Renée Richards is a former professional tennis player. She became widely known after coming out as transgender in the 1970’s and fighting to compete in the women’s competition in the 1976 US Open. The USTA (United States Tennis Association) required all female competitors to “verify” their sex with a test of their chromosomes. Richards applied to play the 1976 US Open but refused to take the test, and was subsequently not allowed to compete.
Richards continually stated that if she were able to compete in the women’s tournament, it would be “an acceptance of my right to be a woman.”
In a landmark case for transgender rights in the US in 1977, Richards challenged the USTA’s policy of genetic screening for female players, which the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favour. The judge ruled that forcing Richards to take the genetic screening test would be “grossly unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, and a violation of her rights.”
Renée Richards played in the 1977 US Open. She lost in the first round, but made it to the finals in the doubles. Her career high ranking was 20 in the world. After her retirement, she coached tennis legend Martina Navratilova to two Wimbledon Singles Titles.
Richards was inducted into the USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000, and in 2013 was among the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.