Please stop asking me to donate blood. They won’t let me.

Content note: this post discusses structural homophobia

I’m an ideal blood donor. I have a blood type which is fairly common, and can be received by 83% of recipients. I don’t tend to get faint, and I have no qualms about needles. I’m not on any medications. I’m Cypriot, which is a useful ethnic group to belong to in terms of blood donation, because people from Cyprus are more likely to live with a genetic disease called thalassaemia which requires regular blood transfusions, and if you’re receiving regular blood transfusions you need more closely matched blood–there are more antibodies in blood than the simple ABO +/- blood types, which don’t matter in a one-off transfusion, but do for frequent transfusions; people from similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have them. I have my little bronze card from my regular donating, 3-4 times a year.

But I haven’t been able to give blood recently. According to regulations, my blood is tainted with gay. I have had sex with men who have sex with men. One of my current partners is a man who has sex with men. Basically, I need to stop boning my partner for a year if I’m to give blood again, a position which is pretty damn undesirable because we have really good sex, and the sex we have is pretty much of no concern to the blood services.

For the record, unlike a lot of straight people who are allowed to give blood, my partner and I practice safer sex–together and with others–to the point of paranoia. Unlike a lot of straight people who are allowed to give blood, my partner and I are aware of our status for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis: hell, we’re actually vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Both of us were toddlers during the epidemic, and became sexually active long after it was a thing.

Yet the blood service don’t want my blood (or his).

It would be easier to be under the exclusion criteria did I not believe in how important it is to donate blood if you can. And I can, for every reason except for structural homophobia leading to bans based on who I fancy and who I love. I was perfectly eligible to give blood during a particularly dark time when I was having all manner of unsafe sex with very promiscuous men who were heterosexual (as far as I was aware). The guidelines for eligibility for blood donation are discriminatory.

I don’t have it in me to hate the blood service for these discriminatory rules though, to shout and scream at them like I usually do with organisations which discriminate against queer folk.

When I see ads–and I see a lot of ads–I just feel a stab of guilt that I can’t help out, doing something little that takes half an hour, could save a life and definitely leads to free coffee and biscuits.Because of shitty algorithm-ing, social media targeted ads like to tell me to give blood: sorry for fucking up your comms plan, NHSBT, but I can’t because you don’t want my blood. 

I realise that this is probably a futile cry, given my followerbase, but on the off chance you are healthy and not on meds, are not a current or former sex worker, have not been to Africa, and are neither a man who has sex with men, nor a person who has ever had sex with one, then go and give blood. It really is important. It really is important, and they really need to change the regulations so those of us who want to donate, can.

They take a calculated risk with heteros, so why not expand the calculated risk?

It’s time to end blanket banning, and accept that, like our blood types being more complex than you might think, there’s a lot more nuance than just queers carry bad blood.

10 thoughts on “Please stop asking me to donate blood. They won’t let me.”

  1. Blood is screened prior to donation and blood is screened afterwards – to minimise risk of blood borne disease to the recipient. It’s that simple and if you care enough to think about donating you should care about the person that is going to get blood donations and how important it is that the integrity of the blood service is maintained.

    There are many reasons for refusal, it can even be for active acne or having acne treatment (covers heterosexual people), piercings or tattoos (covers heterosexual people), IV drug use not prescribed by doctor or if you have had sex with someone that has done IV drug use not prescribed by doctor (and yes, that one covers heterosexual people also). None of that is personally directed at any one person, rather the inherent risk due to behaviour or other factors.

    1. If that’s the case, why aren’t they going for straights who fuck around, and they ARE going for any man who has ever had sex with a man?

      I understand how screening works, and risk, and it’s damn nonsensical.

      1. No, it’s no more nonsensical than deferring/barring someone that has injected non-prescribed drugs. They do ask about whether you are a male that has ever had sex with man, condoms or not, and women that have had sex with man that might have had sex with a man so it’s pretty broad and covers heterosexual contact. STI’s ditto – syphilis infection at any time disbars you from donating. It’s a neutral thing and nothing to do with anyone personally, the risk is higher and they then will ask you not to donate to ensure as far as possible blood is not a risk to the recipient from the start.

