Wednesday 22 May 2019

Sprinter Dutee Chand becomes India's first openly gay athlete

Runner reveals she is in relationship with woman from her village in Odisha state

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has revealed she is in a same-sex relationship, becoming the country’s first openly gay athlete.

Chand, 23, told the Indian Express she was in a relationship with a woman from her village in eastern Odisha state, saying she found the courage to come out after India’s top court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex last year.

In the interview, Chand said: “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. She said her focus was on upcoming international competitions, including the Olympics, but “in the future I would like to settle down with her”.
Dutee Chand said she found the courage to come out after India scrapped a ban on gay sex last year. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Despite slowly changing attitudes, same-sex relationships remain taboo in India. Chand said noone 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.

She did not reveal her partner’s identity to save her from undue attention.

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.”

Like South African Olympic athlete Caster Semenya, Chand has hyperandrogenism, a condition that naturally produces high testosterone levels. She was previously barred from competing under International Association of Athletics Federations rules and subjected to abuse for being “unfeminine”.

But Chand won an appeal at the court of arbitration for sport (Cas) in 2015, paving the way for athletes with hyperandrogenism to compete in 100 metre and 200 metre races. The decision allowed her to run in the 2018 Asian Games, where she won two silver medals.

However, this month, the Cas rejected a similar appeal by Semenya against rules requiring middle-distance female athletes with a high testosterone level to take medication to reduce it. Chand told local media the ruling made her “very sad”.

(Source: The Guardian)

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