Russian pro tennis player Daria Kasatkina speaks openly about her LGBTQ identity, despite living in an authoritarian country where the government is hostile towards LGBTQ people.

Oh, and she’s only 25 years old. Talk about courage.

Kasatkina, who’s experiencing a resurgence on the court this season, opened up in a recent interview with Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko about the challenges of living as an out gay person in Russia. The interview was conducted in Barcelona, according to the New York Times.

“So many topics are taboo in Russia, some of them more important than others,” she said. “It’s no surprise.”

This isn’t the first time Kasatkina has spoken about the dearth of LGBTQ rights and recognition in her native country. Last year, she pledged her support for LGBTQ people when asked why few athletes publicly come out.

While homosexuality is decriminalized in Russia, it is a difficult place to live for gay people. President Vladimir Putin’s government has passed an array of anti-LGBTQ ordinances in recent years.

It’s worth noting that Kasatkina is currently traveling outside of Russia to play in international tournaments, the NYT reports.

Russia’s state-sponsored attitude towards LGBTQ people came out during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, when commentators called LGBTQ Olympians “perverts” and “abominations” (at least 186 out athletes participated in the Games).

Brittney Griner, one of the most accomplished out athletes in the world, is being detained in Russia on dubious drug charges.

With that horrific reality in mind, Kasatkina scoffed at the notion that homosexuality is a choice, a commonly held viewpoint of Putin and other gay-hating figures.

“Seriously, if there is a choice, who would choose being gay? Why make your life harder, especially in Russia. What’s the point?,” she said.

It doesn’t appear as if Kasatkina is worried about her remarks torpedoing her tennis career. In addition to advocating for LGBTQ equality, she spoke out about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She’s doing all of this as the 12th-ranked player on the WTA tour, by the way. This is the first time Kasatkina has been in the top 15 since early 2019.

And the best part is, she’s experiencing success as an out and proud LGBTQ person. On Monday, Kasatkina shared an adorable picture with her girlfriend on Instagram.

While living openly will likely invite backlash, Kasatkina says it’s a more preferable alternative to being in the closet.

“Living in the closet, as they say, is impossible. It’s pointless. You’ll constantly be focused on that,” she said.

That’s a line echoed by out athletes, and people, across the world: publicly coming out is personally gratifying, and just as importantly, freeing.

The fact that Kasatkina feels that way, even given her situation, speaks volumes.

“Living in peace with yourself is the only thing that matters, and fuck everyone else,” she said.


This post has been updated to reflect new information from The New York Times.