On April 26, 2007, Christine Daniels came out as a transsexual in a Times column called Old Mike, new Christine. The “Mike” referenced the sportswriter, Mike Penner and it was here that Christine announced her plans to change her byline along with her gender. As she says below, “Transitioning is expensive.” It gave me a good reason to speak with her about money, the trans movement and gender stereotypes based on finances. Enjoy!
1. As you begin to confront the world as a transgender person, do you fear backlash from your male readers? How could this ultimately impact your ability to earn a living as a sportswriter?
Not anymore. That was a big fear before I announced my transition on April 26, but the reaction from male readers — all readers, really — has been overwhelmingly and surprisingly positive. It seems enough readers are familiar with my work and my personality and are willing to give me a chance.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
“Money Can’t Buy Me Love,” The Beatles.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
I am clueless about stocks. I have an accountant handle that for me, but I rarely check for progress reports. I do know, after several down years, my portfolio is now nearly back to my initial investment. Patience is a virtue, I have found, in more matters than just money.
4. Do you think that the male-to-female transsexual experience will have any impact on your financial status over time?
Not for me. Maybe I’m a wide-eyed optimist, but I see my transition only helping my financial situation. My new assignment at the Times amounts to a promotion. I have several offers to write a book — for a pretty decent-sized advance. I believe my only career mobility from now will be upward.
5. Who or what experience taught you the value of a hard earned dollar?
My parents. There wasn’t any defining experience. Our family lived reasonably well on a limited income. There was little, if any, extravagant purchases. We had the usual: Zenith color TV, Country Squire station wagon (with requisite faux wood paneling), several inexpensive nick-nacks and decorative bits I later re-discovered by flipping through a humor-nostalgia book called, “The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.” We paid our way into that book, let me tell you!
6. Because you maintain a public persona, the trans movement will likely elevate you to spokesperson. Is this a role that you bargained for and what price gets attached to activism?
Yes, I was prepared for it, and it has come to pass. I am fine with it. I believe this is my calling — to help provide some sorely needed education about a natural but vastly misunderstood condition. I believe I was born trans and reached this life intersection for a reason — I am a high-profile writer already working within the “testosterone sports culture,” I have communications skills, I have a powerful platform at the Times with which I can help disseminate an important message that is long overdue.
7. Writers typically struggle with earning a living at some point during their career. Did you ever feel like a starving artist and how did you cope during this time period?
Not really. I was employed fulltime at a small local paper, the Anaheim Bulletin, during my final three years of college. I was hired at a modest salary in 1983 to cover high school sports at the Times. I was never “starving.” I always had enough to get by during those early-to-mid-20s years.
8. Do you think there are gender rules and stereotypes based on finances?
Well, the huge stereotype is: “Oh, better not let the little lady have a free day with that credit card!” The horror! The horror!… The truth is, women are often more frugal about finances than men. They are also often better organized when keeping financial records. And they are also less apt to dole out for the Not Really Necessary Big-Ticket Item — wall-to-wall plasma screen, the “dream boat” now attached to the back of the new Hummer, autographed once-worn Eli Manning jersey (“I really wanted Peyton’s, but the frame wasn’t gaudy enough.”).
9. What’s your opinion on the outrageous salaries for sports stars?
It’s the way of life in sports business, which is a very close cousin to the entertainment business. The big names in either culture — Beckham, Johnny Depp, Kobe Bryant, Jack Nicholson — are going to attract obscenely large salaries. Always have, always will. In American society, we worship at the altar of celebrity.
10. Money can buy hormones and a closet full of fabulous shoes, but does it buy happiness?
Hormones + legal name change + setting the stage for a new life = happiness, no doubt about that. Money plays a massive role in that, which is one reason so many transsexual wait until their mid-40s to begin their transitions. Transitioning is expensive.
More about Christine Daniels
Christine Daniels will celebrate her 24th anniversary at the Times in July — her first 23.6 years there as “Mike Penner.” Christine came out as a transsexual in a Times column published on April 26, announcing then her intent to change her byline along with her gender.
Christine is a 1980 graduate of Cal State Fullerton. She joined the Times in July 1983, where over the years she covered tennis, the Angels, the Olympics, the NFL and also served as sports media critic and author of the “Morning Briefing” column. Since coming out, Christine has been writing an Internet sports column, “The Day In L.A.” while writing about her transition on her “Woman In Progress” blog.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.