporters tried to prepare her for her newfound celebrity.
In advance of April 26, Daniels found herself on the phone and exchanging e-mails nonstop with several prominent transgender advocates trying to coach her. The fear was that Daniels could find herself becoming another Susan Stanton — the Largo, Florida, city manager fired that March after transitioning on the job.
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