“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.”Dutee Chand (2019)
In this Gaydar Feature of the Month, we are exploring the land of Bollywood and excited to introduce South Asia’s first openly gay athlete, Dutee Chand. Holding the title of “Fastest woman in India”, she was the first Indian women to ever win a gold medal for 100m dash in a global competition. In 2012, Dutee became the national champion in the Under-18 category and her career has taken off since then. Chand’s existence is really important to India’s queer community and working class people. Her bravery and determination in reaching her achievements are an inspiration to many.
Poverty and Sports
Hailing from Odisha, India, she was born in a family under poverty. However, Chand saw a way out of poverty through athletics as she believed that she could compete with anyone on equal footing. She was able to win several competitions and was recognised at the state level.
Chand’s role model is someone dear to her. Her sister, Sarasvati, is also an Indian athlete who specialised in the 400m category. One of the stepping stone for Chand was winning bronze at the Asian Athletic Championship in Pune and finishing 6th in the World Youth Championship in Donetsk. After that, she aimed for winning medals at international competitions.
In 2018, Chand made history by winning silver in Jakarta’s Asian Games and right after that, she won gold at Universiade, Napoli. Her fame soared throughout India and her life started to change when she received her stardom.
Coming Out and Hyperandrogenism
After Indian Supreme Court decriminalised gay sex back in 2018, Chand found courage to speak publicly about her sexuality. By talking to Indian press in 2019, she became the first Indian sportsperson to come out in public. Her relationship with her girlfriend, Monica came under public spotlight.
Back home in rural India, Chand’s coming out statement sparked controversies. Even her sister, Sarasvati, threatened her to be expelled from the family. But Chand’s determination is firm and there was no turning back with her identity. In contrary, Chand’s career flourished by becoming brand ambassador for Puma until 2021.
The journey of Chand’s identity was also quite inspiring. As a woman, it was discovered in 2014 that she had an excess natural amount of testosterone in her body, known as hyperandrogenism. As a result, she was dropped out of the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2014 by Athletic Federation of India as her testosterone level made her ineligible to compete as a female. Since then, she has been advocating her right to compete and even showing support to fellow hyperandrogenic athlete, Caster Semenya.
During her career, Chand made many remarkable statements to the press. She said, “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 spoke not only for herself, but also for the queer community by saying, “I’ve always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice.”
In 2021, Dutee was diagnosed with cancer when she first started feeling pain in the groin area. At the same time, she failed two drug test which puts her at a 4 years ban by National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) for non-steroid anabolic consumption. These events put Dutee’s sports career at a halt and she has been planning to appeal to lift the ban while using the time for recuperation. Regardless, Dutee is still admired for her achievements and advocacy for lesbian and intersex people around the world.