Daria Kasatkina, a Russian tennis star, has had an exceptional year both on and off the court. She has become an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, defying a “gay propaganda” law in Putin’s Russia, by coming out as gay and talking about her same-sex relationship. In a recent interview with Vitya Kravachenko, Kasatkina said that “living in the closet” was impossible and that she has a girlfriend, Olympic figure skater Natalia Zabiiako.
This move was particularly bold given that the Russian government had just introduced a bill to ban any public discussion of LGBTQ+ relationships in a positive or neutral light. Kasatkina’s interview came just hours after this law was introduced. Despite the risk of negative reactions, Kasatkina has not received any negativity, and in fact, she has received support from her peers. Kasatkina said, “Some of the players were coming to me, sometimes they’re still coming to me, to say ‘yeah, it’s cool’ or ‘congrats’ to me. That’s nice.”
Kasatkina has also spoken up against the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the suppression of dissent in the country. When asked about what she wants most in life, Kasatkina said, “For the war to end… it’s a nightmare.” Speaking up about her sexual orientation and political beliefs has been a huge relief for Kasatkina, who said that releasing the burden of having to hide her personal life has helped her focus more on tennis. She hopes that her decision to come out will inspire others in Russia to do the same and help end the discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ people in the country.