Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hermaphrodite: Dr. Richard Raskind and or Renne Richards

Renee Richards holds the court as the first prominent transsexual athlete. As Richard Raskind, he became a husband and father, an excellent ophthalmologist, strabismus surgeon and amateur tennis player. As Renee Richards, she became controversial on the pro tennis tour. From NPR:

In 1976, I was one of the most famous people in the world. The paparazzi were on my trail twenty-four hours a day, hungry for any photo, the less flattering the better. The mainstream press was better, sometimes. People, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated — I was featured in them all, an international phenomenon...

And what had I done to merit this interest? I had undergone a male-to-female sex-change operation and then had the temerity to play in an amateur women's tennis tournament. Of course there was more to it than that, but basically that was the source of my infamy. To compound my audacity, I had not hung my head and apologized. I had gone to court, won my case, and played professional tennis as a woman...

The Lady Regrets

BEFORE Dr. Renée Richards had a sex-change operation, when she was an up-and-coming eye doctor and one of the top-ranked amateur tennis players in the East, she could be, by her own estimation, an arrogant fellow, tough and demanding. Talking with her three decades later, one still has the uneasy sense, at times, of that impatient male surgeon trapped in her body trying to break out.

Not that Dr. Richards, 72 and still practicing, is ever anything but polite. She comes outside in the rain, in sneakers, warm-up pants and a red sweater, to greet her visitor, reining in her enthusiastic, 140-pound Bernese mountain dog. She’s had her assistant, Arleen Larzelere, 60, prepare lunch. She provides a tour of her cozy three-bedroom cottage in the hamlet of Kent Cliffs, in Putnam County, an hour north of New York City: the faded chintz armchairs, the walk-in closet where a mink shares space with a golf bag that bears her name.

But as the conversation prompted by Dr. Richards’s new memoir, “No Way Renée,” runs to two hours, she grows restless. Dr. Richards is 6’2”, with the rangy body of a lifelong athlete, and in maturity, her angular bone structure seems to be pushing its way to the fore. And as she wearies of the interview, her body language seems to become more traditionally male, suggesting an athlete who is wearying of the game.

“You’re writing this book all over again,” she grouses.

And, later, on another subject, “I can explain, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to follow it.”

Story Continues...


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