Australia native Rennae Stubbs is among the elite in tennis. Her bio reads like a sports hall of fame entry: World Team Tennis “most valuable player” in 2008, former world No. 1 in doubles (she’s currently ranked No. 7 in doubles on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour), winner of 60 doubles titles on the WTA Tour, winner of four Grand Slam doubles titles and a four-time Olympic team member representing Australia.
Since 2009, she’s played for Washington Kastles, a professional D.C.-based team, the newest in the World Team Tennis Pro League and the 2009 WTT champions, which she calls “a really wonderful experience.” They play the Boston Lobsters at Kastles Stadium in D.C. Sunday (www.washingtonkastles.com).
But Stubbs, who’s been out for more than a decade in her personal life and in tennis circles but came out in the press in 2005, hasn’t had much time to call Washington — or any other city — home. She started traveling extensively for tennis when she was 18 and hasn’t slowed since. She relocated permanently to the U.S. when she was 24 but only spends about seven weeks a year at her house in Tampa, Fla. The 39-year-old says Americans and Australians aren’t that much different, but the latter are more laid back. They work less and are more open to LGBT issues generally speaking, she says. Despite Billie Jean and Martina, Stubbs says lesbians in tennis are no more common than in any other walk of life.
“It’s such a stereotype for women in any sport,” Stubbs says. “If you took any 100 women, probably five to 10 of them would be gay. It’s the same in tennis.” She says there’s “never been a negative experience” since she came out, “at least that I know about.” Dating is difficult because of her travel schedule but she hasn’t ruled out settling down. She also has no plans to retire and says she merely re-evaluates at the end of each season. Stubbs enjoys skiing, surfing and golf when she has down time and enjoys relaxing with red wine and friends.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
About 12 years. The first person was the hardest to tell. It was my best friend and her answer was, “No kidding.”
Who’s your gay hero?
I don’t really have a gay hero, I don’t think there is any such thing. I think you look up to whomever you look up to, whether they’re gay or straight. As long as they are good people and they inspire you to be better.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
To be honest, I haven’t been out in Washington much, I am so busy playing and trying to rest while not on the road for the Kastles, that I don’t get time to head out. But I have had some fun nights at the Donovan House roof deck with the team last year.
What’s your dream gay wedding?
I haven’t really thought of it, but if it ever happened I would say in a really nice outdoor setting somewhere at dusk. Or how about one that’s just legal in all states?
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
Equality for women in the workforce. I do believe that’s one of the great things about team tennis and Billie Jean King’s legacy, that women and men are treated equally on a team and that they both contribute equally and that’s how it should be in life.
What historical outcome would you change?
There are so many things in history that I wish I could change but I believe that everything happens for a reason. I think we learn as a society to either become more tolerant and understanding or we will continue to make the same assumptions and mistakes. So I guess that’s the only thing we can change is how we deal with adversity, pain and sadness.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Probably when I saw Madonna in concert at Madison Square Garden in 2001. We were sixth row center. That was pretty awesome.
On what do you insist?
That you’re always honest with me and no matter what you tell me, you can always trust that I will always be there for you.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I can’t believe it’s not raining again at Wimbledon.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would stay exactly the same way.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there is something bigger out there somewhere but I like living in this one right now and don’t really put too much emphasis on anything other than doing the right thing while I am on this earth.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Keep going! At some point in the future, lesbians, gays and transgender people will be seen just like everyone else. It’s just going to take time, patience and understanding.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My family, my partner and my friends.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
That “we” as gay people try and convert the “straight” world. That to me is hilarious.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
I don’t really have one.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
That marriage should only be between a man and a woman. If we all pay the same taxes, why shouldn’t we have the same rights?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My grand slam trophies. I can’t really say one, as I truly covet all of them in some way.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That your elders really do know best. Age and experience cannot be taught, but you don’t know that until you’re older! So if you’re 18 and reading this, listen to people who are older than you, they know more than you do, trust me!
Because Mark Ein is the best owner in the league and because the Kastles fans are the best fans in the league and I truly do love the city.