3 Ways The FDA's New Blood Donation Policy Is Still Homophobic

by Clyde Engle

At the end of 2015, the FDA announced it was easing restrictions on gay men donating blood.

But, there was a big catch.

Not all of us can donate blood.

The only gay men who can donate are those who haven’t had intercourse in a year or more.

First off, wow, a year is a long time without sex. (My condolences.)

So, now gay men are being prevented from doing things because they have sex?

That sounds like the anti-sex arguments that have been made against gay men for generations.

We have too much sex, we’re too risky, we spread disease, etc.

It’s all bullsh*t, and it's completely homophobic.

If I’ve had sex in the last year, I can’t go to the local Red Cross and donate my healthy blood?

Prior to 2015, the government argued no gay people should be allowed to donate blood at all.

You didn’t know gay people couldn’t donate blood before?

Oh, yes.

If you had had any kind of penetrative intercourse with another man, you could not donate blood.

And why?

Why can't gay men donate blood?

It all began with the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s.

The Reagan administration’s response to the crisis can be called nothing short of abysmal and unconscionable.

It took the president years to even utter the name of the disease in public.

Public funding for the disease was also completely inadequate.

It was a crisis of epic public heath proportions.

Why wasn’t it taken seriously?

Because the majority of victims were gay men, which the Republican Party even today still views as a somehow “lesser” group of society.

The Reagan administration didn’t feel the need to save the lives of gay men, not even the Reagans' friend, Rock Hudson.

Denying gay men the right to donate blood is a vestigial policy of the Reagan administration’s original response (or lack thereof) to the AIDS crisis.

It was reactionary.

People got scared when children contracted the disease through blood transfusions.

So, they did what they thought was right.

They blamed gay men and banned them from donating blood.

Gay people were discriminated against, marginalized and victimized.

We were the brunt of nasty jokes, untrue stereotypes and misconceptions.

In the 1980s, we lost a generation of gay men. We lost a generation of sons and grandsons and cousins.

And still today, despite many strides, gay men are denied the right to donate blood.

Our blood is somehow unwanted, unclean and not good enough.

Is it 2016? Why should gay men be allowed to donate blood?

There a variety of reasons why gay men showed be allowed to donate blood.

It’s common sense.

Here are rational reasons:

1. Donating blood saves lives.

The American Red Cross has declared a shortage of blood donations.

If the Red Cross is so strapped for blood, why would the FDA further restrict their blood supply by denying gay men the ability to donate?

The FDA is putting lives at risk in order to keep a homophobic policy intact.

Instead of being pragmatic, it’s moronic.

2. Straight people also get HIV.

If the argument for not allowing gay people to donate blood originally was that they had a high incidence of HIV, and there was widespread fear and misinformation, why would that rational stand today?

Dear FDA, straight people can contract HIV, other STDs and diseases, too.

Does that mean they can’t donate blood? No.

3. Blood is screened for all types of diseases

Most importantly, blood is screened for everything. Hopefully, it's screened multiple times.

Straight people, gay people, young people and old people all get diseases.

As a safety precaution, the Red Cross and other organizations meticulously screen their donated blood supply to prevent any diseases being transmitted.

These tests include screenings for HIV.

I don’t get it.

What or who does the FDA think it is protecting by banning sexually active gay men from donating their blood?

Homophobic policies can’t be allowed to stand.

You don’t want our blood? You’re not helping anyone.

The people of this country who desperately need blood transfusions deserve to receive the blood they need.

Don’t put our health at risk because of some backward thinking.

We deserve better.

Get your act together.

What's next?

In 2016, there should be a renewed push to eliminate these unfair, homophobic restrictions.

As a young gay man, I’m angry.

I'm angry that the government and our society hasn’t learned its lesson about discrimination.

I'm angry that me, my gay cousin, my gay friends and my boyfriend are still being treated as less than we are.

This may seem like a trivial issue to you, but it is not.

We are fighting for our right to exist, our right to be recognized and our right to be treated fairly.

Call your congressmen, call the White House and call the FDA.

This senseless ban must end.

Let’s be forward-thinking this year.

All people should be able to donate blood.

We are all people – gay, straight, bi, etc. – and we should all be able to save lives.

(PS: Don’t forget to give blood and help to save lives. Contact your local American Red Cross today.)