August 28, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Meet the trans editor covering Major League Baseball
Bobbie Dittemier, transgender, Major League Baseball, gay news, Washington Blade

Bobbie Dittmeier (Photo courtesy of Dittmeier)

A day at the office at MLB.com for Bobbie Dittmeier is just about the same for her as it is for other editors working to produce news stories on developments in Major League Baseball.

Upon coming to the New York office, she’ll speak with the copy chief about potential articles for the day with other editors, who will then assign the stories to reporters.

“We have a lot of stories coming in everyday,” Dittmeier says. “We have 30 different reporters plus other columnists, part-timers and interns. We have a lot of writers for our staff. We cover all 30 teams full time. So, there’s a lot of copy that comes into the desk every day.”

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The big news in recent weeks? The biogenesis investigation, which has led to the suspension of several players, including New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

“Waiting for the news on Alex Rodriguez is like waiting for your wife to go into labor,” she says. “You got the bags packed and the cars gassed, and you’re just going about your regular routine waiting for the pager to go off. And knowing that when the pager does go off that the next 12 to 18 hours is going to be crazy.”

But Dittmeier, who spoke to the Washington Blade earlier this month, is unique among other editors and baseball enthusiasts working at MLB.com: She’s transgender and the only openly LGBT person on staff at the site.

Dittmeier says being the only openly transgender person on staff hasn’t been an issue on the job, which she attributes  to changing attitudes over time and her own job performance.

“I think the most significant part of it is that I have a lot of experience and I do good work, if I may say so myself,” Dittmeier says. “And I think that the people I work for value that. They certainly didn’t want to throw me out of the office for being transgender.”

One exception to the acceptance she’s found was what Dittmeier calls a “blip” among two individuals upon her announcement she would transition. Reluctant to go into detail, she characterizes it as more of a misunderstanding and says neither of those people works at MLB.com any longer.

In 2007, after working for MLB.com for six years, Dittmeier announced she would transition from male to female. She had already married and had a child. And it wasn’t her first attempt; she made an earlier attempt at transitioning in the 1990s.

“It was really only after I had been at MLB for a number of years that I felt comfortable and confident enough that transition wasn’t going to put me on the street,” Dittmeier said. “So, I felt I had job security, I knew the people I worked for, I knew that they knew I do a good job, that I’m good at what I do, so I didn’t think it would be that much of an issue. So, I worked toward it for a couple years, starting probably around 2005, and then finally culminating in coming out at work in 2007.”

Dittmeier says she “always kind of felt something different” about her when she was growing up in Long Island during her youth, but wasn’t at the time able to identify it because of a lack of information.

“I kind of figured it out in my teens, but you don’t act upon it because, again, it was a different time,” Dittmeier says. “You didn’t know if you were going to be ostracized from your family, you didn’t have the resources, you certainly didn’t have the Internet. Going to a shrink was really frowned upon. You certainly didn’t talk about these things with your parents.”

At the same time growing up, Dittmeier was an avid enthusiast of all things baseball and newsprint. After school, she would read the sports columns in Newsday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning paper that was distributed in her hometown.

“And it was an afternoon paper, so it would come to the house during the day, and I would come home from school, and the first thing I would do before I went out to play ball was I would make myself a sandwich and I would read the newspaper, then I would go out and play ball,” Dittmeier says. ”So, I always loved journalism. I always loved writing.”

Dittmeier started in the business of sports writing as a beat reporter covering hockey and horseracing, mostly in Westchester County just outside of New York, and then in Albany for a number of years. She wanted to get involved in baseball, but didn’t have the opportunity. Landing the job at MLB.com 12 years ago made that dream come true.

One recent big news story hit close to home. In July, Major League Baseball announced that it had adopted an employment non-discrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Dittmeier says she didn’t cover the story personally, although MLB.com had a reporter, Paul Hagen, covering it.

“Personally, it doesn’t impact me at all, I don’t think,” Dittmeier says. “But I’m certainly glad to see Major League Baseball take it to that level and respond like that. I think that’s more for clubhouses, players, the teams more than me.”

The policy doesn’t cover gender identity, but Dittmeier isn’t discouraged. New York City, where she lives and works, has employment non-discrimination protections based on gender identity.

“It’s not troubling for me personally,” Dittmeier says. “It would be nice if they took a look at that. But again, for me, personally I don’t think that I’m at any kind of risk as long as I’m doing my job well. If I don’t do my job well, then I’m subject to changes just like everybody else. If it’s not there, it would be nice if they would include it, I’m sure.”

Asked about the prevalence of gay players in Major League Baseball, Dittmeier insists there are such players who haven’t made their sexual orientation or gender identity public yet.

“There has to be,” Dittmeier says. “I remember having a debate with a hockey coach years and years ago who insisted there were no gay players anywhere in professional hockey, and I told him I thought that was ridiculous. If the number is 10 percent of the population is gay, then there has to be.”

But even with the MLB’s non-discrimination policy on sexual orientation in place, Dittmeier says it would take a player with exceptional skills to come out as gay — more talent than what an average baseball player normally has.

“If you are hitting 300 and you’re a perennial all-star, and you happen to be [gay, bi or trans], your chances of successfully coming out are pretty good,” Dittmeier says. “If you’re going up and down between Triple-A and the major leagues, that’s a tough one, because if it comes down to a decision between that player and someone else as to whether they’re going to make the roster, then you have to worry about someone, consciously or unconsciously, choosing the other player because of your sexual orientation.”

Although he’s not a baseball player, the most notable coming out of a gay athlete this year was former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins. It’s his status as a veteran that Dittmeier says made that coming out possible.

“He’s 34 years old,” Dittmeier says. ”He’s a good ball player at this point in his career. If, for some reason, he discontinues to play, he’s had a pretty good career. So he doesn’t have very much to lose. When he was 23, 24, 25 years old, he certainly had a lot more to lose than he does now. I think security is really, really important.”

Dittmeier says she’s seen attitudes change positively in recent decades, and expects those to change even further as time progresses — particularly for transgender people like herself.

“I know most people don’t know someone who is transgender, but certainly most people know someone else who’s LGBT,” Dittmeier says. ”And 20 years ago, I don’t think you could say that. Once you know someone, either someone in your life or someone you get to know, someone they work with or whatever, they understand it better. I guess that’s probably like with anything in life.”

CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of MLB.com reporter Paul Hagen. It was also incorrect about the position that Alex Rodriguez currently plays and Dittmeier’s hometown. The article has also been updated to clarify that New York City has transgender non-discrimination protections. The Blade regrets the errors.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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