A fascinating transsexual testimony.
Born in 1934, Dick Raskind had a confusing childhood. Papa Raskind wasn’t home much, and Dick’s mother, a psychiatrist, sometimes dressed him in a slip to make him look cute. From his earliest days, Raskind felt dogged by a “female side” he named Renée. When Renée took over, Raskind “minimize[d]” his penis and shaved his legs. Eventually, Raskind fell in love with, and married, a beautiful woman, and Renée seemed to go into remission. Raskind hoped that she was “gone for good,” but she wasn’t. Raskind finally split up with his wife and decided to have sex-reassignment surgery. (His arrival at that decision is skipped over in just a few sentences, one of the few unsatisfying spots in an otherwise detailed account.) Now Renée Richards, she takes a charitable view of the conservative era in which he grew up—there was, Richards acknowledges, no room for transsexuals in post–World War II America, but “the straight-laced culture of my time frequently offered a refuge from the craziness in my house.” Richard recounts her post-surgery professional and personal struggles and successes. The author wanted a quiet life as Renée, but his accomplishments as a surgeon and tennis coach made that impossible—the press was all over Richards, and she found herself forced into the position of spokeswoman for all things transsexual (or, as Richards refers to it, “transgendered”). She addresses frankly her romantic encounters and, in the moving last chapter, offers a litany of regrets. She says that she’s hurt people along the way, and she laments that she is “a facsimile,” adding, “I think I’m a pretty good one, but I will never be more than a fax, a woman with a Y chromosome.”
An honest look at a courageous life.