Since October, when the Danish women’s doubles pair of Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl revealed in their book ‘Unique Relationship’ that they have been seeing each other, the duo has followed social media to see the kind of reactions the news received. They were concerned because the badminton calendar would take them to countries where same-sex relationships are legally banned and where homophobia remains rampant. But to their surprise, most of the responses have been ‘positive’.
“We are very happy about the way people reacted to the news and we have only heard positives. And that, of course, is nice for us. All the European players and Danish players knew about it, so for them it was old news and not so interesting. It is nice for us that now everyone knows and we don’t have to hide anything. If people ask us, ‘how well do you know each other off court’, I can say we know each other very well because we live together and that of course is nice,” Christinna said during a Premier Badminton League interaction. The duo will be travelling to India later this month for the PBL and also in January for the India Open Super Series but they are confident that fans will continue to support them.
“We got a lot of positive messages from around the world, including from India, Malaysia, Indonesia and people are still supporting us. Okay, maybe some fans will say ‘I don’t like the ladies doubles anymore’ but again they wouldn’t like us if we were in a relationship with men. Out of 100 messages, one or two are negative,” Kamilla says.
They have been in a relationship since 2009, before they teamed up on court, but took their time to come out in the open because they didn’t want their off-court relationship to be the talking point which overshadowed their game. “It was about waiting for the right time when we were ready to break the news and ready to take the few negative comments that will come. Hopefully, one day the negative comments will not come. We haven’t been hiding but we just kept our privacy and that is why we waited so long,” Christinna says.
The silver medal at the Rio Olympics and the 2015 World Championships established their combination as one of the best women’s doubles pairs in the world. They have also won the European Championships four times. “Now we have an Olympic medal, so that was important to make it clear that we wanted to be famous for what we did on court and not for what we did outside court,” Kamilla adds.
However, she agrees that it has been easy to talk about their relationship openly because they are from Denmark where there is acceptance of same-sex relationships. “It was easy to live in Denmark because it is so common there to be in a relationships like this. We were a little bit nervous on how the world would react to this news. But again, as I said before, we are at an age where we are more mature and more calm and we know ourselves better,” Kamilla says.
The doubles pair wants to send a message to sportspeople who are gay or lesbian that it is important to be who you are and not change.“In a team sport, it is very difficult. But we are lucky that we are women so it is easier for us. We have heard that for a male couple, it would have been even more difficult. But our message is that ‘just be yourself’. It is easy to say now for us but it is not easy when you are a young player and you want to be a champion in the sport,” Kamilla adds.