The Olympic sprinter revealed to media on Saturday that she has been in a same-sex relationship for the past five years.
Dutee Chand is now the first openly gay Indian athlete and she says she’s happily in love.
“I have found someone who is my soulmate,” she told the Indian Express. “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.”
Chand’s announcement comes after an extremely pivotal moment in LGBTQ history. Last September, India’s Supreme Court decided to rescind a 158-year-old law that criminalized homosexuality. Prior to that decision, individuals who were caught in same-sex relationships could be jailed.
Chand said she was encouraged to speak about her sexuality after the Bench ruled the law out of favor.
So far, she has received an “overwhelming” amount of support on social media, even though some of her family members are still struggling to accept her relationship. Even still, Chand is standing firm in her authenticity.
“I believe nobody has the right to judge me as an athlete because of my decision to be with who I want,” she said. “It is a personal decision, which should be respected.”
The 23-year-old is currently India’s 100-m record holder and she most recently won two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. She is also known for being a champion for female athletes who have been discriminated against for demonstrating, what some medical professionals like to call “hyperandrogenism” or “excessive amounts of natural testosterone”.
In 2014, the Athletic Federation of India and the IAAF banned Chand from competition for exhibiting above-average levels of T, even though these androgens were naturally produced in her body. She showed no signs of doping. The following year, her legal team was able to overturn her suspension and drop the regulations capping testosterone levels for all female athletes in track and field.
Unfortunately, the IAAF has recently gone back on their decision, having re-integrated new hyperandrogenism regulations for those who compete in the mid-distance races. South African gold medalist, Caster Semenya, has been the main target of these new rules.
Chand, who only ran in the preliminary heats of the 100-meter dash at the Rio Olympics, is currently in the clear to qualify for the 2020 Summer Games. Right now, she is not a gold-medal contender in the short distance sprints, which means she’s not a threat to the IAAF’s narrow (and harmful) conception of gender in sports. Although there’s no telling if she will ever have to fight that battle again.
Regardless, Chand says she’s 100% focused on getting to Tokyo next year.
“Athletics has given me everything,” Chand said, “so I am focused on training as hard as I can and doing my best to qualify for the big events and continue to win medals for India in international meets.”
With her latest and bravest revelation, Chand is breaking ground for the LGBTQ community while challenging the outdated perceptions of women in sports.