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
Stanton was appearing on Larry King Live and other shows, seemingly unprepared for and discomfited by certain invasive questions. Winter says the transgender community worried that Daniels could be similarly vulnerable.
"The people who are just starting really don't know what's ahead, don't know what's coming at them," Winter says. "They're just trying to analyze how they're feeling. To do that in a fishbowl is unimaginable."
Stanton says she chatted with Daniels, too, although she says she wasn't sure how to advise the sportswriter because their circumstances were so different. Stanton had lost her job but retained the support of her wife and son; Daniels was embraced by the Times in a way activists viewed as a model to be venerated but was no longer living with Dillman.
"Christine told me she felt so bad for me compared to what she had on her side," recalls Stanton, now city manager in Lake Worth, Florida, and subject of the HBO documentary Her Name Was Steven. "And I remember thinking, 'You know, I'm envious, but I think over time my relationship with my family is going to be more sustaining.' "
Daniels heard from so many voices in those weeks that four days before her piece appeared, she lashed out. In an e-mail to Winter, she griped that she felt "overwhelmed by everything and everyone. I feel as if I am being used as a pawn by the trans community (and maybe the Times as well). I have been close to tears many times. ... I am flat-out exhausted."
And this was still only the beginning.
The initial surge of public and professional support was thrilling for Daniels. She started writing the "Woman in Progress" blog and found herself in high demand giving speeches to transgender and GLBT groups. She gave interviews and was being venerated by friends, supporters and advocates.
"I think that all of a sudden, the transgender community — me included — latched on to her for strength," LaCoe says. "Once she was out, boy, was she out. I think it was a pretty wild ride for her, and I think she probably enjoyed some of it, yes."
At the Times, too, there was a noticeable shift. The night before Penner's column appeared, Harvey and another editor phoned 45 L.A. Times staff members to tell them, so they would not be caught off-guard.
Harvey said not one person expressed discomfort.
Daniels seemed to revel in that acceptance. Says Harvey: "Mike seldom came to the office, and when he did, he kept to himself. He had friends, but he was shy and he didn't seek out conversation.
"As Christine, she would come to the office and openly engage people in conversation," Harvey says. "It was the same underlying sweetness about Christine that was also evident with Mike, but there was a difference."
Dillman, however, was noticeably scarce in the newsroom, he says. "She was not comfortable being there when Christine was there."
Daniels' perhaps overly optimistic outlook was summed up in a June 2007 interview with Queercents.com, a finance Web site. She was asked, "Money can buy hormones and a closet full of fabulous shoes, but does it buy happiness?"
Her e-mailed response contained a formula: "Hormones + legal name change + setting the stage for a new life = happiness, no doubt about that."
Daniels' simplistic expectations could sound familiar to anyone who has gone through a divorce. In the first several months, many people often feel a wave of euphoria from the newfound freedom, the realization of fantasy and the ability to be positive and eagerly anticipate the future. Inevitably, however, the euphoria gives way to reality — and sometimes that reality includes sadness over the loss of a soul mate.
But in the spring of 2007, Daniels was still riding the wave. A fellow sportswriter recruited Daniels to co-coach the soccer team of his young daughter, LaCoe says. Friends invited Daniels to attend their wedding, an event she blogged about. And Reilly, then still at Sports Illustrated, wrote a glowing piece in July that seemed to set the tone in the sports-journalism world about what an enlightening thrill it was to meet Daniels.
On July 19, 2007, after weeks of placing the legally required notices in local newspapers announcing the intent to change names, Michael Daniel Penner became Christine Michelle Daniels, as decreed by the Superior Court of California. The origin of most of that name is obvious: Michael begat Michelle, Daniel begat Daniels. Christine was an homage to Christine Jorgensen, the World War II veteran famous for having had what is believed to be the first male-to-female sex-reassignment surgery.
July 19 was significant for another reason. It was the day Daniels' divorce attorney filed her first response to Dillman's divorce filing. Dillman had submitted the papers on May 23, Daniels' first day at the Times in her female persona.
"The fact that Lisa responded to Christine's transition announcement as quickly as she did by filing for divorce — all of which was understandable — was a huge blow," Winter says. It was only the tip of the iceberg.
Behind the scenes, Daniels' transition was marred by a series of blowout arguments with Dillman and Dillman's parents, Daniels' friends tell the Weekly.
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