Rebecca Casby, Renee Richards, Ashley Byrne discussed on BBC World Service
Kenyan and Paul Sema Goma, speaking to Rebecca Casby. Our final story This hour takes us to the 19 seventies, when the American transgender tennis player Rene Richards fought a long campaign for the right to play tournaments. As a woman. She shared her story with Ashley Byrne. Was already 43 years old, and I'm embarking on a professional career Playing against Christie ever faced your Austin and Andrea Jaeger. I mean, and they're all 1920 years old. So I had a pretty good disadvantaged in terms of age, but I said, I'm going to do it for a little while and see how I like it. The player starting her professional career at the US Open was Renee Richards. She was in the women's tournaments, but until a few years earlier, she had been a man called Richard Raskind. I had a very Good and full life as Dick and I had this other side of me that kept emerging and that Dick kept pushing back until finally it just was impossible to submerge Renee anymore and Renee one out at the time of her sex change. Rene was 40 and working as an eye surgeon. As a man. She'd been a successful amateur tennis player competing regularly in the 19 fifties and early sixties in the U. S open, reaching the second round of the men's singles on three occasions. 1975. She started playing on the amateur women's circuit, and that got everyone talking. My world kind of blew up on me when people found out who I was, after I had had my sex change and moved to California to try to start a new are unknown to anybody else. Life for myself. I was found out playing in an amateur tennis tournament, which I shouldn't have done. Critics said it would be wrong for a woman born as a man to compete against other women in the professional game. They said she'd have unfair advantage in terms of strength, but Renee says it's more complex than that. Of course, the men are stronger and then they do hit the ball harder that you know there are variables there to Serena Williams sometimes gets her serve up greater than 120 miles an hour. And some of the men don't serve as hard as 120 Miles an hour in 1976 Renee Richards apply to compete in the U. S Open, but was denied the right to play as a woman by the United States Tennis Association. I never had any intention of playing in the U. S open. There's a problem because I was a practicing. I served in. But when they said, you're not going to be allowed to play in the U. S open as a proud that changed everything because I said You can't tell me What I can or cannot do. I'm a woman, and if I want to play in the U. S open as a woman prowl, I'm going to do it. Renee Richards then decided to sue the American tennis authorities on the grounds of gender discrimination. But the odds were stacked firmly against Renee and illegal team, the tennis association and the other people. On the other side. They had the top lawyers in New York City, the top Wall Street lawyers, and they brought in witness after witness afterwards. This has said I shouldn't be allowed to play and it was a big case. And so on my side, my lawyer my grows and he only had one witness for me. But that one witness proved crucial. She was one of the greatest players in the history of the women's game. My lawyer gave him the affidavit from Billie Jean King. It said that she had met me and that I was a woman and I was entitled to play and I couldn't be denied. And that was it, so we won. It was very dramatic. Sure I was and we all got went out and got drunk after we got the verdict that I had one Ren E. Richards had won the battle in court. But the fight to be accepted was far from over. I had death threats. I had people that hated me. I had people that told me I was immoral. People told me that I was awful. There were some players are walked off the court when I played them, or they wouldn't play me at all. There was a lot of objection in the beginning, and then finally they realized that you know I was okay. I wasn't going to take everybody's money away or anything like that. And gradually, a lot of those that had been against me in the beginning ended up being very good Friends of mine. And so Ren E. Richards career as a professional player was born. The U. S Open in 1977. She faced that year's Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade in the opening round of the women's singles. Was in the center court in the stadium at Forest Hills, and she'd been used to that situation her whole life and I hadn't been and no matter how much good tennis I had played as an amateur, there's nothing that compares to playing as a pro in the U. S Open on center court in the stadium. Remember, She beat me pretty easily in the first set, 61 and we had a very close said in the second said as I got myself going, and she finally wanted 64, and and that was it. And then in the Devil's. Nobody gave my partner Betty Ann Stewart and I much chance because nobody never heard of us. And all of a sudden we won the first round and we won the second round. We won the third round or in the quarterfinals. We win that were in the semifinals. If we win that, and all of a sudden we're in the finals of the U. S help and double 1977 and we played Martina and very Stover from the Netherlands. And we lost them 76 and the second set, So we were the finalists and U. S helper..