I’ll gladly take your gay blood

Chart of groups in high need of blood donations from Canadian Blood Services

Canadian Blood Services’ transfusion needs.

I’ve been posting more than usual in the “Being Gay” category lately. Can you bear with me for one more? I’ll go back in the closet soon.

One of the groups marching in the Pride Parade was the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI [do you think their acronym writer has a learning disability?]). The group’s motto? “There’s no such thing as gay blood.” CCDI is challenging Canadian Blood Services’ longstanding ban on sexually active gay men’s blood donations.

In the mid-80s, Canadian Blood Services instigated a lifetime ban on sexually active gay men (their acronym is “MSM” for men having sex with men) donating blood. Anyone who wants to donate blood has to answer a series of screening questions, and if a man acknowledges he’s an MSM, he is turned away.

In 2013 the rules changed, but not by much: gay males who have abstained from sex for the past 5 years are free to give, but any gay man who has been sexually active more recently is refused. (In the US, it’s 12 months, but even that limitation is being challenged.) Does this not presume that every gay man is recklessly sexually promiscuous and takes no precautions to lessen the possibility of HIV transmission? What about all the promiscuous straight people? Does the name “Ashley Madison” ring a not-too-distant bell?

I understand why this ban was instigated: HIV was a very scary beast when it first appeared in the early 80s, and there were not yet ways of screening for it. That resulted in the tainted blood scandal, a horrific time when too many people, including a generation of hemophiliacs, were infected with diseased blood. But those days are long past. Blood can now be tested for HIV and other pathogens, and unsafe blood is not transfused. Given that, the ongoing ban is prejudicial.

People with blood cancers often need top ups. Other cancer patients undergoing treatment often need blood products too because many chemotherapies suppress blood cell production. Even zapping (radiation) can interfere with blood counts.

I have needed a ton of blood products since my leukemia diagnosis 3 years ago. Plasma, platelets, red blood cells, I’ve received them all. I was most in need when I was first diagnosed with leukemia and could not keep my counts up. I’d have been sunk if blood donors had not given generously of themselves.

So, Canadian Blood Services, maybe you could start collecting gay blood again. Next time I need some, I’ll take it. I don’t care who it came from, and I’m trusting you’ll screen it carefully. And I imagine I’m not the only gay person willing to take those blood products off your hands. Start with giving gay blood to the gays, and when they don’t get sick, maybe the straight people will take some too. You never know. This is Canada, the home of gay marriage and equal rights for people of all shapes and sizes and persuasions. I hope you never find yourself in need, but if you do, wouldn’t you appreciate those donors?


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