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The Story Of India’s First Openly Gay Athlete, Dutee Chand, Is The Story Of Every Gay Person In India

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If you’re living in India, it is funny how the chances of being recognised for all the wrong things skyrocket! A woman doing well at her work, is implicitly doing her boss too, a man doing well at his job, is obviously all talent and hard work, and an Odia track champion representing the nation in world Olympics is no more than a shame because she’s a lesbian!

Come to think of it, it’s not as funny as it is sad to the point of parody that the Odia sprinter Dutee Chand has found herself at the receiving end of bitter and harsh backlash for coming out to the world about her sexuality. Not that it was anybody’s business, but because people in India feel they have the right to pry into the personal life of every public figure, here we are debating whether she stands in the right or the wrong, when the answer should be crystal clear.

It all started when Dutee revealed that she felt forced to let people know that she was in a same-sex relationship, for she was being blackmailed at the hand of her elder sister for a sum of 25 lakhs. Yes, you heard that right. Before society had the chance to come at her, her sister already did.

Dutee revealed, “As I have been in relationship with a girl of our village since past three years, my elder sister (Saraswati) was continuously threatening to go public about my relationship when I failed to give money on her demand. She was threatening that I cannot concentrate on sports once I get exposed in media about my same-sex relationship.”

The 23-year-old sprinter also admitted that her elder sister had once beaten her in Bhubaneshwar, which she had reported to the authorities as well. Her mother, Akhoji Chand, is also not supportive of her sexual preference to which she said, “My mother alleged that I am not supporting my family financially, which is not true. I am aware about my duty towards my parents and family. I have been extending all helps including financial to my parents.”

Somehow, Dutee Chand’s story resonates with that of every queer person, simply for the amount of flak and disapproval she’s faced from the society and even her own family for merely being who she is. Dutee, who became India’s first openly gay athlete, and gathered the courage to come out after the colonial ban on gay-sex was reversed and same-sex relationships were decriminalised, also 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.”

The reaction people had to Dutee’s coming out as gay is the same reason why many people in India, even after the decriminalizing of Article 377, find it difficult to own up to their sexuality and individuality. It is because regardless of the legalisation, society at large, still continues to conform to their orthodox ideals and leave the queer reduced to nothing but closeted and unaccepted individuals. It is perhaps, the same reason why, even after the Delhi University rolled out a new transgender category for its students, that no one enrolled, knowing the kind of bullying and harassment they will be subject to.

Many have come out in support of the 23-year old, including famous comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted saying, “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.” As are we.

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