Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has recently revealed she is in a same-sex relationship, becoming the country’s first openly gay athlete. Chand is a100m record holder and winner of two Asian Games silver medals. Furthermore, she is one of the few athletes in the world to openly admit same-sex relationship.
“I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with,” Chand told The Sunday Express.
She further added: “I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice. Currently, my focus is on the World Championships and the Olympic Games but in the future, I would like to settle down with her,”
Chand said that theSupreme Court’s historic decision to decriminalise Section 377 has given her the courage to speak out for the rights of the LGBT community. This has also encouraged her to open up about her own same-sex relationship. However, she did not identify her partner because she does not want her to become “the centre of undue attention”.
“I am having a relationship with a 19-year-old woman from my village for the past five years. She is studying B.A. 2nd year in a Bhubaneswar college. She is a relative of mine and whenever I come home, I spend time with her. She is a kind of soul-mate for me and I want to settle down with her in future,” Chand, 23, told PTI from Hyderabad where she is training.
Exclusion from family
Although same-sex relationships are legalized in India, it still remains a taboo. While there has been a positive change in attitude towards the community, there isn’t full-fledged acceptance of the same. Dutee Chand is now facing backlash from her sister, who is threatening to send the athlete to jail over her sexual orientation.
Dutee was quoted by PTI as saying, “My eldest sister kind of wields power and authority in my family. She has thrown out my elder brother from home because she does not like his wife. She has threatened me that same will happen to me. But I am also an adult who has individual freedom. So, I decided to go ahead with this and make it public.”
“My eldest sister feels that my partner is interested in my property. She has told me that she will send me to jail for having this relationship,” she said, adding that her partner is free to marry whoever she wants.
However, her parents have not yet objected to her relationship. Chand said no one had the right to judge her as an athlete because of her sexual orientation, which was a personal decision that should be respected.
“I have always believed that everyone should have the freedom to love. There is no greater emotion than love and it should not be denied,” she said.
Beacon of hope
Dutee Chand’s decision to come out and embrace her sexuality has garnered worldwide attention. She has also set an example of courage to many of the LGBT community members.
Globally popular television show host Ellen DeGeneres, an advocate for gay rights, has said she is proud of Indian sportswoman Dutee Chand.
DeGeneres tweeted: “She’s the 100m record holder and the first openly gay sportsperson in India. I guess she knows a thing or two about being first. I’m so proud of her.”
“When the Supreme Court ruling came on Section 377, then we decided that there is no harm in spending our lives with each other. We decided that we will get married and have a small family for ourselves. She is from my town and a sports fan herself. She read about the struggles that I have gone through to make a career in sports and told me that she was inspired by my story. That is how we came in touch with each other,” Chand said.
She’s the 100m record holder and the first openly gay sportsperson in India. I guess she knows a thing or two about being first. I’m so proud of her. https://t.co/auoyWY8yvk
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 21, 2019
Chand was praised on social media for her courage, with prominent Indian LGBT rights activist Harish Iyer calling her a “beacon of hope”. He tweeted: “@DuteeChand has paved the path for many, by simply standing up for herself.”