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Renée Richards

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For the adult film actress of the same name, see Renee Richards (actress).
Renée Richards
Country (sports) United States
Born (1934-08-19) August 19, 1934 (age 81)
New York City, USA
Height 6 feet, 2 inches[1]
Turned pro 1977
Retired 1981
Plays Left-handed
Career titles 0 WTA
Highest ranking No. 20 (February 1979)
Grand Slam Singles results
US Open 3R (1979)
Career titles 0 WTA
Highest ranking
Grand Slam Doubles results
US Open F (1977)
Mixed doubles
Career titles 0
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
Australian Open
French Open
US Open SF (1979)
Last updated on: June 5, 2009.

Renée Richards (born August 19, 1934) is an American ophthalmologist, author and former professional tennis player. In 1975, Richards underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. She was denied entry into the 1976 US Open by the United States Tennis Association, citing an unprecedented policy that banned trans women. She disputed the ban, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977 in a landmark decision in favor of transsexual rights.[2] Through her fight to play tennis as a woman, she challenged gender roles and became a role model and spokesperson for the transgender community.[3][4][5]

Early life

Richards was born Richard Raskind on August 19, 1934, in New York City, and was raised, as she put it, as "a nice Jewish boy".[3][6][7][8][9] Richards attended Horace Mann School and excelled as the wide receiver for the football team, the pitcher for the baseball team, and on the tennis and swim teams.[3][10] Richards's baseball skills even led to an invitation to join the New York Yankees, but Richard decided to focus on tennis.[3] After high school Richards attended Yale University and was captain of the Men's Tennis team.[3][10] Richards was considered by some to be one of the best college tennis players in the country.[3] After graduating from Yale, Richards went to the University of Rochester Medical Center and specialized in ophthalmology.[3] Richards graduated from Rochester in 1959 and then served a two-year internship at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.[3][10] After an internship, Richards served two years of residency at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York.[10] Richards played competitive tennis for a while and during the time and was ranked sixth out of the top 20 males over 35.[3][10] After an internship and residency, Richards joined the United States Navy to continue medical training and played tennis for the Navy.[3] While playing for the navy, Richards won both the singles and doubles at the All Navy Championship.[3] During this time Richards was ranked as high as fourth in the region.[3] Richards had a very lethal and recognizable left hand serve and later led to the discovery of Renée.[3][clarification needed]

Transitioning sex

Beginning sometime during college Raskind began cross-dressing, which at the time was considered to be a perversion and transsexualism was classified as a form of insanity.[3] Raskind named the female alter ego Renée, which is French for reborn.[3] Raskind's struggle with sexuality created sexual confusion, depression, and suicidal tendencies.[10] Raskind began seeing Dr. Charles Ihlenfeld who specialized in endocrinology, transsexualism, and sexual reassignment.[3] Upon seeing Dr. Ihlenfeld Raskind began getting hormone injections with the long-term hope for a life change.[3] In the mid-1960s Raskind traveled in Europe dressed as a woman, intending to go to North Africa to see Georges Burou, a famous gynecological surgeon at Clinique Parc in Casablanca, Morocco, regarding sex reassignment surgery; however, Raskind ultimately decided against it and returned to New York.[3] There, Raskind married a woman, Barbara, whom she divorced after five years of marriage and together they had one son.[3][11][12] In the early 1970s, Raskind again decided to undergo sex reassignment and was referred to surgeon Roberto C. Granato, Sr., by Harry Benjamin, successfully transitioning in 1975.[3][13][14] After hormone treatment, extensive psychological counseling, and sex reassignment surgery, his alter-ego Renée finally became a reality.[10] After surgery, Renée went to Newport Beach, California, and started working as an ophthalmologist with another doctor.[3][10]

Court case

Renée applied to play in the US Open in 1976 as a woman but was denied the right to play.[10] The United States Tennis Association (USTA), the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), and the United States Open Committee (USOC) required all women competitors to verify gender with a Barr body test of their chromosomes.[3][10][15] Renée refused to take the test, and so was barred from USTA tournaments.[3][15] She wasn't allowed to play in the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, or the Italian Open in the summer of 1976.[3]

