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.