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Transgender journalist Bobbie Dittmeier: The write stuff
by Ross Forman
2010-10-20

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Bobbie Dittmeier was a sports reporter in upstate New York for 15 years, and a very good one at that.

She was Bob at the time, and she worked in the Albany market, with stints at two different papers, where she covered professional hockey and horse racing. Dittmeier wrote at length about the American Hockey League, often covering 100-plus games during a season, and even topped out one year at 125 games. She wrote about the National Hockey League for national publications, not just regional ones.

Dittmeier also covered horse racing at the famous Saratoga Race Course, and in 1992 was an honorable-mention winner of the Eclipse Award. Her writing was judged to have produced one of the top three stories about horse racing in North America that year.

But then in 1995, Dittmeier returned to her native New York City without a job.

"I didn't believe that a sports writer could transition [ gender ] on the job, in the same job, and do it successfully. And my wife wanted to come back to New York [ City ] , so we did," Dittmeier said.

So Dittmeier was big-city-bound.

"Personally [ at the time ] , I was happy; I was very happy in my relationship," Dittmeier recalls. "But I always knew that transitioning at some point would probably happen. It was just a matter of when, where, and was I going to be able to manage it and make it happen.

"I finally grew some courage back in the mid-1990s to try to do something about it. It was nagging, gnawing. I finally got annoyed with it, tired of it, and just had to do something about it, or at least be open about it. I guess I reached that point."

She had been married for several years.

"In 1994, I think I just reached a point where I wanted to be open; I wanted to be open with my spouse. I wanted to be able to talk about it and I wanted to be able to do something about it. It had been building over time," Dittmeier said. "However, my first transition attempt was a disaster; I had no idea what I was doing. I jumped in headfirst, which I shouldn't have. I had no real plan. I had no foresight. And it went terribly; it was awful. I wasn't educated enough; I probably wasn't getting enough counseling; I was jumping in a little too fast.

"I ended up with a divorce that I didn't want from someone who I loved very much. And then I backtracked; I absolutely backtracked. I was completely devastated by my divorce; it was a tremendous emotional upheaval for me. Combined with fact that I was not working in my career, it really made for some difficult times. It was just too much of an uphill climb."

From 1997-2004, Dittmeier did not again address her transgender feelings. "I totally went into denial and just focused on what I needed to focus on, such as building back my career and raising and supporting my child," Dittmeier said.

"The two things that you have to have to transition are job security and money. Without those, the chances are you're not going to make it. So, I needed to get myself back into a position where I had job security—and around 2004 or 2005, I realized that I did, and realized that I could move forward with it again."

Which she did. Dittmeier hoped to be completely transitioned in late 2006, but it wasn't until November 2007 when Bob became Barbara, or, as she prefers, Bobbie.

"In 2004 and 2005, when I was transitioning for the second time, I went very slowly. I did it completely different from the first time," Dittmeier said. "I started out [ telling ] a very, very small group of people who live in my apartment building and grew my world out from there, rather than telling the most important people in my life first [ as she did in the mid-1990s ] . I felt that I needed to experience life without my closest friends and family knowing and questioning me about what I was doing. They were the last to know this time; I learned from my first experience.

"So, from 2004-2007, it was good for the most part. I was just trying to be comfortable with myself, and hopefully help make people comfortable with me. I also then worked to expand my circle [ of friends ] as I went along."

Dittmeier, now 47, is a homepage editor for MLB.com, the official website for Major League Baseball.

"The people at work have been great [ about the transition ] ," Dittmeier said. "There haven't been any issues that I'm aware of. I just go in, do my job, and hopefully get it done well. Things have been pretty good."

Dittmeier joined MLB.com in September 2001.

"I think things are a lot different than when I first attempted [ the transition ] 15 years ago," Dittmeier said. "I think the younger generation has less of a hang-up with things. I work with a lot of younger people, people in their 20s, and to my knowledge, [ being transgender ] has never been an issue."

Dittmeier and sportswriter Christina Kahrl, of Chicago, are the only two transgender sports journalists in the U.S.

"Christina is a great friend; we talk a lot; we care about each other a lot, and we sort of watch out for each other," Dittmeier said. "We don't necessarily talk about issues related to [ being ] transgender, but more about life issues and work, home, relationships, etc. We get along pretty well."

However, Dittmeier isn't all smiles on the social/personal front. In fact, she admits, "it's been a struggle at times."

But mainly, she believes that's because she's lived for a long time in a small town in Westchester County, in the suburbs north of New York City, where people have known her for many years, long before she transitioned.

"It's very, very difficult to find someone who you'd be interested in, or would be interested in you, for a relationship. There are a lot of obstacles here," Dittmeier said. "It can be lonely at times."

She's planning to move to Manhattan.

"People here have been very nice overall, but they don't fully accept me," said Dittmeier. She noted that many locals still call her Bob and use male pronouns when talking to, and about, her. "That doesn't particularly bother me, but it is a reminder," she said.

"One of my great disappointments, one of the definite things that I've learned since I've transitioned, is how little everyone else really wants to know about it. They don't ask questions. My family doesn't even ask questions."

So, Bobbie, who are you attracted to these days?

"I'm looking for the person who I connect with in heart, soul and mind; those are the three most important things. And I don't really care which wrapper that comes in, partially because I don't want anyone to care what wrapper I'm in," Dittmeier said. "I don't rule out anyone based on gender, just like how I don't want to be ruled out based on my gender."

Want more Bobbie Dittmeier? Here goes:

—Hobbies: The beach, walking, lunch with friends, bicycle riding, and attending New York Yankees games.

—Are you a role model? "No, not at all. In fact, I'm guilty of not being involved with the trans community, or having very little involvement. And I don't really know what the reasons are for it. I happen to be a sports journalist who just happens to be transgender."

—Will there ever be an openly gay player in major league baseball? "It's going to happen. I think there eventually will be an athlete who wants to make a statement or wants to make that impact, or will get caught—and that's probably more likely [ why he comes out ] . Hopefully then, he'll have the courage to stand up for himself in the right way and educate others. There certainly are [ closeted ] gays in professional sports, if only based on the sheer number of pro athletes. With the number of pro athletes, it'd be silly to think otherwise.

"But this is something that I have a problem with. How does someone's sexuality or sexual preference matter to anyone? And why should anyone feel obligated to state their sexual preference? When a player signs a contract, no one asks, 'Are you straight or gay?' It's only an issue when you're gay, and why would that be?

"Same thing happens in the trans community, when people ask about the state of our genitals. The general public would only ask a transgender person that question; no one else would ever be asked that question."

—Year started in sports journalism: 1982, and since has worked for various newspapers or websites


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