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Renee Richards: a life in both genders

In many ways Renee Richards is a contradiction. She transitioned many years ago and has a first hand and pragmatic understanding of all this that few could ever relate to. It was much harder back then and her notoriety did not help her to make a successful stealth life she had hoped to embark on.

I can understand the bittersweet nature of the words because it must not have been easy to do what she did at a time when few people understood this. Being transgender or transsexual is not an easy thing and her statements in an Esquire article show it.

There is both resignation and sadness in her words:

"In my day, of course, everything was done secretly and quietly, and if somebody went through the transformation, they did it privately. It was called 'woodworking': You merged into the woodwork after your transformation and you tried to lead a new life without people knowing what your previous life had been. And that's what I tried to do. I changed my name, I moved three thousand miles away, I started my new life. I was taken care of by my friends and by my employer, who took me on as an assistant ophthalmologist. I tried to merge into the woodwork, and my undoing came when I played in a tennis tournament in California.

I am mystified to this day by the celebrity part of [being transgender]—with Chaz Bono and now Caitlyn Jenner, and people going on television announcing that this week I'm Christopher and next week I will be Christine. These were things beyond my imagination when I was trying to become accepted as a woman and I was found out and became a public figure. I never wanted to be considered somebody who was a trans-something. I've had a wonderful life, and I can't complain, and I happily spent forty years as a man and then happily forty years as a woman. But would I wish I would never have been born a transsexual or transgender? Yes. I don't wish being a transgender individual on anybody. The transgender community gets battered on both ends. They get battered by society from people who are hostile to them, and they need the protection of the law against violence and assault, and they get battered on the end of their own families, a lot of whom don't accept them and don't understand them. The work that needs to be done is primarily societal and legal, but from my standpoint as a scientist, as a physician, I would love to know whether there is some prenatal or hormonal or genetic preconditions that set it up for someone to announce when they're only two years old that they are a girl rather than a boy. If you could prevent the condition from ever getting started, that would be desirable. I don't like the world of yellows and browns and grays. I like the world of blue and pink. I think that the spice of life is the fact that there are men and women. And I think that if there could be no transgenders in the next one hundred years, I would go for it."




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