The Renée Richards Day Thread

Dr. Renée Richards: a GQ+A with a Trans Icon | GQ

Renée Richards is a retired tennis player, and was one of the earliest and most prominent transgender athletes in the American sports world.

In her youth, Richards was a stand-out athlete – she was invited to try out for the New York Yankees, and was captain of the Yale tennis team associated with the gender assigned her at birth. She had begun dressing as a woman during her college years (at a time when doing so was classified as a form of insanity) and in 1975 underwent reassignment surgery at the age of 41.

Her transition was outed by TV anchor Richard Carlson1; the following year, following several tennis organizations, including the United States Tennis Association, refused to allow her to compete without submitting to a chromosomal test.

Richards sued, and in August 1977, Judge Alfred M. Ascione ruled in her favor. “This person is now a female,” he ruled, and that requiring to pass a genetic test was “grossly unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, and a violation of her rights.” This allowed Richards to play professional tennis for four years, ending in 1981 when she retired at age 47.

Despite being a full generation older than many of her peers, Richards ranked as highly as 20th in the world, reaching the doubles final at the US Open in 1977 and twice reached the mixed doubles semi-finals there with partner Ilie Năstase.

She has since been voted into the USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame and was an early inductee into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. Now 87, she enjoys retirement both from tennis and her opthalmological career in a small town north of New York City.

More information on her can be found in her autobiographies Second Serve and No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, and in the 2011 documentary Renée.