Renée Richards: US tennis player and opthalmologist (1934-) | Biography
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Renée Richards
US tennis player and opthalmologist

Renée Richards

Renée Richards
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro US tennis player and opthalmologist
A.K.A. Richard Raskind
Is Athlete Sports coach Military officer Soldier Tennis player Surgeon Officer Physician Autobiographer Academic Tennis coach Writer
From United States of America
Field Education Healthcare Literature Military Sports
Gender transgender female, female
Birth 19 August 1934, New York City
Age 89 years
Star sign Leo
The details (from wikipedia)


Renée Richards (born August 19, 1934) is an American ophthalmologist and former tennis player who had some success on the professional circuit in the 1970s. In 1975 Richards underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. She was then denied entry into the 1976 US Open by the United States Tennis Association, which began that year requiring genetic screening for female players. She disputed this policy, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977 in a decision in favor of transsexual rights. As one of the first professional athletes to identify as such, she became a spokesperson for the transgender community.

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" in Forest Hills, Queens. 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.

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. Richards's baseball skills even led to an invitation to join the New York Yankees, but Richards decided to focus on tennis. After high school Richards attended Yale University and was captain of the men's tennis team, and was considered by some to be one of the best college tennis players in the country. After graduating from Yale, she went to the University of Rochester Medical Center and specialized in ophthalmology, graduating in 1959 and serving a two-year internship at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. After an internship, Richards served two years of residency at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York. Richards played competitive tennis for a while and during the time and was ranked sixth out of the top 20 males over 35. After an internship and residency, Richards joined the United States Navy to continue medical training and played tennis in the Navy. While serving in the Navy, Richards won both the singles and doubles at the All Navy Championship, with a very effective left-hand serve. During this time Richards was ranked as high as fourth in the region.

Transitioning sex

During college Richards began dressing as a woman, which at the time was considered to be a perversion, and transsexualism was classified as a form of insanity. Richards named the female alter ego Renée, which is French for reborn. This struggle with sexual identity created sexual confusion, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Richards began seeing Dr. Charles Ihlenfeld who specialized in endocrinology, transsexualism, and sexual reassignment. Upon seeing Dr. Ihlenfeld she began getting hormone injections with the long-term hope for a life change. In the mid-1960s she 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, she ultimately decided against it and returned to New York. Richards married model Barbara Mole in June 1970, and together they had a son Nicholas in 1972. They were divorced in 1975. In the early 1970s, Richards resolved to undergo sex reassignment and was referred to surgeon Roberto C. Granato, Sr., by Harry Benjamin, successfully transitioning in 1975. After surgery, Richards went to Newport Beach, California, and started working as an ophthalmologist in practice with another doctor.

Court case

Following Richards' disclosure of her gender reassignment, 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. Richards applied to play in the US Open in 1976 as a woman but refused to take the test, and thus was not allowed to compete in the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, or the Italian Open in the summer of 1976.

Richards then sued the USTA in New York state court, alleging discrimination by gender in violation of the New York Human Rights Law. She asserted that participating in the tournament would constitute "an acceptance of her right to be a woman." Some USTA members felt that others would undergo sex change to enter women's tennis. 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." 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." 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.

On August 16, 1977, Judge Alfred M. 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." He further ruled that the USTA intentionally discriminated against Richards, and granted Richards an injunction against the USTA and the USOC, allowing her to play in the US Open. Richards lost to Virginia Wade in the first round of the singles competition, but made it to the finals in doubles.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. On August 2, 2013, Richards was among the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

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.”


After four years of playing tennis, she decided to return to her medical practice, which she moved to Park Avenue in New York. She then became the surgeon director of ophthalmology and head of the eye-muscle clinic at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. In addition she served on the editorial board of the Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. She now lives in a small town north of New York City with her platonic companion Arleen Larzelere.

In 2014 a wooden racket used by her was donated to the National Museum of American History, which is part of the Smithsonian.

Movies and books

In 1983, Richards published an autobiography, Second Serve, 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. Richards's first autobiography served as the basis for the film Second Serve. 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.

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

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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