Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mike Penner made national news a couple of years ago when he announced that he was transitioning into a woman. As Christine Daniels, she was feted by transgender rights groups and was profiled in Sports Illustrated. But in a rare, but not unknown move known as “transgender regret”, Christine has decided to become Mike once again.
“It’s unfortunate and it’s relatively uncommon but certainly not unheard of,” says Denise Leclair, executive director of the International Foundation for Gender Education, a Waltham, Mass.-based transgender advocacy group. “The simplest way to think about it is being trans is something that never goes away. … There’s just a fairly constant social pressure to just go back. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that society doesn’t really accept this.”
Penner, a 24-year veteran of the newspaper, did not respond to calls and e-mails for comment and has not written about his decision to resume life as a man. The blog and bylines as Christine Daniels have been removed from the newspaper’s website. Though there’s no data available on how many transgender people abandon their new gender, psychologist Ron Lawrence of the Community Counseling Center in Las Vegas says about 5% of his transgender patients revert. Leclair echoes that estimate.
Noted transgender activist Donna Rose, who also once reverted to a male identity, notes, “The thing that people have to understand is that even though Mike decided to retransition, that doesn’t mean he’s not trans. It’s not like you go all of a sudden, ‘Uh, I’m better.’ Going back doesn’t automatically clear the conundrum that causes you to get there in the first place.”