Why I refuse to give blood

While I was home for reading week, I was treated to a news story about my local hospital being the most generous in terms of blood donation.

That’s heartwarming. Their slogan is “it’s in you to give,” after all.

I’d finish that slogan as “it’s in you to give—as long as you’re not a man who’s had sex with another man.”

In that case, they don’t want your blood. They don’t want to see you as the heroes they advertise. They don’t want you to save lives.

That, quite frankly, is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.

In Canada, if a male has had sex with another male, he cannot give blood.

Even if an individual, male or female, has had sex with a man who has had sex with a man, they can’t give blood, either.

Confusing? Don’t get it? Yeah, me neither.

Recently, the Canadian government dropped the amount of time a gay man (to use the blanket term) has to be chaste from five years to one in order to donate their blood.

Though this is an improvement, I still think this is an unacceptable amount of time to wait.

The logic behind this ban is that HIV/AIDS travels faster in the gay community, due to the HIV scare of the late 20th century.

Though it’s true gay men statistically have higher rates of HIV, everyone is asked whether or not they may have come in contact with someone who has HIV when they’re about to give blood.

Anyone can transmit HIV through unprotected sex. Anyone could transmit it through any transmutation of bodily fluids, actually.

So why on earth do we care who anyone has had sex with, as long as it’s protected and consensual? Do their genders really matter if they’re being safe?

An even better question would be why do we discriminate against gay men instead of scanning for HIV in everyone who wants to give blood?

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take safe gay blood over HIV-positive heterosexual blood. It’s absurd to say otherwise. However, we’re continuing to screen for sexuality instead of common sense.

I think it buys into the culture that’s stacked against gay men. There’s this fear that they’re somehow unclean or unsanitary, stemming from the fear of the HIV crisis in the past decades.

A perfect example of this can be found in this week’s feature—even The Cord was subjected to backlash from this fear of gay men.

I can only imagine what that feels like first hand and I am so sorry if you have ever experienced the discrimination that comes with your sexuality.

These fears are completely irrational.

It comes from a deep ignorance, one that I really hope we can defeat someday. For now, we’re stuck with a discriminatory rule that has no purpose in our current society.

The healthcare system is supposed to protect us and keep us safe. It is failing our men. It is failing to acknowledge the rights that the gay community has to their bodily autonomy and it’s not trusting them to make sound choices.

However confidential it is to admit a man has slept with another man, it’s also forcing men to “out” themselves to a stranger.

Though this is different when speaking to a doctor about their own health, the blood donation system is much less welcoming to these men.

This entire process can be difficult for a person to partake in, especially when the act of giving blood should have nothing to do with their sexuality.

More drastically, this chastity rule feeds into the culture where men feel they have to hide their sexuality and buy into heteronormativity.

Where love and attraction should be embraced, the last thing we need is another reason for people to hide who they are.

This should be obvious. It shouldn’t be a question.

It’s a culture that doesn’t accept men who love other men. It’s vicious. It’s unnecessary. It needs to be stopped.

Until this wait time is repealed for gay men, I’ll stand with my brothers in the LGBTQ community. I will not give blood until they have their bodies treated equally as everyone else’s are.

Safe blood doesn’t become unsafe blood because of the gender you are attracted to. Love, like blood, is “in you to give.” Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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