By Anonymous Student, For The Miami Student
Like a majority people on this planet, my blood type is O positive, which means the red stuff in my veins can be used by nearly anyone who needs it. My height and weight maintain a healthy relationship, and I have never injected anything into my body that was not prescribed by a doctor. These factors make me an ideal blood donor for the American Red Cross. There is just one tiny problem — I am gay.
During the AIDS epidemic that rocked this country in the 1980s, the Red Cross began asking all potential donors if “from 1977 to the present, have you had sexual contact with another male, even once?” Answering yes to this question results in your name being placed on a lifetime ban list from giving blood.
I am proud to say that I have given blood twice in the last year, totaling enough blood to help six complete strangers. Though my efforts have been rewarded by free sugary snacks along with a sticker and chance to win tickets to the zoo, these prizes all pale in comparison to the feelings to helping my fellow man. Yet each time I give, I am forced to lie about who I am in order to serve a common good.
For this reason, I have chosen to write this letter anonymously, as I wish to continue to save lives. Let me be clear — this is the only reason I have chosen not to reveal my identity.
My blood is not dangerous, and there is no need to turn away donors like me who are ready and willing to give. It may be true that gay men are statistically more likely to be infected. Yet, this blanket rule perpetuates a dangerous assumption about the LGBTQ community. Besides, the Red Cross already screens all donations to make sure that no bad blood is used in hospitals nationwide.
It is also true that black people are statistically more likely to suffer from Myelodysplasia, a bone marrow condition that stunts the production of red blood cells. Why then does the American Red Cross not turn away potentially healthy donors based on the color of their skin?
The need for blood is constant. If a gay male knows his blood is healthy and he is willing to donate, why should he be prevented from saving lives? If a registered organ donor who just so happens to be bisexual were to die in an automobile accident, why should his heart and kidneys not be used to prevent another premature death? I highly doubt that those in need truly care about a donor’s sexual preference.
The FDA advised the Red Cross last December to accept blood from gay and bisexual men who have not had sexual contact within the last year, a policy similar to preexisting rules on foreign travel or recent tattoos and body piercings. While certainly a step toward equality, this is still unreasonable discrimination. Straight people are just as vulnerable to contract AIDS from a sexual encounter.
Under this proposal, men currently in a monogamous relationship would continue to be unfairly punished for their lifestyle. Those willing to give blood should not have to make the choice between saving lives and having an active sex life.
Nevertheless, the Red Cross continues to enforce this medically outdated policy, and until it is changed, countless gay and bisexual men will continue to lie in the name of humanity. I highly encourage anyone who is physically able to give blood, regardless of your sexuality. A healthy human body generates more than enough blood to get by, and the temporary dizziness is more than worth the sacrifice.