LGBT History Month – Day 14 – Renée Richards

Day 14, and we head into the world of professional tennis to look at Dr Renée Richards (1934 – )

renee richards

Dr Richards is an American ophthalmologist, author and former professional tennis player.

Born in New York, Richards excelled in sports at school, and later became a skilled tennis player while studying at Yale. After graduating, Richards went on to study ophthalmology, taking additional training in the United States Navy.

In 1975, Richards underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, before returning to work as an ophthalmologist.  She continued to develop her tennis skills, and applied for the US Open in 1976. She was denied entry by the United States Tennis Association, who required all female tennis players to undergo gender verification by chromosomal testing, and banned players who would not comply. Richards took the matter to court, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favour in 1977. Judge Ascione ruled that she was indeed female, and that requiring her to pass the genetic test was “unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, and a violation of her rights”.

Through her fight to play tennis as a woman, she challenged gender roles and became a role model and spokesperson for the transgender community. She was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

You can read an interview with her here: http://www.gq.com/story/renee-richards-interview, and an article about her here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33062241

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