Richards then sued the USTA in New York state court, alleging discrimination by gender in violation of the New York Human Rights Law. Judge Alfred M. Ascione heard the case.[3][10][15]

Richards asserted that participating in the tournament would constitute "an acceptance of her right to be a woman."[10] Some USTA members felt that others would undergo sex change to enter women's tennis.[3][10] Sports Illustrated called Richards an "extraordinary spectacle", and characterized reactions to her as "varying from astonishment to suspicion, sympathy, resentment, and more often than not, utter confusion."[10] The USOC stated "there is competitive advantage for a male who has undergone a sex change surgery as a result of physical training and development as a male."[10][16] Richards finally agreed to take the Barr body test. The test results were ambiguous. She refused to take it again and therefore was barred from play.[10]

On August 16, 1977, Judge Ascione found in Richards' favor. He ruled: "This person is now a female" and that requiring Richards to pass the Barr body test was "grossly unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, and a violation of her rights."[4][17] He further ruled that the USTA intentionally discriminated against Richards, and granted Richards an injunction against the USTA and the USOC allowing to play in the US Open.[4][10] Richards lost to Virginia Wade in the first round of the singles competition, but made it to the finals in doubles.[3][10][15]

Tennis career after transitioning

After moving to California, Richards played in regional competitions for her local club, the John Wayne Tennis Club, under the name Renée Clark.[3][10] In the summer of 1976 she entered the La Jolla Tennis Tournament Championships, where she crushed the competition and her unique and lethal left hand serve was recognized.[3] Her long-time friend Gene Scott then invited her to play in his professional tennis tournament, the Tennis Week Open in South Orange, New Jersey. The USTA and the WTA then withdrew their sanction for the Tennis Week Open, and organized another tournament; 25 of the 32 participants withdrew from the Tennis Week Open.[3][4][10] This was just the beginning of the issues Richards would encounter in trying to play professional women's tennis, which eventually led to her suing the USTA and winning. Richards played professionally from 1977 to 1981 when she retired at age 47.[3][4][15] She was ranked as high as 20th overall (in February 1979), and her highest ranking at the end of a year was 22nd (in 1977). Her first professional event as a female was the 1977 US Open. Her greatest successes on court were reaching the doubles final at her first U.S. Open in 1977, with Betty Ann Grubb Stuart—the pair lost a close match to Martina Navratilova and Betty Stöve—and winning the 35-and-over women's singles. Richards was twice a semifinalist in mixed doubles (with Ilie Năstase) at the U.S. Open. In 1979, she defeated Nancy Richey for the 35 and over singles title at the U.S. Open. Richards posted wins over Hana Mandlíková, Sylvia Hanika, Virginia Ruzici, and Pam Shriver. She later coached Navratilova to two Wimbledon wins and was inducted into the USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.[18] On August 2, 2013, Richards was among the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.[19]

Richards has since expressed ambivalence about her legacy, and came to believe her past as a man provided her with advantages over her competitors, saying “Having lived for the past 30 years, I know if I’d had surgery at the age of 22, and then at 24 went on the tour, no genetic woman in the world would have been able to come close to me. And so I’ve reconsidered my opinion.”[20][21]


After four years of playing tennis, she decided to return to her medical practice, which she moved to Park Avenue in New York.[3][10] She then became the surgeon director of ophthalmology and head of the eye-muscle clinic at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital.[10] In addition she served on the editorial board of the Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.[3][10] Renée now lives in a small town north of New York City with her companion Arleen Larzelere.[3] Renée still goes and watches the sport she enjoyed all her life, tennis, at the US Open.[3] In 2014 a wooden racket used by her was donated to the National Museum of American History, which is part of the Smithsonian.[22]

Movies and books

In 1983, Richards published an autobiography, Second Serve,[23] and in 2007, a second, No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, in which she expresses regret over the type of fame that came with her transsexuality—she said in 2007 that she did not regret undergoing the sex reassignment process in itself.[1] Richards's first autobiography served as the basis for the film Second Serve.[4] Renée is a 2011 documentary film about Richards. The film was one of the anchor films of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and the documentary premiered on ESPN on October 4, 2011.[24]


Richards grew up in Forest Hills Queens in New York City.[3][10] Her father, David Raskind, was an orthopedic surgeon, and her mother was one of the first female psychiatrists in the United States in addition to being a professor at Columbia University.[3][10] Richards married model Barbara Mole in June 1970. They were divorced in 1975.[3] Richards' son, Nicholas Raskind, was born in 1972.

