My Heterosexual Blood

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

I will be the first to admit that I am not perfect. Until this evening, it had been nearly three whole years since I had last given blood.

But when I did give blood today, I was reminded that my mere right to donate blood is yet another example of the blatant heterosexual privilege that continues to hinder our struggle for equality and - in a real way - endangers lives. Blood supplies are low - lower than they would be if gay men were allowed to donate. My heterosexual blood is no better than anyone's homosexual blood.

So I want to ask two favors. First, if you are eligible, please consider donating blood. This is the time of year when blood banks are in the greatest need. If you are at least 17 and weigh 110 or more pounds, you may be eligible to donate blood as long as you haven't done so in eight weeks (Tomorrow - Tuesday - will be eight weeks past Election Day). Here's more on blood-donor eligibility.

Second, please join me in urging an end to this deadly form of discrimination.

From the Harvard Crimson, December 18, 2002:

Under the current restrictions, no male is able to donate blood if he has engaged in sexual activity with any other male since 1977. At the same time, however, any heterosexual man or woman, even one who has engaged in sex with an HIV-positive partner, is able to donate only one year after the encounter. The discrimination is targeted specifically at homosexual men—homosexual women do not have the same restrictions.

This is not simply a case of an antiquated law that has been overlooked and unenforced. As recently as 2000, the FDA—with the support of the Red Cross—renewed this rule, despite the urgings of nearly half of America’s blood banks, which lobbied for a change that would set an equal standard for gay men as for any other donors.

It is easy to understand the reasoning behind the FDA’s implementation of the rules in the early 1980s when society’s understanding of HIV and AIDS was much more limited. When authorities lack the information necessary to have full control over a public health emergency, it is important that officials err on the side of caution. But 20 years later, when knowledge has advanced so rapidly, these rules stem more from reactionary prejudices than scientific reasoning.

The FDA estimates that ending this discriminatory practice would allow 112,000 new donors to give blood. In a time when the Red Cross is underscoring its urgent need for donation, it seems not only bigoted, but also dangerous to the public welfare, to turn away so many thousands of donors. The FDA should create more detailed questionnaires about potential donors’ sexual history, instead of fostering the implicit assumption that all gay men are promiscuous. Personal history is the pertinent information; blind predetermination based on orientation is not. The FDA must update both its regulation and its mindset on this issue of critical importance.

Six years after that was published, our gay brothers are still not allowed to give back to their community.

If you go to this Facebook group and scroll down to the discussion board, you'll see a link to a letter you can cut and paste and send to change.gov urging the Obama Administration to change this rule and save more lives.

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