Daria Kasatkina, the highest-ranked female tennis player in Russia, came out as gay Monday — and won’t let Russia’s discriminatory laws stop her from talking about it.
In a YouTube interview, the athlete told Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko she was dating figure skater Natalia Zabiiako and spoke out against her home country’s anti-gay laws.
“This notion of someone wanting to be gay or becoming one is ridiculous,” she said. “I think there is nothing easier in this world than being straight. Seriously, if there is a choice, no one would choose being gay. Why make your life harder, especially in Russia? What’s the point?”
Kasatkina said not even holding hands with Zabiiako would be allowed in public there.
Kasatkina is about as high-profile as a Russian athlete can get. She’s currently ranked the 12th-best professional tennis player in the world and wields enormous visibility as a result, according to CNN.
The athlete posted a photo of herself and Zabiiako on Twitter after the news broke. “My cutie pie,” she wrote.
While same-sex relationships were decriminalized in in 1993, the country passed a law banning “gay propaganda” in 2013. According to The Council for Global Equality, this resulted in a notable increase of attacks against the LGBTQ community and thwarted pride marches.
Kasatkina, seen here on July 16, 2022, told a blogger that she would never be able to hold her girlfriend’s hand in public in Russia.
Alexander Scheuber via Getty Images
The law has even been used to legally detain gay rights activists, according to The Guardian. Signed by President Vladimir Putin, it purports to shield kids from “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” and essentially criminalized public displays of LGBTQ pride.
Russian authorities have since been able to fine citizens up to $150 for every piece of “LGBTQ propaganda” they share, with corporations facing up to $30,000 fines for the same.
“Living in the closet is impossible,” Kasatkina, who now lives outside of Russia, said. “It is too hard, it is pointless. Living in peace with yourself is the only thing that matters.”
Kasatkina has since been praised by fellow athlete Nadya Karpova, according to The Guardian. Karpova, a soccer player who became the first openly gay Russian national team athlete when she came out in June, said it was “important for younger people to have role models who are like them.”
“When I heard the news about Kasatkina, I couldn’t believe it, I was so proud,” said Karpova. “I was ecstatic, jumping around like crazy in my flat.”
Mere hours before Kasatkina came out, however, Russia’s parliament introduced a draft bill that would broaden the 2013 ban on “gay propaganda.” It would not only ban public discussion of LGBTQ relationships, but prohibit LGBTQ content from all movie theaters in Russia.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, which continues to fight for LGBTQ rights across Europe, ranks Russia as the third-worst country for LGBTQ people — behind only Azerbaijan and Turkey.
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