Mike Penner has been working at the Los Angeles Times for 24 years. He’s a well-known sportswriter there, and back in April 2007, he became much more well known when he announced he would be leaving the paper for a brief time — to become a woman. He would return, he told his bosses, as Christine Daniels (pictured here). But as Queerty‘s big brother Jossip first reported, a funny thing happened on the way to the operating room, and Penner returned to the Times with his bits and pieces in tact. There was no sex reassignment surgery. And now, a look at what happened.

Actually, nobody knows quite what happened, or at least they aren’t telling reporters about it. Penner didn’t respond to USA Today‘s request for comment, and his bylines listed as “Christine” have been removed from the paper, signaling his decision to stay a man is final. But it’s not unheard of that MTF and FTM hopefuls change their decision before going under. “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. [International Foundation for Gender Education executive director Denise] Leclair echoes that estimate.”

Some in the trans community might view Penner’s decision not to have the surgery as a loss. Here was a relatively high-profile and celebrated guy who really did want to become a woman, who came out to his entire workplace and the world, and then backtracked on the decision.

Or, we can view this another way: As evidence that the system work. Sex change docs generally require potential surgery patients to live life as the opposite gender for a year while undergoing therapy before they’ll ever pick up a scalpel. It’s a safety net to ensure men and women who believe they want to live forever as somebody else really, truly mean it — and understand there’s almost no going back.

[Photo: Today]

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