Dutee: a woman who passes forward a message. This is the definition my dog eared dictionary doles out. In recent days, our Dutee has brought forward a message into mainstream media around the world. Dutee Chand, the fastest woman sprinter in India and an Olympic athlete has become the first openly bisexual Indian sportsperson, painting an image of representation for the LGBTQ+ in a country that just scraped off the much hated archaic law- section 377, hence legalising homosexuality.
Much has been written and spoken about this fine lady in recent days; even celebrated television talk show host Ellen Degeneres has tweeted in support for the Olympic champ, swelling with pride on sprinter Dutee Chand's coming out. But, I am worried about Dutee Chand.
Let’s talk about Dutee Chand’s story in detail: Born in a family of weavers in Odisha, she has struggled against various adversities to be able to reach the level she’s at now. Her family for a long time lived below the poverty line, creating obstacles which this sprinter jumped over. While many may think that Chand has willingly put her personal life under the microscopic lens, it was however her elder sister Saraswati’s constant blackmailing about Dutee’s sexuality and her current relationship with a woman that broke the camel’s back. Growing up, Dutee idolised her sister, who herself competed at state level as a runner but the tables may have possibly turned when greed crept into their relationship. Saraswati started to blackmail Dutee for an amount of 25 lakhs, threatening to forcibly out her in front of the whole world if she didn’t cough up the cash. Dutee chose the latter but she came out herself, free from the clutches of fear that this society has woven around its people who are born with an orientation that differs from the norm. But you ask why I’m worried about Dutee Chand.
I am worried not only about Dutee’s emotional well-being given the scrutiny she is being subjected to or the wrath of her disapproving family, but I am also concerned about how this label will stick to her. I do not wish for her to be known only as a bisexual sportsperson hereon. Her achievements should not get covered under the ‘big’ label that the society addresses you with once you step out of the closet. She was a national champion as a 100 metre sprinter in U-18 category, she became the third Indian woman to represent at the Rio 2016 olympics, in 2017 she won two bronze medals at the Asian Athletics Championships and continued to win a silver at the Asian Games in Jakarta the year after— becoming the first Indian to win a medal since 1998.
While I agree that she is now a beacon of hope for many sports persons in the closet yet it makes me wonder if people will look beyond her bisexuality? It should not overshadow whatever she has achieved or chooses to in the future and it should not become the only adjective that describes her to the world. Yes, representation is important and I am extremely pleased to have a sportsperson such as Dutee breaking the shackles of deceit to reveal her true self with a girlfriend of three years standing in staunch support but it would also be nice to witness a change in the mindset of people, accepting her wholeheartedly and treating her like they would any heterosexual public figure. Chand’s journey also highlights another issue, the fear of being different from what the society may consider appropriate. It is a sad state of affairs if a person has to be blackmailed and cornered for being who they truly are. One cannot only hope but also help educate people so that loving a same-sex person is not a taboo. The day I read about a person without any mention of their sexuality will be the day I feel the world is truly evolving and is accepting its LGBTQ+ souls without the blink of an eye.
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