Renee Richard is a transgender icon who fought for inclusion of transgender women in sports 40 years ago when she transmuted herself from Richard Raskind to Renee, which means rebirth in French.
After applying to play in U.S Open in 1976, Richard was turned down, so she sued and won.
She played in the U.S Open in the year 1977 and became the first person to have played in both the men’s and women’s competition, and reached the finals in women’s doubles.
It takes a lot of courage to come out as a transgender woman to the entire nation in the 1970s, and it still is today. Even Richards, now 80, is surprised she had the courage. She told to local media:
“How could I have actually gone out there in front of thousands of people as this notorious transsexual and compete against young women? I didn’t know whether I was going to be shot at, or whether I was just going to be yelled at.”
She gained support from legendary tennis player Billie Jean King, who said after meeting Ms Richards: “I just listened. I didn’t know anything about transgender. I went back to the players and said, ‘We have to let her play.’ Everyone was up in arms. It was tumultuous. [I told them] ‘All of you who are upset right now are going to end up thinking she’s your best friend.’ And many of them did.”
“There is one thing that a transsexual woman unfortunately cannot expect to be allowed to do, and that is to play professional sports in her chosen field. She can get married, live as woman, do all of those other things, and no one should ever be allowed to take them away from her. But this limitation—that’s just life. I know because I lived it,” she said.
Richards retired from tennis in 1981 and returned to working in ophthalmology in New York, where she still lives.
On Monday Jenner revealed her new look on Monday, there were rumors that Richards was counseling her on the transition, but Richard told Reuters that was ‘preposterous’.
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