I’m an apologetic sports media addict. I’m well aware of the over-commercialization, the racism, the misogyny and sexism, the fantasy industry swindle, and the onscreen and offscreen inequality, but I still need a daily dose of sports media. Sports media dominates television, but I find most broadcasts unwatchable, with their onslaught of commercials and banal commentary. My preference is for online sports journalism. From ESPN to FiveThirtyEight, Bill Simmons to Bill James, I love good sports writing.
One of my favorite sports writers is Christina Kahrl. In the white-heterosexual-male-dominated world of sports media, Ms. Kahrl is unique. A current staff writer at ESPN.com and co-founder of Baseball Prospectus, Ms. Kahrl is a transgender woman, one of just a few out transgender sports journalists working today.
I first became familiar with Christina’s writing at Baseball Prospectus before her public transition in 2004, when she was still known as Chris Kahrl. At Baseball Prospectus, Kahrl helped bring saber-metrics to the forefront of sports journalism and management, challenging a century of traditional sports narratives. When she came out as transgender, she challenged a century of behind-the-scenes sports narratives, as well. Kahrl has continued her brand of smart, informed, statistical analysis as one of the most in-demand sports writers, publishing for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy, among others.
While some writers and pundits have expressed confusion and ignorance over transgender issues, most of the sports community has been supportive of Kahrl. “I have not run into the kinds of problems that a lot of people would anticipate,” Kahrl said in a 2010 interview. “I think that’s reflective of the fact that there’s more capacity for acceptance and good in American society than bad.” Christina’s presence at ESPN has added much needed sensitivity and empathy to their coverage and has also brought attention to stories that often go unreported, and to forgotten sports figures.
Her courage in publicly transitioning also inspired sports journalists Christine Daniels and Bobbie Dittmeier to come out as transgender. Kahrl mentored both Daniels and Dittmeier through their transition. When Daniels committed suicide in 2009, Kahrl began devoting more of her time to actively improving the treatment of the trans community in Chicago and nationally. She currently serves on the board of Equality Illinois and formerly on the board of GLAAD.
That’s why Christina Kahrl is my LAMP Luminary.