From the Washington Blade
OUT IN SPORTS
Throwing a curveball Chris Kahrl, the transgendered co-author of the annual Baseball Prospectus, is finding life outside the closet rewarding.
Friday, April 09, 2004
FOR MORE THAN A decade, Chris Kahrl has turned a love of baseball into a successful career in sports publishing, working with a long-standing team of
authors to write, edit, and publish the annual Baseball Prospectus. The definitive guide, feverishly updated each winter and published a full month before Major League baseball’s opening day, which was last week, analyzes statistics on each player in the profession. It reaches 60,000 readers annually. Noting that other attempts to chronicle anything can be as ‘dull as paste,’ Kahrl and colleagues pepper the ‘Prospectus’ with intelligent humor and thoughtful
commentary, successfully turning a reference guide into a legitimate coffee table book for even the most casual fan to enjoy.
Reflecting that humor and charm, Kahrl, a lifetime athlete and baseball fanatic, publicly discussed the book and baseball last Thursday for nearly three hours
at Politics and Prose bookstore in Northwest D.C. The Baseball Prospectus may be different because of its hip, fresh approach to one of America’s favorite
pastimes. But it’s also unique for another reason: Its co-author Chris Kahrl has been living openly as a transgendered woman for the past six months.
COMING OUT STORIES have a certain arc to them and can almost write themselves today. But Kahrl, 36, offers a rare perspective about the torturous layers involved in coming out as a transgendered person that few others, including gay men and lesbians, have experienced. “For me, the process of coming out is effectively unzipping your head for everyone’s benefit,” she says.
“I was scared to death when I took my boss out for drinks. But when I told him, he said, ‘Well, Chris, I’m your friend, you’re a great author, and we’re going to make this work.’”
That might seem unbelievably enlightened for a boss, but Kahrl of Virginia has known him and all of her colleagues for more than 10 years. “I’ve had good fortune with all of my friends, even my family,” she says. “I gave being a guy my best shot, and it didn’t work out and that’s OK.”
STILL, MOST OF her work with Major League Baseball is researched over the phone and Internet, not in the locker room. At Politics and Prose, it was standing room only when she appeared last week. Kahrl said it couldn’t have gone better.
“People blinked for a minute, but as I kept rolling along, talking about baseball, gender issues disappeared from everyone’s radar as it became clear everyone was going to get what they came for baseball,” she says. Her relatively painless transition says something about the strength of her character. Her colleagues, further still, attribute it to her comportment and professionalism.
“Sure, there is gossip out there,” says Gary Gillette, co-author of Baseball Encyclopedia, a publication similar to the Baseball Prospectus. “But these days, everyone is either enlightened enough to deal with it or wise enough to keep their mouths shut. Chris is very well-respected, well-liked, in this industry,” he says, “and that will certainly continue.”
Kahrl sees no inherent disconnect between the masculine world of baseball and her identity and, in fact, says that a love of the former eases the awkwardness of the latter. “Baseball is something I could relate to with my great-grandfather – with all people,” she says. “Sports give us all something in common to talk about that is essentially inoffensive.” Still, she expects the stares, the puzzled faces, and the common inquiries, and views them as an easy tradeoff for being able to live openly. Her story should inspire anyone in agony over crossing bridges or taking risks.