ESPN reporter M.A. Voepel -- who's been covering sports for the outlet for more than two decades -- has come out as transgender ... saying Tuesday, "I'm transitioning to male."
Voepel said he decided to open up about his true self this week because he's slated to receive the Naismith Hall of Fame's Gowdy Award next month -- an honor recognizing media members who have made great contributions to basketball -- and he wanted to be there "as authentic self."
"Fear can keep us paralyzed for decades, especially when we think we will lose all that is dear to us, including career," Voepel said.
In sports media, we're lucky to tell stories of others’ journeys. We have our own, too. Part of mine is being transgender, and I'm transitioning to male. Byline now M.A. Voepel, pronouns he/him. Please feel free to call me Voepel, MV, Michael, Mike; I’m good with them all. 😊…
"At some point, you realize you need to have faith that your happiness/well-being is worth pursuing, and also have faith in other people's kindness and grace. Grateful for a company that supports all of its employees, for terrific family and friends, and for societal progress."
Voepel, who formerly went by Mechelle Voepel, added, "Please feel free to call me Voepel, MV, Michael, Mike; I’m good with them all."
Voepel has had a huge career with ESPN after initially joining the company in 1996 ... covering the WNBA, women's college basketball, volleyball and much more.
"I may look and sound a little different," he said. "Glad to be who I've always been inside. Dedication to covering women’s sports, a lifelong joy as well as job, and admiration for all involved -- players, coaches, execs, fans, referees, colleagues -- that stays exactly the same. Thanks!"
Immediately following his announcement, several ESPN personalities congratulated him ... including T.J. Quinn, who wrote, "Proud to have you as a colleague."