There's been a lot of discussion in various states about sports participation by transgender people.
A transgender athlete will take part in women's weightlifting in the Summer Olympics. Many states are bringing up bills concerning transgender athletes. Recently, Gov. Mike DeWine was critical of Ohio's transgender ban after the Ohio House passed a bill banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girl’s sports; it’s been passed to the Ohio Senate. California had banned travel to Florida for its transgender ban.
It's interesting, but this is not a new topic. In the mid-1970s, there was controversy about Dr. Renee Richards playing professional tennis.
Many people, unless they're older than 50, probably don't remember the name. Richards was an ophthalmologist and an average to slightly above tennis player named Richard Raskind. He played in the U.S. Open several times in the 1950s, and enlisted in the Navy, where he won the All-Navy Championship. He later became a very good 35-and-older player.
After having transitioned to a woman in 1975, Raskind, who changed his name, began to play as a woman. After she won a tournament in Southern California as Renee Clark the next year, a local television anchor reported that Clark had been a man.
After it was reported, Richards entered other tournaments, and the other players pulled out in protest.
The United States Open Committee, the United States Tennis Association and the Women's Tennis Association all ruled that female competitors must take a Barr Body test to verify their sex according to chromosomes.
Richards, who was trying to enter the 1976 U.S. Open, refused to take the test, so she was banned.
She brought about a lawsuit to allow her to get into the U.S. Open. In 1977, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in her favor saying that, because Richards was now a woman, it was unfair to make her take the Barr test.
Two weeks later, Richards lost in the opening round to Virginia Wade. She and partner Betty Ann Stuart made it to the final, losing to Martina Navratilova and Betty Stove.
Richards didn't have a long illustrious career. Four years later, the 47-year-old retired from professional tennis. There were highlights in her career, such as a 1979 victory over Nancy Richey for the 35-and-over title at the U.S. Open. Twice, she and partner Illie Nastase made it to the semifinals of the Open. She also had wins over Hana Mandlikova, Sylvia Hanika, Virginia Ruzici and Pam Shriver.
Navratilova won two Wimbledon titles with Richards as her coach.
Interestingly, Navratilova recently received a lot of criticism when she said it would not be fair for a transgender person to compete against a woman.
"It's insane and it's cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair," Navratilova wrote in The Guardian.
Richards’ case is different from many of today's athletes. When she transitioned into a woman, she was in her 40s, an age when most tennis players are past their prime. Many transgender people do not transition, but identify as the opposite sex.
However, her case was the first to get national attention.