North Texas Daily

Homophobia bars blood donations

Homophobia bars blood donations

Homophobia bars blood donations
April 06
18:00 2022

Less than 10 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration removed its lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men’s ability to donate blood. Today, the rules are much more relaxed but still echo the homophobic sentiments that its predecessors did. The first change allowed homosexual men the ability to donate after a one-year deferral of abstinence from sex with another man.

As of today, bisexual and gay men can donate after three months of abstinence. However, despite the federal changes, many blood donation systems have not fully integrated these guidelines and still bar these men from giving donations under a longer period of time than the current rules state

Many of the worries about this group of men donating blood come from the fear and stigmatization of HIV. Though there’s ample reason for blood donation centers to be cautious of blood, its standards enforce the narrative that sex between men is dangerous and immoral. 

The rules treat every gay man like they’re engaging in risky sex just because they are gay. This, of course, has a history that dates back to the AIDS epidemic. We pinpoint the AIDS epidemic on queer men as a way to demonize them. Society uses that tragedy to validate our ideas of gay love being immoral, rather than realizing that this story could have turned out very differently if gay men were accepted and taught proper sexual education.

Today, those fears manifest in the rules that bar gay men from donating blood, even though the country is currently suffering from a blood shortage. It makes no sense that a straight man who has multiple sexual partners is allowed to donate blood while gay men in a relationship cannot.

While it’s true that gay and bisexual men are at a higher likelihood of contracting HIV, recent studies have shown that more straight men and women have the virus than gay people. This could  be the result from the gay community’s shift towards encouraging safer sex after the epidemic with the creation of PreP and the reiteration of protection such as condoms. 

The policy we have now reflects the world’s direct feelings of how we view specific demographics and the ways in which we demonize them. In the future, the policy shouldn’t focus on particular demographics of people but instead be based on individual risk. 

We should focus on the individual risk of donating blood because exclusion based on demographics is based on stereotypes. This assessment should be free from judging an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

That being said, to get to that point, politics and calls to action will play a massive role in the future. With the current influx of legislation that demonizes the LGBTQ+ community, we need to be vigilant in protecting our rights and treatment as human beings if we are going to build a better future for the new queer generation. The blood shortage we are facing today is a clear indication that harm and exclusion of the queer community has significant repercussions on society as a whole. 

We must practice integration rather than separation when it comes to policies such as this one. American society has always been based on exclusion, whether that be by race, gender or, in this case, sexuality. 

Understanding that queer men aren’t a monolith and that their sex lives are just as valid as any heterosexual man or woman is one of the first social steps we can take to changing the narrative around blood donations. As a society, we need to learn to see people as individuals rather than just their sexuality. At the end of the day, individual risk in blood donation trumps demographics.  

Featured Illustration By J. Robynn Aviles

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Lake Smith

Lake Smith

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