Renée Richards Talks About Gender Stigmas, Social Slurs and Life Experiences

Richards was in the eye of the media storm long before Bruce Jenner, another star athlete made the same choice 40 years ago.

Renée Richards, one of the most famous transgender individuals after undergoing a sex-change operation in 1975, revealed about how gender acceptance has shifted since the time of her transition. Besides, according to her, times have changed.

The former professional tennis player, born Richard Raskind, believes nothing could be tougher than what she endured in the 1970s. In an interview that she said that she was turned away by doctors when she first attempted to have her surgery, calling the operation “too scary for them.”

“They couldn’t fathom how someone who had been so supremely successful in everything – in medicine, in sports, in life, as a heterosexual man, as a husband, as a father – they couldn’t understand that,” said Richards, who became a prominent New York ophthalmologist.

“In this day and age, they would understand. The best example I know is somebody like Bruce Jenner. But in my time, I was turned away.”

“You have to realize that somebody who is an entertainer, or even like with Bruce Jenner – a person like that can have a sex change and be just as accepted as an entertainer or a TV star or something like that afterwards,” she said.
“But if you’re talking about someone who’s a surgeon or a physician of any kind and bringing your child to see that person, it’s a whole different matter.”

Dr. Richards is now 80, still practicing ophthalmology, who doesn’t like being called a trailblazer or role model, saying she was “only one of a lot of pioneers.”

Richards thinks that the increasing awareness of transgender as a subject has educational value that will help shape society in a number of positive manners, whether it’s how people perceive the transgender community. But she still desires to gain more knowledge about the scientific nature of gender identity.


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