Dutee Chand – India’s First Openly Lesbian Athlete
The inclusion of members of the LGBTQ community has been a matter of concern and importance for a long time now. Ever since the eradication of section 377 in 2018, decriminalising same sex relationships, this issue has gotten even bigger. Even today, after 3 years of this, the LGBTQ community still doesn’t receive the same respect and acknowledgement as everybody else. Amidst all of this, one track runner from Jajpur, Odisha, who was making Indian history in global athletics, came out to be in a same sex relationship in the year 2019.
Who is Dutee Chand?
Dutee Chand is a professional sprinter from India who is the current national champion in the women’s 100m event. Chand was born on 3 February 1996 in Chaka Gopalpur village, Jajpur district, Odisha to parents Chakradhar Chand and Akhuji Chand. She is from a low-income weaving family. Her older sister Saraswati Chand, who participated at the state level in running, she credits as her inspiration.
Chand has Hyperandrogenism, a medical condition that causes patients to have a high tolerance to insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and dyslipidaemia, such as high cholesterol. She was also dismissed from the Indian team for the 2014 Asian Games following the Commonwealth Games. There has been no allegation that Chand cheated or doped; the judgement was issued in accordance with International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards on “female hyperandrogenism,” which were meant to address a perceived advantage for female competitors with high androgen levels. Australian intersex campaigners have slammed the decision. The activities of the Athletic Federation of India and the International Association of Athletics Federations were highly condemned as an infringement of Chand’s privacy and human rights.
What makes her so awesome?
Dutee Chand finished fifth in the 200m with a time of 23.30 seconds at the World University Games. Dutee had previously won a gold medal in the 100m dash. Dutee had been the first Indian women track and field athlete to win a World Universiade gold medal. She is just the third Indian woman to have qualified for the Women’s 100m event at the Summer Olympics. However, at the 2016 Summer Olympics, her preliminary round time of 11.69 seconds did not qualify her for the next round. Chand won silver in the women’s 100m at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. It was India’s first medal in this competition since 1998. She became the first Indian sprinter to win gold at the Universiade in 2019, running 11.32 seconds in the 100 m. Dutee Chand set her own 100 m national mark in the Indian Grand Prix 4 in Patiala, clocking 11.17 seconds but falling 0.02 seconds short of the automatic Olympic qualification standard. Chand, who had previously been forced to sit out owing to IAAF hyperandrogenism restrictions, qualified for the Women’s 100 m race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, 36 years after P. T. Usha competed in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. She is the defending national champion in the 100-meter event.
When she came out as a member of the LGBTQ community –
The Indian government decriminalised same-sex relationships with the cancellation of section 377, in September of 2018. The whole country and every LGBTQ community member rejoiced at this news. People everywhere in the country started coming out of the closet and started to live their life more openly and in a more accepting environment. Following this, Dutee Chand became India’s first openly lesbian athlete in 2019 when she publicly stated that she is in a same-sex relationship. Chand said that she had been in a three-year relationship with a girl. While the pair had not planned on having a long-term relationship, the historic Supreme Court judgement in September 2018, proved to be the motivation behind them making the choice to spend their lives with each other. She said “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.”
But following her declaration, Chand received a strong response from her native town, where locals denounced her words as “humiliating.” Her elder sister threatened to kick her out of the family. “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. But she believes that what they are doing is no crime. That it is their life and they have the right to live it the way they deem right. “I am in the public eye now because I am playing for my country but I will still have a lot of life left to live once I leave sports,” she said.
She believes that her career and her life as an accomplished international athlete is what defines her, and not her sexual orientation. She is a making India and the LGBTQ community so proud and has filled our hearts with love and pride.