Our Voices The Orinam Blog

Chennai post-flood relief efforts for transgender people: work in progress and appeal for support

The recent rains and flooding in Chennai and other areas of southern India have left in their wake an unimaginable loss of lives, homes and possessions, and a region grappling with the task of recovery and reconstruction. Media coverage has focused on the remarkable volunteerism of Chennai’s citizens in the face of sluggish response from the government. It has also highlighted the perils of unregulated development that has brazenly ignored local hydrology, paved over water bodies, failed to maintain drainage systems, and forced already marginalized communities to take up residence on the floodplains of the city’s rivers.

Chennai rains, Dec 2015
Image: A Chennai neighbourhood following the December 2015 rains

Among the communities severely affected by the recent rains are transgender women (thirunangais) in northern Chennai and those whose homes are located near the rivers that were in spate.

Based on anecdotal reports, local queer/trans groups and individuals have been visiting localities that have been hardest hit, and speaking to community informants to get an idea of numbers of individuals in greatest need.

Ezhil Nagar20
Other areas15
Transmen (various areas)5


Following this we have drawn up a list for a month’s supply of provisions, including rice, rava, wheat flour, toor daal, cooking oil, tea, tamarind, salt, sugar, chilly powder and other spices, totaling approximately Rs. 1200 per head.

Provision bills
Image: Itemized bills for 60 and 45 sets of provisions for a month’s supply each.

On Saturday, Dec 12, 2015, the first set of provisions was distributed to 60 transwomen belonging to the Choolaimedu area, identified by Jaya (Sahodaran) and Shakthi. This was a collaborative effort of volunteers from the Orinam collective (fundraising) and members of organizations Nirangal, Sahodaran and Thozhi and unaffiliated individuals (needs assessment, mobilizing in-kind contributions). Volunteers across the board contributed to packing and distribution.

Photo collage from distribution
Image: L-R: bags of provision, vouchers used to ensure supplies reach identified persons, distribution in progress

Sahodaran and its volunteers mobilized in-kind donations such as blankets, saris and toiletries, and these were bundled with the provisions and distributed to the Choolaimedu group.

Provisions were sourced by Siva and Felix from a wholesaler in Mylapore, and purchased from funds contributed by community members, volunteers and members of formal or informal groups (Orinam, 377NoGoingBack/Global Day of Rage, Vikalp, Delhi Queer Pride, GaysiFamily) and allies.

Contributions have been received or committed thus far from Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Vadodara, Mumbai and the US. We thank all those who have contributed to date – let us know if you would be comfortable with having your name listed.

As of today, we have raised about Rs.129, 000, which has allowed us to purchase provisions for 105 people, and cover incidentals such as local transportation from the wholesale provision dealer. Following distribution of 60 sets, orders have been placed for another 45, which will be packed and distributed over the next two-three days in Thiruvottiyur, to community members identified by Sankari.

We seek at least another Rs. 80,000 to cover one month’s provisions for the rest and local transportation. Funds beyond the target, if received, will go towards meeting additional needs such as toiletries.

For more information:

  • Felix, Volunteer, Orinam, at +91 98843 73433 or robertshil@gmail.com (can receive financial contributions, both domestic and overseas)

1. We have not (yet) used crowd-sourcing platforms as those tend to have high fees associated with them. At this point, we would like eliminate or minimize surcharges and handling costs. We will update readers if we register with a platform.
2. Accounts are available for inspection at any time. However, we would prefer not to place names or identifiable photographs of beneficiaries in the public domain.
3. This post is not a comprehensive account of all relief work focused on transpeople in Chennai: it is just one account among others [Smiley’s, for example]. Please do let us know of other initiatives.
4.  See http://orinam.net/chennai-post-flood-relief-efforts-xmas-update for an update on Dec 25, 2015.


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