Mike Penner told readers of his struggle to embrace his gender, and said when he returns from vacation in a few weeks he will be known as Christine Daniels. He did not say whether he was having surgery or why he's changing his last name.
"I am a transsexual sports writer," Penner wrote. "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 49-year-old Penner said his brain has been "wired female" and he's tried to fight off the urge to change sexes. He called writing a story about his sexuality the "most frightening of all the towering mountains of fear I somehow had to confront and struggle to scale."
"How do you go about sharing your most important truth, one you spent a lifetime trying to keep deeply buried, to a world that has grown familiar and comfortable with your facade?" Penner asked.
"I gave it as good a fight as I possibly could. I went more than 40 hard rounds with it. Eventually, though, you realize you are only fighting yourself and your happiness and your mental health — a no-win situation any way you look at it," he wrote.
Penner, who is married to another Los Angeles Times writer, said he started coming out about two months ago by telling his boss, his barber and a soccer teammate, and that he now feels happier and healthier.
"Mike Penner has been an exemplary contributor to the Los Angeles Times sports pages for over two decades and today's column is no exception," Randy Harvey, the newspaper's sports editor, said in a statement. "The decision to go public cannot have been an easy one and, while we do not make a habit of commenting on the personal and private lives of our journalists, we do look forward to continuing our relationship into the future."
John Amaechi, the first NBA player to publicly come out of the closet as being gay, said he read Penner's column Thursday after returning from a speaking engagement in Berkeley at the University of California.
"It's incredibly bold and far more courageous than anything I could have done," said Amaechi, who spent five seasons in the NBA. "I commend him."
Gay and lesbian activists praised Penner and the Los Angeles Times.
"Christine's still-unfolding story sends a powerful message about the importance of living openly and honestly as does the Times' public support of her transition," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Penner has spent more than 20 years at the Los Angeles Times and has covered the Olympics, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and has served as the Times' sports media critic.