On Sunday, May 19th, Dutee Chand, created a defining rainbow moment in history for Indian sports by openly declaring her sexuality and acknowledging her 5-year-long relationship with a woman from her hometown in Odisha. While some in the world of showbiz have been open about their same-sex relationships, this is a monumental first for the field of sports in India.
Chand herself credits the inspiration to speak up publicly about her relationship to the 2018 Supreme Court ruling that partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. A move that decriminalised homosexuality and consequently brought about agency for members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country.
“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. 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 told the Indian Express. She stressed on the importance of reclaiming her personal life even though she’s in the spotlight as one of India’s top athletes.
“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. The Supreme Court of India has also struck down the old law. I believe nobody has the right to judge me as an athlete because of my decision to be with who I want. It is a personal decision, which should be respected. I will continue to strive to win medals for India at international meets,”
said the 23-year-old athlete.
The announcement was received with celebratory praise from Twitterati. Talk-show host and Hollywood’s favourite comedian Ellen Degeneres tweeted that she is ‘proud of her’ for being the first openly homosexual sportsperson in India.
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
Leading LBTQIA+ activist Harish Iyer came out in support of ‘HERstory’.
I wish your partner and you a very happy life. Much love @DuteeChand. Misogyny and Patriarchy is rampant everywhere, even in the Queer community. You may not be even aware that you have created HERstory and stand as a beacon of hope.
Queer Hugs. :)
— harish iyer (@hiyer) May 19, 2019
Writer, comic, poet Mahima Kukreja praised Chand’s bravery.
Dutee Chand just made it easier for a whole lot of young girls to be able to come out as queer or at least to feel more okay with their sexuality. Props to her and her bravery.
— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) May 19, 2019
Tech journalist Sohini Mitter called her ‘one of India’s most inspirational stories’ and came out in support of her on Twitter as well
First, she took on the IAAF, fought a successful court battle, went on to win Silver at the Asian Games. Now, this. Surely, Dutee Chand is already one of India's most inspirational stories. 👌👏 https://t.co/7mEHGVEpc5
— Sohini (@Mittermaniac) May 19, 2019
Chand is currently a national record holder in the women’s 100 metres. The professional sprinter qualified for the Women’s 100 metres event at the Summer Olympics, making her the third Indian woman to do so.
Despite attitudes changing slowly, homosexuality continues to be a taboo in many parts of conservative Indian society. India still has a long way to go in safeguarding the interests of its LGBTQIA+ community. In such an environment, Dutee Chand’s brave decision to publicly speak up definitely provides inspiration to everyone, especially sportspeople, and has taken this conversation of self-acceptance of one’s sexuality, ten steps forward.