Corona Chronicles: Intersex Persons' COVID-19 Lockdown Stories


Released in September 2020, this booklet illustrates the challenges faced by intersex persons during the Covid-19 lockdown imposed by the Indian government in March 2020. It was published by Solidarity Foundation, a Bengaluru-based trust working with sex workers as well as sexual and gender minorities, in collaboration with Heinrich Böll Stiftung India, a foundation focusing on ecology, sustainability and reform policy.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.” During the first Covid-19 lockdown in India, notes Corona Chronicles, several persons with differences in sex development failed to access the required healthcare support due to “minimal knowledge about their specific problems and needs.”

The booklet presents the first-person narratives of eight intersex persons (with some of their names changed) from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, recorded through telephonic conversations during the six-month period from March to August 2020. They were conducted by intersex and trans rights activists Gangabhavani M. and Shaktishree Maya, who also present their experiences as intersex persons in the booklet. The narratives were transcribed by Neeraja Sajan, a doctoral candidate at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, along with Challa Sudha Rani, a Hyderabad-based NGO consultant and trainer. The booklet was edited by C.K. Meena, a Bengaluru-based writer, journalist and editor.

The following are excerpts from the eight conversations that illustrate some of the experiences of intersex persons during the lockdown:

  1. I am an intersex person but I was forced to identify myself as a transgender woman because nobody in our society knows what intersex is. In this COVID-19 situation, I am struggling because I have no ration card or secure shelter to stay in. I am not on talking terms with my family. Our PG hostel management is not allowing me to stay there [due to the lockdown]. 

  2. In those [initial] 15 days of COVID-19 lockdown it was very difficult for me to get timely meals and enough sleep. At this time I got my period. When I menstruate I have to take hormone injections and other medicines. The medicine I got had the same drug combination but the manufacturing company was different from the one I regularly buy. Perhaps this was the reason why I developed a severe stomach ache and heavy bleeding.

  3. Hospitals are always a harrowing experience for me because whichever hospital I visit, the very first question people ask after noticing that the identity on my card is Transgender is: “Do you menstruate?” It is a constant reminder of how I was forced to self-identify as Transgender because society does not recognise or correctly identify Intersex.

  4. Once [during the lockdown] I had heavy bleeding. The bleeding appeared to decrease but it started again, heavily, the next day. I was referred to St. John’s Hospital. Initially, I was not allowed to enter the hospital but on my request, after explaining my condition to them, they let me in. There I visited a male endocrinologist who asked me a few uncomfortable questions.

  5. I cooked only the barest amount of food needed for survival. Sometimes I cooked plain rice and curry and there are times when I ate just plain rice with water.

  6. The main problem that I faced during lockdown was the lack of medicines for my mental condition and hormone production. I had to go without medication for 2 months, which affected my work and mental state. I went into depression and I am embarrassed to say that I was suicidal.

  7. Talking about sexual harassment, it has happened a lot of times with me. I usually go to get my groceries from a supermarket nearby but because of the lockdown I had to order them online. I usually order food and other items through Swiggy. Many of the delivery guys ask me if there’s any “sir" around or if I am living with anyone.

  8. Earlier I was working regularly. It was daily wage work in construction. During the two-month lockdown we couldn’t leave home, and there were even police patrols in our village to enforce it. I couldn’t even step out of our house to buy groceries and vegetables. Even if I had been able to, I would have had no money to buy petrol for my vehicle.

  9. My wife is a homemaker. She is disabled; she does not have her right hand. She also has medical problems like thyroid and bleeding. To meet our food and medical expenses is proving difficult; we have borrowed money and we need to pay back the lenders.

  10. [During the lockdown] we didn’t have a single paisa. Besides, we had to stay at home. We may not be a burden to our parents but neighbours and relatives would needle them and ask them why we were still not working. Hearing these comments our parents would scold or warn us. Everyone was staying at home during the lockdown but our relatives would behave as if we were the only ones staying at home. We had a tough time in those three months.
Focus by Riya Behl.

PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


Solidarity Foundation, Bangalore, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, New Delhi


Solidarity Foundation, Bangalore, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, New Delhi


Sep, 2020