        And personally, I’d say the end recipient and limiting the risk is so much more important, unless there is an guarantee that the risk isn’t there you can’t change policy. And you know, thinking of the HIV+ve haemophiliacs in particular that I saw that contracted HIV via blood transfusions back in the day when HIV/AIDS was epidemic and not really treatable the blood was meant to be the gift of life for them. It turned out to be the gift of death instead.

        1. Mate i’ve got a brilliant solution
          gay people donate blood
          before using that blood, test it for std or whatever
          if no std, then there isn’t any increased risk at all
          genuinely not that difficult tbh
          blood is insanely easy to test for std
          anyone who supports a ban on gays donating blood is seriously just scientifically inept bc all you have to do is fucking test the blood man.
          make them sign a contract that says “you understand that if your blood has std/sti then it shall not be donated”
          then there is no issue regarding morality or anything at all

          like deadass did you even do gcse biology bc that’s how basic this shit is.

  2. The bar on (male) homosexuals was a response to the AIDS/HIV epidemic of the 1980s, when what exactly the problem was was uncertain. Originally a lifetime ban, this has been relaxed much more recently in most of the UK. However, this ban persists in N Ireland at the behest of the Health Dept, run by the DUP; the ban is as much to do with religious homophobia as it is with science. The ban has twice been defeated in the courts, but still the DUP appeal this. However, blood products produced elsewhere in the UK are imported into NI; there are no checks on these donors.

    If you look on the blood transfusion service website you see lots of reasons why people can’t be donors. And yes, all blood for transfusion is screened for HIV, hepatitis etc, and yes, there hasn’t been a recorded instance of a viral transmission for over a decade. While caution is understandable, your point about a ‘dual standard’ is well made.

  3. The rules for women who have sex with a man who had *ever* had sex with a man are ridiculous too. My partner is allowed to donate as he’s not had sex with a bloke for a year, but I’m still banned if I have sex with him? (unless I take him with me as some weird bisexual guarantor)

    Also the gender binarism of the whole thing makes my teeth squeak.

  4. FWIW, this is potentially unlawful in view of a recent European Court of Justice decision which held that a ban on donations by men who have sex with men have to be justified by reference to a pretty high standard (the person must be shown to be at high risk of HIV, there must be no adequate screening methods and no less onerous ways to prevent transmission of infected blood to recipients). My office is currently bringing a legal challenge against the MSM blood ban in Ireland.

  5. Here in the U.S. things are just as ridiculous. I used to donate regularly, but that was many years ago; now they won’t take my blood because I’m a woman (who they consider to be a “man”) who has had sex — even once! — with someone else that they consider to be male (regardless of the reality of the situation.)

    As blackic says, the gender binarism is especially disgusting, and the whole situation is fucked up regardless.

  6. Yep, the donation criteria are ridiculous. I’m a bisexual woman, and I spent six years of my life in a monogamous relationship with a bisexual man who had last had sex with a man four years before he met me. He was allowed to donate blood because it was over a year since he had last had sex with a man. I was not allowed to donate blood because of him until a year after we broke up. Yes, they know there’s a discrepancy in their system when it comes to bisexual men, and no, they do not care. They’ve pretty much said outright that they don’t care about offending LGBT folks but they don’t want to upset heterosexuals.

    Of course, I am also barred for life because I have ME/CFS. The supposed reason for this is because I may not be well enough to handle donating blood. That doesn’t explain why we’re all barred for life, though, even the ones who recover completely. The truth is that they have no idea how transmissible ME is. It’s a relatively common condition, certainly far more common than HIV, and one of the most disabling in existence, knocking approximately 25 years off your life expectancy. Meanwhile, there are no restrictions on donating organs if you have ME. After reading up on it as much as I could, and there is sod all to read, I took myself off the organ register, because it’s certainly inheritable as fuck and I would not wish this illness on a living being.* (It’s also why I am not having children, not that I’m remotely well enough to do so anyway. )The blood and organ donation service have no idea what they are doing.

    Meanwhile, if you are eligible to donate blood and/or organs, please do sign up to do so.

    * Except David Cameron, obviously.

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