There is enough intellectual dishonesty in the world without me adding to it, so before I get into what Paul wrote, a confession is in order:
I'm an alcoholic. And while I haven't written in depth about my drinking days, I haven't tried to hide that fact. But here is a fact I've kept to myself: My last full-time job in the mainstream media - as a sports copy editor for the Sun - ended after I showed up drunk to work, continued drinking while at work, and ultimately passed out at work.
It was, needless to say, an extreme humiliation and I was fired for it. Following that, I battled with drinking for nearly six more months, before finally getting sober some four-and-a-half years ago, thanks in large part to a miraculously understanding and loving wife. And I haven't touched a drop since.
I feel the need to bring this up because Paul was an ally during that time. It was not he who fired me, and he actually fought on my behalf to keep me on, despite the fact that I was never much of an employee for him. And as time went on and I began taking steps to becoming the man I wanted to be, he was always a positive influence and friend. He even answered my call for help when I asked if he'd write a column about the stray dog and cat epidemic in the area, helping me find a home for a stray puppy that would have otherwise been put to death.
But I also bring it up because Christine Daniels has helped give me the bravery to be honest about who I am. If she can be brave enough to tell the world who she is in one of the nation's largest newspapers, I can be brave enough to tell people who I was in a blog post.
Which brings me back to Paul's comments about Daniels. It seems both were in L.A. recently, covering the grand spectacle that was David Beckham's first game as a member of the L.A. Galaxy.
And despite the media hoopla that is Beckham and crew, Oberjuerge's chose to write about his thoughts of Daniels, who has traveled in the same circles as him for decades. In doing so, however, Oberjuerge showed an outright obliviousness and callousness that is painful to read:
I hate to be judgmental about these things, but Christine is not an attractive woman. Which probably isn't a surprise when you're 50 and have spent your in-the-world life as a fairly drab guy. Who has a fairly prominent Adam's apple (not all of us do) ... Who also isn't exactly petite. Maybe 6-1, 200?
So ... she looks like a guy in a dress, pretty much. Except anyone paying any attention isn't going to be fooled -- as some people are by veteran transvestites.
The thing is, and maybe this is cruel, but there were women in that room who were born women in body as well as soul. And the difference between them and Christine was, in my mind, fairly stark.
It seemed almost as we're all going along with someone's dress-up role playing ... and I assume it's far more important than that inside this person's head. But it's going to take a while for the Average Joes among us to get our minds around this. And I've got to assume Christine understands that.
There is so much wrong with what Oberjuerge wrote - in a sports blog, no less - that it physically hurt me. Here are the points he made: Christine Daniels is ugly, looks like a man, is playing dress up, etc. Plus, women who are not "attractive" in his view are worthy of scorn. For someone who doesn't enjoy being judgmental, in a few short paragraphs he judged more than half the population, let alone Christine Daniels.
Now let's compare Oberjuerge's words above with a section of Christine Daniels most recent blog post:
Right now I am looking at a priceless piece of paper I just pulled from my wallet and unfolded. I am thinking of having it laminated, or framed, or both, although a frame might make it a tad too bulky for my handbag.
"INTERIM DRIVERS LICENSE" it says at the top.
"CHRISTINE MICHELLE DANIELS" it says a few lines below.
And then, finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for, for as long as I was old enough to dream impossible dreams:
I got my "F"! Yesterday, at long last, I got the grade I always wanted.
It began with a lot of paperwork. I needed a document proving I had undergone a legal name change, which required six weeks to process, including a legal notice that had to be published in a newspaper one day a week for four consecutive weeks. That notice read in part:
TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS:
Petitioner filed a petition with this court for a decree changing names as follows:
Michael Daniel Penner to Christine Michelle Daniels
I was then assigned a court date, when I had to appear before a judge, who asked me, "Is Christine Michelle Daniels the name you wish to use?" "Y-yes," I squeaked, choking on emotion as a flood of tears pooled behind my eyes, waiting for release the moment I stepped outside the courthouse.
"Does anybody in this room object?" the judge asked as I held my breath. And proceeded to hear nothing. Talk about sweet silence.
I took my court-approved legal name change to the DMV along with a letter from my endocrinologist, another piece of paper required for my new license. My doctor’s letter confirmed the following:
Gender Identification is: Female
Demeanor is: Female
Comments: "Patient live fulltime as a woman. She is undergoing hormone replacement therapy."
The difference in tone and attitude could not be any more striking. On one hand, the hateful words of someone shocked and apparently angry that others may be different from him. On the other hand, words of hope and triumph from a woman who has battled to be able to see an "F" on her drivers license.
Paul Oberjuerge is no "Average Joe." He's been a sportswriter and columnist at a large daily newspaper in a well-populated Southern California region for more than 30 years. His words hold sway. And when his words cross over into hate speech, well, I'd "assume" that some would take them to believe that they can pass on their irrational hatred of those different from them.
If there is one thing those in the LGBT community understand it's this - they are on the radar of those that would beat and murder them. And even in 2007, it happens at an alarming rate, all over the world. This is a threat Daniels will live with the rest of her life. By making her brave decision, she made myriad enemies, the vast majority of whom she never has met.
And by callously disregarding the humanity of a colleague, Paul Oberjuerge added to the hate that allows people to murder and try and destroy those they don't understand. Words have meaning, even ones jotted down in a blog. And Oberjuerge's words have more meaning than an Average Joe's would.
I truly hope Oberjuerge will return to this subject after examining it thoughtfully. Because as of now, his words will taint all that he's done, and all that he will do in the minds of many. It is hard to read someone discussing anything when you truly believe they have hatred in their hearts. But I honestly believe Paul Oberjuerge is more Jim Murray than Michael Savage at heart. He was, after all, a man who once referred to water polo as "synchronized drowning."
But sometimes a "tell-it-like-it-is" style starts becoming warped as one gets more and more detached from the basic realities of the world. I hope he'll use this as a chance for introspection rather than blindly defending himself.
Because as I've learned, the taint can come off. And as Christine Daniels showed us, if you're brave enough, anyone can change and become the person they want to be. Even a sportswriter.