Transsexual who went back to being a man is found dead

When Mike Penner, a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times, typed the words "I am a transsexual sportswriter", it became the most celebrated coming-out of the internet era.

Returning to work as Christine Daniels and challenging macho sports stars and fellow journalists to recognise her new identity, she became an instant heroine to the transgender community and received an overwhelmingly positive response from an avalanche of readers around the world.

Away from the flush of early headlines, however, Ms Daniels' long struggle with gender identity continued to be a personal torture. Two-and-a-half years on, after he quietly returned to work as a man, his LA Times colleagues are mourning his death at the age of 52 from what appears to be suicide.

"Mike was a first-rate journalist, a valued member of our staff for 25 years and we will miss him,'' the newspaper's editor, Russ Stanton, said. "He respected our readers a great deal: enough to share with them his very personal journey.''

Ms Daniels' April 2007 article began: "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."

Despite the ebullience of the coming-out, Ms Daniels wore the resulting celebrity with some reluctance. She spoke only sporadically on gender dysphoria and batted away questions about family, except to say that she was going through an "extremely painful" divorce.

Christine Daniels told National Public Radio in 2007 that the desire to become a woman "bubbled up" three years previously. "I have a friend who said, 'We fight it as long as we can and it always wins.' And I said, 'I just have to find out. I don't want to die without knowing if this is really me.'" She said she was undergoing female hormone treatments but declined to say whether she planned to undergo a sex-change operation.

In the end, the writer resumed work as a man last autumn, after a leave of absence, writing about moments in sporting history. The byline Christine Daniel had been erased. A blog, Woman in Transition, which detailed life after coming out as a transsexual, was taken down from the LA Times website.

The LA coroner's office said Mr Penner was pronounced dead on Friday, but gave no further details.