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Athletics

Celebrating the pride month with India's poster girl Dutee Chand

The ace Indian sprinter went against the grains and admitted to being in a homosexual relationship earlier this year.

Celebrating the pride month with Indias poster girl Dutee Chand
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By

Srijanee D. Majumdar

Published: 6 Sep 2019 8:24 AM GMT

From punchlines on same-sex relationships meant solely to whip up laughter and ridicule, the queer community continues to be one of the marginalised sections in the Indian society. The Navtej Singh Johar judgment of September 6 in 2018 saw the entire nation being awash in rainbow colours and jubilation. The reason? It was an overturning of a 150-year-old law that criminalised homosexual relationships, after all. 

One-and-a-half year since Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was scrapped, it is little wonder that the journey of the subjugated hasn’t been a bed of roses. Only until recently, a flood of support unfurled, and while the law has moved towards a greater acceptance of the queer communities, it has also shed reflections upon the unbridled spells of upheavals meted out to them. But there was no stopping Dutee. The ace Indian sprinter went against the grains and admitted to being in a same-sex relationship last year. 

Even as the finite conversations around queer communities have begun to carry some considerable weight, we cannot help but mull over the spectrum of emotions an LGBTQI individual runs into during the entire course of life. And in sports, it is all the more infectious. Suffice to say, while these conversations have always been restricted to chewing over gay rights or gay-sex, Dutee’s confession marked a watershed moment in national conversations around human rights, queer rights in particular. 

What Dutee has brought goes beyond the ordinary state of things - her steady attempt to bring in a wave of change as the reformer in us jumped on to the celebrating queerness bandwagon. Her acknowledgment of the relationship speaks in large volumes of the wider rhetoric we must seek to embrace. Sadly, a larger section of society favoured the hypersexualised Hardik Pandya for his obnoxious comments against women on a TV show but lent wider apathy to a marginalised Dutee. And Indian sports collectively seem to be rather confused and debilitated of forming a definite opinion on how it should portray queer characters like Dutee. But Dutee’s bold disclosure has only strengthened the fissure. 
Dutee is the first Indian woman track and field athlete to clinch a gold medal in the World Universiade in July last year, and also the first Indian to come out in the open and talk about the same-sex relationship.

Her family raised eyebrows like dark brown caterpillars, as an angry elder sister threatened to expel her out of the family. A sexual orientation that otherwise opened up distinctive avenues of conversations struggled to find its deserving support and jeered at the ridiculousness that it, for decades, rallied behind. Not surprising. That was a case from the past, the law now stands firm, spelling out oodles of rhetoric on the lines of the queer community. In a country where the magnitude of viewers’ love and curiosity for cricketers, footballers, and their opposite-sex partners is as incomprehensible as its feverish intensity, Dutee is a breath of fresh air. 

However, she is still posed obstacles in the sprinter’s tracks. On the professional front, Chand was hoping to train in Germany and qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Now, her targets and plans have to be reset. 

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