August 20, 2014
Today in “I Can’t Even”
In doing research for my next video, which will be about depression, suicide, and the stigma around mental health, I stumbled upon something else that was depressing. About a year ago, 16 year old AJ Betts Jr. killed himself. This was after a year or so of being outed as gay and getting bullied, constantly. And fuck all, we haven’t even gotten to everything awful about this yet. AJ was an organ donor, and while his life ended far too soon, he was able to gift others with life. In fact, a 14 year old boy got his heart. Absolutely rad. But his eyes were rejected, because he was gay. And this is not an isolated incident.
Seriously. For as much progress as we think has been made in the LGBT community, there is still SO MUCH that needs to be done. Yes, a lot of people can get married now, but men openly identifying as homosexual are not allowed to donate various organs, or blood! This is a big deal!
The FDA created this rule in the 80’s during the AIDS epidemic, but since then many studies have proven there is NO reason to ban gay folks from donating. Seriously, “The American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, and Advancing Transfusion and Cellular Therapies Worldwide stated in a joint release in 2006 “that the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted.”
I remember donating blood back in the day. I stopped because every time I would invariable pass out somewhere, despite hanging out, drinking juice and the enjoying a cookie afterwards. Seriously, the last time I went I passed out in line at Panera a little while after, and awoke to a nurse putting sugar on my lips. Why? I still actually don’t know why, but it was mortifying, and from then on my blood-donating days were over.
Anywho, one thing I DO remember is the hilarious questionnaire we had to fill out before donating. Have I ever been to Africa since 1977? Have I ever sold my body for money? Well, no. It DIDN’T ask me how many sexual partners I’ve had or if I’d been safe with them, or if I’ve been tested for STD’s. You’d think that would be somewhat relevant. Also, they screen the blood anyway, because they assume some people will feel uncomfortable telling the truth about some of their answers. When the blood is tested, it’s for a plethora of diseases, so anything bad is caught.
As of right now, gay men are automatically classified by the FDA in the highest risk blood donor category. You know, along with IV drug-users. This just perpetuates ugly stereotypes that all gay men are promiscuous, and somehow less than. God, it feels tired even TYPING that, but that is where this silly ban stems from! Marriage equality is a huge issue, but it is not the only issue. I’m struck by how much less attention and fight this seems to get because in banning all men who identify as gay from donating blood, we are depriving a lot of people from donations they might need.
I was discussing this with a coworker who told me that a salon close to us had a day where gay men were encouraged to “donate blood” by bringing surrogate straight friends to donate for them. I like the idea, but it really highlights the fact that gay dudes are still second class citizens in this country. I just think more needs to be done to lift the damn ban. Science is behind ending this, and the US is late since many other countries have since abandoned the ban. Thankfully, there is an organization out there called Banned4Life that is working to reverse this nonsense.
Check it out; make a donation, or sign the petition to get the ban reversed. Remember, if one day you need a donation from a selfless person, whether it be a blood transfusion, liver, or even eyes, as long as they are healthy, I highly doubt you’ll give a damn about who they came from.