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For Dutee Chand, The Battle Over Same-Sex Love is a Very Lonely One​

Dutee is the first sportsperson in India, a country that criminalized homosexuality till last year, to acknowledge that she is in a same-sex relationship.

Adrija Bose | News18.com

Updated:May 22, 2019, 7:33 AM IST
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For Dutee Chand, The Battle Over Same-Sex Love is a Very Lonely One​
Dutee is the first sportsperson in India, a country that criminalized homosexuality till last year, to acknowledge that she is in a same-sex relationship.

Dutee Chand, India’s fastest woman, is not racing against the world anymore.

"I am not scared, and I am not fighting anymore," she said. A few days ago, Dutee, the 100 m record holder and winner of two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, announced that she is in love, with a woman. She became the first sportsperson in India, a country that criminalized homosexuality till last year, to acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship.

The 23-year-old has battled quite a few hurdles. A couple of years back, uncomfortable questions about Dutee’s identity began doing the rounds. Just months after she won two gold medals at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in Taipei, Dutee had been told that she wouldn’t be considered for selection for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She was 18 when a doctor at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Kengeri, near Bangalore, told her that the presence of excess androgen (specifically testosterone) is the reason why she won't be picked for the game.

It was when a coach at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, where she was being trained, had called her ‘Dutee Singh’, she called home, sobbing. Her sister Saraswati, 10 years older to her, was furious. But that was then. This time, even her sister is not willing to help her in the battle. "She threatened the woman I love," Dutee said, accusing her sister of harassing her partner and her family. "This is my choice, I believe everyone has the freedom to love whoever they want," she said.

But things aren't rosy back at home. Dutee, the third of seven siblings, who says she has always had her way with her family knows that it won't be easy this time.

Her mother Akhoji Chand, a weaver, said that it's not possible for her to accept her daughter's relationship status. "Dutee may not keep father and mother's name but she should keep the prestige of the nation through her sports," she told reporters. Meanwhile, her sister Saraswati, also an athlete, and once rock-solid support to her has claimed that Dutee has been "pressurized and blackmailed" her for wealth and property. But Dutee says that her sister has threatened to throw her out of the house for admitting to being in love with a woman. "I have been telling them for months now, but they wouldn't listen to me," she said. "But why should I be embarrassed? This is my life. Perhaps, someone may just be able to come out because I spoke about it," she added.

Dutee has known her partner for three years now. "She is from Jajpur, the same village of Odisha where I am from. I don't know when our friendship turned into love," she said.

Back in 2014, a disappointed Dutee went back home to Chaka Gopalpur in Odisha and watched the Commonwealth Games on her television. But she didn't give up. She challenged her forced exile from the track at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And, she won. This time, though, she's not willing to fight.

"I was asked us to prove I am girl, and I proved it. Now, I don't need to prove anything anymore," she said. Dutee is aware that she won't get any support from her family soon, but she's hopeful. "They will have to accept it, I am not doing anything wrong," she said.

The memories of July 12, 2014, still haunts the sprinter. "First women are not allowed to go out, then they are forced to prove they are women. This is the country we live in," she said. Back then, it was her sister Saraswati who advised her to wear her medals around her neck and take the same flight as the athletes travelling to Delhi from Bangalore, before they left for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Saraswati thought that was the only Dutee could get some aid. Amid all the awkward questions, tests to prove her identity and realising that her dream is slipping away, Dutee had her family stick to her. The media glare became so nasty that Dutee had to leave her village for a few days.

She's not doing any of that this time. Dutee is in Hyderabad now training for the Olympic Games. "My focus will always be my athletic career," she said adding that she would want to settle down with her 'soulmate' at some point.

"I am human, God has made me. God knows how he made me. You can't exchange me for someone else. I can't be returned either," she said.

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