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Richards, Renée 1934–

Richards, Renée 1934–

PERSONAL:

Name originally Richard Raskin (name and gender changed, 1975); born, 1934; son of David Raskin (an orthopedist) and S. Muriel Bishop (a neurologist and psychologist); married, 1970 (divorced); children: Nick. Education: Attended Yale University; attended medical school at University of Rochester.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Carmel, NY.

CAREER:

Writer, physician. Ophthalmologist in NY and CA; currently surgeon director of ophthalmology, Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital, New York, NY. Professional tennis player and coach, 1977-83. Military service: U.S. Navy, became lieutenant commander.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Recipient of tennis awards, including two All-Navy championships; New York State clay-court title, 1964; and ranking sixth nationally in men's 35-and-over division, 1972.

WRITINGS:

Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1983.

A Text and Atlas of Strabismus Surgery, Williams & Wilkins (Baltimore, MD), 1991.

(With John Ames) No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

ADAPTATIONS:

Second Serve was adapted as a television movie starring Vanessa Redgrave and broadcast on CBS-TV in 1986.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ophthalmologist and tennis star Renée Richards made history in 1976 when she sued the United States Tennis Association for the right to compete in the U.S. Women's Open, and she wrote about her experiences in two memoirs: Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story and No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life. What made the case noteworthy was the fact that Richards was a transsexual. She had been born Richard Raskin, a man who had graduated from Yale University, served in the U.S. Navy, become a noted pediatric ophthalmologist, and created a reputation as a rising star in the amateur tennis circuit. ‘In her 1986 autobiography Second Serve,’ stated Carolyn Krause in a biographical sketch appearing on 43people.com, ‘Richards writes of a childhood characterized by ‘a provocative set of circumstances’: a controlling psychiatrist mother, disappointed that her first child ‘Mike’ was a girl; a tomboyish sister who dressed her little brother in girls' panties and slips, forced his penis into painful inversions, and encouraged his exploration of her own anatomy; and the boy's secret cross-dressing and invention of an alter ego named Renée."

For the first forty years of her life, Richards lived as a man. He married and fathered a son, and launched a successful medical practice in his native New York. By 1975, however, pressures broke up his marriage and reignited his desire to become a woman. He got a divorce, underwent the sex-reassignment operation, and moved to California, starting a new medical practice there. But Renée also felt moved to help other sexually conflicted people. ‘I became a professional tennis player, hoping that I could help raise awareness about transsexuals,’ she told a People interviewer. ‘Some players were against me going on the women's tennis tour. I was barred from major tournaments for one year and went into serious debt."

Richards's willingness to fight for the right to be accepted as a woman inspired many other athletes struggling with their sexual identities. ‘I think she should be so proud,’ tennis star Billie Jean King told Michael Giltz in an interview for the Advocate. ‘Every generation passes the baton to the next. It had to be so horrible for her. [But] you do have to live your truth; that's what Renée did. For her, that meant an extremely difficult situation.’ After retiring from active competition, Richards continued to serve as a coach and mentor to other tennis players—including Martina Navratilova, herself a lesbian. ‘When I started to coach Martina Navratilova,’ Richards continued in her People interview, ‘people respected me a little bit more because she was the best in the world. After she won Wimbledon in 1982, it was time to return to medicine and be with my son in New York."

Her relationship with her son, Nick, is one of the central themes of Richards' 2006 continuation of her memoir, No Way Renée. While Second Serve discussed the difficulties the author faced in her struggles with professional tennis, No Way Renée deals with the impact her sex-change decision had on others in her life—especially her son, Nick. ‘Everybody wants to know, ‘did Renée Richards make a mistake?’ It wasn't that I regretted my sex change,’ she told Michelle Green in a People interview. ‘I regretted pursuing the right to play tennis instead of just going back to medicine. I would have had a semblance of a private life.’ ‘No matter what,’ Green continued, ‘her son would have suffered. It's the pain she caused Nick, she says, that is her other big regret: ‘He still suffers from the loss of his father as he knew him. The confusion and shame I put him through have been awful. He will carry those scars for a lifetime.’"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Advocate, March 27, 2007, ‘Second Set: For Transgender Tennis Star Renée Richards, the Generation Gap Looms Larger Than the Gender Gap. Her Latest Book, No Way Renée, Continues the Story of Her ‘Notorious’ Life,’ p. 47, and Michael Giltz, ‘Billie Jean Is King: The Ultimate Athlete Was 32 Years Old and Closeted When Transgender Renée Richards Sued for the Right to Play Pro Tennis against Women. Here, She Looks Back and Contemplates the Future of Gays in Professional Sports,’ p. 48.

Booklist, January 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, p. 40.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2006, review of No Way Renée, p. 1260.

Library Journal, January 1, 2007, Regina M. Beard, review of No Way Renée, p. 120.

New York Times, February 1, 2007, ‘The Lady Regrets,’ p. 1.

People, May 12, 1986, Jeff Jarvis, review of Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story, p. 13; March 15, 1999, ‘Renée Richards Views Her Sex Change from Both Sides Now,’ p. 281; March 5, 2007, ‘The World's ‘Most Famous Transsexual’ Looks Back …,’ p. 124.

Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2006, review of No Way Renée, p. 58.

Sports Illustrated, March 28, 1983, Jeremiah Tax, review of Second Serve, p. 6.

ONLINE

43people,http://www.43people.com/ (October 6, 2007), Carolyn Krause, author biography.

glbtq,http://www.glbtq.com/ (October 6, 2007), author biography.

Reuters,http://www.reuters.com/ (October 6, 2007), Belinda Goldsmith, ‘Transsexual Pioneer Renée Richards Regrets Fame."

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