Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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5/6/11: Renée Richards ’55

Tall and handsome, smart and athletic, born to privilege yet successful in his own right, Dr. Richard Raskin ’55 had it all—except for a comfortable sex and gender identity.

Those of us who grew up in the ’70s know the second part of Raskin’s story: the transformation into a woman, Renée Richards, and the world-famous fight for the right to play professional women’s tennis. Now a new documentary, Renée, tells the story of what the New York Times calls this “fascinating, melancholy figure, fiercely intelligent and inherently self-dramatizing.”

Richards, still a practicing eye doctor at age 76, is as reluctant a movie star as she was a standard-bearer for transgender rights, says filmmaker Eric Drath: “It took a lot to convince her that her story is important. It’s inspirational. She has courage; she’s a pioneer. She broke every boundary.”

The film, which debuted last month at the Tribeca Film Festival, makes it clear that Richards hersef harbors doubts about transgender athletes competing professionally against other women. But in an April 30 letter to the Times, she broke a different ideological boundary by endorsing same-sex marriage.

Growing up, “my beliefs, mores and opinions were as conservative as those of the rest of my Horace Mann School and Yale College friends,” she wrote. “I never thought about marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman until longer than maybe I should have. And now I will state for the record that … any two people who want to solidify their relationship with a marriage certificate, and gain the civil rights and equality under the law that it ensures, should be allowed to do so.”

Filed under alumnae, movies
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