The appearance in Tokyo of Laurel Hubbard, the first Olympic transgender woman, in weightlifting, has caused a stir that has not gone further because her performance has not been brilliant. His case refers to the impact that Renée Richards, born in 1934 in New York as Richard Raskind in the bosom of a wealthy family, caused on society at the end of the seventies. Renée appeared on the women’s tennis circuit in her late forties and her case, which deserved a film starring Vanessa Redgrave (based on the autobiographical book Second Service), shook world public opinion.
Richard Raskind grew up as one more New York boy, although he always had a certain fondness for wearing feminine clothes. He did not feel happy in his body, despite the fact that it developed advantageously, until he became very popular among his peers for his successes in sports and his hook with girls. He was tall, handsome, and good at any sport, especially tennis, where his 1.88 and powerful left foot were making way for him. He was captain of the Yale tennis team.
He studied ophthalmology and honed his knowledge in the Navy, where he won the All Navy tennis championship. It already started to sound like a serious promise of North American tennis and even participated five times in the Open Usa, although three times it fell in the first round, one in the second and the other in the third. Advised by his psychiatrist, he tried to resolve his identity doubts by forming a family. He married at 26 years old and they both had a son.
But he did not feel identified (identified, it would be better to say) with that life as a father of a family ophthalmologist in Manhattan and finally decided that he should assume himself as he was. After consulting psychologists, she began taking injections of hormones to help her complete her feminine side. Finally, in 1975, at the age of 41, she underwent the sex change operation, which was carried out by the Argentine doctor Roberto Granato.
She moved to California, where she moved her ophthalmology practice, now under her new name, Renée Richards. She chose Renée understanding that it means “reborn” in French.
The following year, she began signing up for women’s tournaments, where her stature and strength stood out loudly. In addition, his angular face, as if carved with a chisel, was very hard for a woman. All his opponents had the impression of playing against a man disguised as a woman and so many said. But as she stood out so much, she was invited to the United States Open. It was then that a Newport journalist with a long history of tennis named John Paddington, who remembered Richard Reskind well from so many years ago, ventured that it was the same person. At the request of many players, the organization required a chromosome test, the same that the IOC requires in doubtful cases at the Games to act in the women’s team. She refused and went to the US Supreme Court, which agreed: “There is overwhelming evidence that Dr. Richards is now a woman.”
So he played the 1977 edition, already made world news. She fell to the first in singles, before the English Virginia Wade, but reached the final in doubles with Betty-Ann Stuart, to fall before the couple Martina Navratilova-Betty Stove. His natural advantage of height and power, accompanied by his ability to play, was already greatly diminished by age, since he was already 43 years old by then. Martina Navratilova, the first tennis player to be publicly lesbian, hired her as a coach.
He played for a short time. He only won one tournament, in Videla’s Argentina, where he was received with great sarcasm. The defeated finalist, Ivanna Madurga, was 1.63. Forty years after that, in an interview in La Nación, he praised his winner: “He was an excellent person. Culturally, we weren’t even up to his heels ”.
She retired at the age of 47, after which she returned to Manhattan, where she continued her work as an ophthalmologist. In 1983 he published his first book Second Service, which led to the film already discussed. In 2007 he published a sequel In no way, Renée: second part of my life.
His brief stint in tennis launched a question to the world of sports that still has no unitary answer, as we have now verified in the case of Laurel Hubbard.
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