Queer Representation in Indian Sports

Thanks to the influence of the “mainstream” society, even the sports spaces follow the heteropatriarchal ideology, and obviously, there is a massive glorification of cis male teams in the country (Read: Indian Men’s Cricket). With players like Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, and many others in just the cricket field breaking records, there is no deserving recognition of compensation in comparison to what cis men garner.

With all that aside, there are still a few exemplary individuals that are breaking barriers and doing the right thing to increase their representation by breaking the heteropatriarchal ideologies.

Here are some people who we feel are challenging these heteropatriarchal ideologies in their chosen sporting professions in India:

Ya-All: India’s First Transgender Football Team

The Indian state of Manipur is the first in India to have an all-transgender football team. Formed by an NGO called Ya-All, the team has 14 transmen, who are mostly college students. Although passionate about the sport, transgender individuals, because of the general social disapproval and ever-existing systemic discrimination impacts, are not given equal opportunities.

“Our society finds it difficult to accept this identity. They face so much stigma and discrimination that they can’t display their sporting talents, “Ya All founder/CEO Sadam Hanjabam told a media organization. “Our purpose is to help them enjoy their identity and provide a platform to prove to them that they can do things together. This will help change our society’s mindsets. “

People’s Ultimate League

People’s Ultimate League (PUL), a grassroots initiative aimed to accommodate players belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, was co-founded by Rasika Gopalakrishnan, a non-binary athlete. It is a space for them to finally demonstrate and experience Ultimate Frisbee as the mixed-gendered game it is.

Rasika says, “I now began noticing when redundant, gender-specific strategies were employed on the field; like men assumed to be stronger players and therefore dominating the field, and women being used as decoys.” With a grant from Netherlands-based Women Win, and also supported by the Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI), which is the national governing body for Ultimate Frisbee in the country, People’s Ultimate League plans to introduce the game to non-binary and LGBTQIA+ players.

Kerala – First-ever all-transgender track meet

Apart from that, in 2017, the Kerala State Sports Council organized an exclusive sports meet for individuals belonging to the transgender community. It was thought to be the first-ever all-transgender track meet and included 100m, 200m, 400m, the 4100 relay race, shot put, and long jump. This inclusive sports meet has encouraged transgender individuals to compete as their true selves and experience the joy and excitement that comes with sports without having to face heteronormative ideologies.

Besides these groups, there are hardly any individuals that are out and active in sports. Dutee Chand is lone India’s first athlete to openly come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She spoke about being in a same-sex relationship with her partner Monalisa. She was one of the 186 out LGBTQ athletes at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021. As per reports, there were more out LGBTQ athletes in 2021 Tokyo than in all the previous Summer Olympics put together.

Historically, we have seen the revolutionary influence sport has had on society through athletes’ stands on various issues including racism, gender inequality, substance abuse, discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, and other issues. We hope there are systemic changes in policies to improve the overall inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in sports spaces.