1. Renee Richards: The First Transgender Woman to Play a Professional sport
Renee Richards is a world-renowned eye surgeon and in the 1970s was a famous international female tennis player. However, until she underwent gender reassignment surgery at the age of 41, Renee was a 6ft 2in surgeon called Richard Raskin. As Raskin, Renee had captained the Yale tennis team and won several tennis titles. However, despite marrying and fathering a son, Renee had always been conflicted about her sexual identity; a conflict she did not resolve until 1975 when her physical gender finally became female.
In 1976, Richards began to play tennis as a woman. However, her birth sex was quickly outed, and the US open promptly tried to stop her competing as a woman by introducing a chromosome screening procedure. So Richards decided to sue. The USTA lawyer George Gowan attempted to argue that allowing Richards to play would be opening the floodgates to “world-wide experiments, especially in the Iron-Curtain countries, to produce athletic stars by means undreamed of a few years ago.” However, the judge observed there were relatively few athletes in Richard’s position – and ruled in her favor, allowing Richards to compete in the 1977 US Open. The judgment made Richards a trailblazer against transgender discrimination.
Where Do We Get this stuff? Here are our sources:
“Why tennis’s RenÃ©e Richards, the first transgender woman to play Professional sport, matters today”, Simon Briggs, The Telegraph, March 30, 2018.
The Newgate Calendar: Comprising Interesting Memoirs of the Most Notorious Characters Who Have Been Convicted of Outrages on the Laws of England Since the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century; with Occasional Anecdotes and Observations, Speeches, Confessions, and Last Exclamations of Sufferers, Volume2, Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, J Robins and Company, 1825.
“When Jennie came marching home – An Irishwoman’s Diary on Albert Cashier and the US civil war“, Nora-Ide McAuliffe, The Irish Times, April 10, 2018
“How Catherine Madden Fell Victim to Strong Drink; Why Nell Pickerell Will Not Wear Women’s Clothing”, The Spokesman-Review, October 22, 1911
“Nell Pickerell Denies Her Sex; Woman Who Dresses in Male Attire Starts Story She is a “Real Man”; Rumor Causes Sensation; Sheriff Stone Brands Statement an Untrue Fabrication Result of Liquor,” The Spokesman-Review, November 22, 1911.
“Meet Nell Pickerell, transgender at-risk youth of yesteryear; She lived a century ago – as a man. But Nell’s story rings true today and parallels the experience of many Northwest street kids”, Knute Berger, Crosscut.com, June 30, 2014