Student Government Association: BLOOD
This e-mail headline shows up in my inbox several times a semester. The first time I saw Student Government Association: BLOOD, I felt a brief moment of panic – emails titled “BLOOD” are not exactly reassuring. Then I clicked the e-mail and realized it said “BLOOD DRIVE,” and “DRIVE” had just been cut off due to formatting. I thought it was pretty funny, and told my mom and my partner that the SGA was demanding my blood.
It’s gotten less funny the more it shows up, because it really does feel like the SGA is demanding my blood, and I can’t give it to them.
Reason number one I can’t give the SGA my blood: I’m anemic.
Reason number two I can’t give the SGA my blood: In the past year, I’ve gotten a tattoo in a state that does not regulate tattoo facilities (Nevada). I get a tattoo every time I go back to Nevada over break, so this is an ongoing problem.
Reason number three I can’t give the SGA my blood: In the past year, I’ve had sex with a man. This is also an ongoing problem.
Sorry, SGA. You can’t have my gay blood.
The reason men who have had sex with men (whom the Red Cross and FDA websites call ‘MSM’) can’t give blood is that we’re considered ‘at risk’ for HIV/AIDS. And it’s simpler to ban a whole bunch of people on the basis of assumptions about the safety of their sexual practices than to test their blood for disease, right?
Oh, wait. They test all donated blood for diseases. Including HIV.
While the Red Cross website doesn’t explicitly say so, I think it’s safe to assume their concern about MSM and our HIV status comes mostly from fear of disease transmission through anal sex. I’ve got some unfortunate news for the Red Cross, though: we aren’t the only people who do it in the butt. Straight people have anal sex, gay people have anal sex, bi-, pan-, and polysexual people have anal sex, asexual-spectrum people have anal sex. Anal sex, unlike the Red Cross, does not ban people from participation on the basis of sexual orientation.
MSM are not completely banned from giving blood, of course. That would be discrimination. We’re just banned from giving blood if we’ve had sex with another man in the past year.
It doesn’t matter to the FDA if you’re practicing safe sex, or if you and your partner have been exclusively having sex with each other for four years. It doesn’t even matter if you do anal or not.
Here’s the kicker: I’m probably not even the kind of blood donor that they would consider an MSM: My partner and I are both trans men.
So here are my choices (if I choose to up my iron count, abstain from getting tattoos in Nevada, and bow to the SGA’s demands for blood): I can mark myself down as an MSM who’s had sex with a man in the past year and get denied. I can mark myself down as an MSM, lie about whether I’ve had sex in the past year, and experience the joy of giving blood while denying the facts of my relationship. Or I can misgender myself and/or my partner, and experience the joy of giving blood to an organization that would rather blackball people based on stereotype than actually get some damn blood for the people who need it.
I’ve made my choice. My gay blood is staying in my gay veins. Look elsewhere, SGA.