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Renee Richards

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Renee Richards

Historically sport has been a hetero-male domain. The perception of sport as a fraternity of male dominance was to some degree moderated with the rise of female star athletes, and later challenged by the integration of sports by African Americans and yet once more further challenged with the gradual emergence of athletes who have openly identified as gay or lesbian. And now we are standing on the threshold of the emergence of transgender athletes, many of whom are challenging the culturally accepted binary gender norms of male and female. Garden State Rainbow Sports celebrates Transgender Week 2020, by highlighting our “Shero” and “Hero” Athletes.

Renée Richards (born August 19, 1934) is an American ophthalmologist and former tennis player who had some success on the professional circuit in the 1970s, and became widely known following male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, when she fought to compete as a woman in the 1976 US Open.

Her discovery and the resulting media frenzy sparked protests. After she accepted an invitation to a warm-up tournament for the US Open, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) withdrew their support and 25 of the 32 women withdrew.

The USTA and WTA introduced the Barr body test, which identifies a person's sex chromosomes. Richards refused to take the test and was banned from the US Open. She filed a lawsuit in 1977 claiming that her civil rights were violated, and challenging that policy, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor. The judge agreed that the Barr body test as the sole determinant of sex was "grossly unfair" and ruled Richards legally female. She competed in the 1977 US Open at the age of 43, lost in the first round and retired four years later.[ At the time, the ruling in Richards's case did not lead to major changes outside of tennis

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