Anyone can get COVID-19, but for some people the consequences are more serious than for others. Young people often have few symptoms, while the elderly run a high risk of dying from the coronavirus. But there is also a group of young people who are extra vulnerable. Intersex people definitely belong to the extra vulnerable group, regardless of whether they are young or old. They may have numerous health problems that occur simultaneously with intersex, making Covid-19 life-threatening. Once society has ‘rebounded’, these intersex people remain extra vulnerable to Covid-19.
Absence of regular care
Even if intersex people do not have COVID-19, it is a dangerous time for many. Medical care they depend on is limited or unavailable. In general, intersex is not a high priority when it comes to starting up regular care. It is known that a very large group of intersex people are ‘lost to follow-up’ – meaning that they no longer are in contact with doctors, even when medicines and check-ups are important to them. The lack of regular care may further contribute to ‘lost to follow-up’.
Most people have experienced first hand that social isolation is hard. Keeping a distance of one another physically, staying at home as much as possible, closed schools, sports venues, restaurants, theatres and churches. These are regulations that everyone hopes will end as soon as possible. But because of experiences with stigma, discrimination and trauma, relatively many intersex people already deal with social isolation, irrespective of the COVID-19 crisis. When most restrictive measures have been lifted, COVID-19 will still pose a risk to intersex people. Because they will want to protect themselves, it is likely that their social isolation will be greater than before the corona crisis.
In conspiracy theorists’ circles, intersex people have been presented since the end of February 2020 as deviants who are deliberately created via IVF in order to make heterosexuality disappear. A link to the coronavirus has also been made. The fact that the term intersex has become more widely known apparently leads to intersex people being used as scapegoats. Now this is something that many minorities deal with, but it is also something that we should not ignore because scapegoating leads to more discrimination and physical insecurity.
Research by the European Commission has shown that people are more willing to discriminate intersex people than they would discriminate gay people. In the discussion about social isolation, more importance is regularly given to the economy than to the lives of vulnerable people (‘dry wood pruning’). This is a serious form of discrimination that undermines the moral values that form the basis of our society. Because their health problems are not visible to others, intersex people can think the only way to protect themselves from covid is to isolate.
In summary, NNID sees that in the near future, intersex people will need to pay more attention to the accessibility of human rights-based health care and to ending social isolation without endangering the health of intersex people. In addition, combating discrimination remains important.
We call on everyone to support intersex people by keeping our society safe and social. NNID will also work towards this. We have adjusted our annual plan for 2020 and 2021 to bring intersex people ‘together’ in a safe way. We already organise online meetings, but we have even bigger (and more fun) plans for this year. It requires some effort, but it will work.