Grand Slam singles tournament timeline

Men's singles

(As Richard Raskind)

Tournament 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 Career SR
Australia A A A A A A A A -
France A A A A A A A A -
Wimbledon A A A A A A A A -
United States 1R A 2R 1R 2R A A 1R 0/5
SR 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 1 0 / 5

Women's singles

(As Renée Richards)

Tournament 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Career SR
Australia A A A A A -
France A A A A A -
Wimbledon A A A A A -
United States 1R 1R 3R 2R 1R 0/5
SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 5

A = did not participate in the tournament.

SR = the ratio of the number of singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played.

Note: The Australian Open was held twice in 1977, in January and December.

Grand Slam doubles tournament timeline

Tournament 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Career SR
Australia A A A A A -
France A A A A A -
Wimbledon A A A A A -
United States F 2R A 3R 3R 0/4
SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 4

A = did not participate in the tournament.

SR = the ratio of the number of singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played.

Note: The Australian Open was held twice in 1977, in January and December.

Grand Slam mixed doubles tournament timeline

Tournament 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Career SR
Australia A A A A A -
France A A A A A -
Wimbledon A A A A A -
United States A 3R SF 1R A 0/3
SR 0 / 0 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 3

See also


  1. ^ a b Goldsmith, Belinda (February 18, 2007). Transsexual pioneer Renee Richards regrets fame. Reuters. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  2. ^ "Renée Richards Documentary Debuts at Tribeca Film Festival". April 22, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al Renée. Film. Directed by Eric Drath. New York: ESPN Films, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Birrell, Susan, and Cheryl L. Cole. Women, sport, and culture. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994.
  5. ^ "21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture". Time Magazine. 
  6. ^ Renee Richards (February 9, 2007). No Way Renee: The Second Half of My of My Notorious Life. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ Bob Wechsler. Day by day in Jewish sports history. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ Jonny Geller. Yes, but is it good for the Jews?: a beginner's guide. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  9. ^ Noach Dzmura. Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Abrams, Roger I. Sports justice: the law and the business of sports Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press, 2010.
  11. ^ "Ex-Wife of Renee Weds". Milwaukee Sentinel. July 13, 1978. p. 9. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  12. ^ Richards, Renee, Second Serve (1983) New York : Stein and Day.
  13. ^ "The Second Half of My Life" Talk of the Nation, February 8, 2007
  14. ^ Jewish Women in America: A-L. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Creedon, Pamela J. Women, media and sport: challenging gender values Thousand Oaks u.a.: Sage, 1994
  16. ^ Richards V. USTA, 1977 p. 269
  17. ^ Richards V. USTA, 1977 p. 272
  18. ^ Prange, Peter. "Simon & Schuster: Renee Richards – Biography". Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  19. ^ "National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame’s Inaugural Class Announced | Out Magazine". 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  20. ^ Bazelon, Emily. "Cross-Court Winner". The Slate Group. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  21. ^ Foer, Franklin; Tracy, Marc (Oct 30, 2012). Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 1455516112. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "Original Transgender Pride Flag, Will & Grace Artifacts Donated to Smithsonian | Out Magazine". 2014-08-20. Retrieved 2015-08-25. 
  23. ^ Richards, Renée with John Ames. Second Serve: the Renée Richards Story. New York City, New York, USA: Stein and Day, March 1983, ISBN 0812828976
  24. ^ "Renée". Retrieved March 19, 2011. 

External links