Mateo's Opinion Graphic

After natural catastrophes, tragedies or even pandemics, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross, local governments and organizations across the nation host blood drives to help depleted blood banks.

Now more than ever, blood donations are needed. The Red Cross sent out a message on Sept. 24 asking everyone to donate blood because there is a nationwide shortage of blood in general due to COVID-19.

However, not everyone is allowed to. I love being a member of the LGBT community and I am proud of it, but there is one major disadvantage I have to face: not being able to donate blood.

For those who did not know, it was not until 2015 that the Food and Drug Administration lifted the lifetime ban on blood donations from the LGBT community. Instead of a lifetime ban, the rules changed to one-year abstinence from having sexual intercourse with the same sex in order to donate blood, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Progress, but not really. It wasn’t until the pandemic started that the rules were changed again from one year to a three-month deferral period, according to the American Journal of Managed Care. In my eyes, a huge win for the community, but it is not enough.

Some may say the FDA made the change because we are in a national emergency. To that, I call bullshit. The FDA would not have made that change on a whim during a national emergency without data and having long conversations behind closed doors.

One part of the reasoning for restricting those in the community is because we are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections or diseases; however, how can you judge a group based on one factor when you have another group with the same risk factor, if not higher?

A heterosexual male or female can sleep with as many partners as they want to and is still able to donate blood. Members of the LGBT community are barred from donating blood for three months just because they had sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex.

Where is the justice in that? Sadly, it doesn’t end there.

Once dubbed the “gay disease,” HIV still is being treated the same way in 2021. Heterosexual men and women are at the same risk of contracting HIV as anyone in the LGBT community. 

The FDA samples each blood donation with rigorous testing for STIs and HIV, so tell me why we still are being treated differently than others? 

The answers of, “You’re at a high risk,” “It’s an added layer of safety” or “It’s because you are a homosexual” are not acceptable answers anymore. We need updated stats and a thought process not stuck in a time where it was the norm to discriminate against the community.

I want to donate blood. I can donate blood now, but my sexual history should not be taken into consideration unless everyone else’s is too.

Every time I walk past a donation bus or someone asks me if I want to donate blood, I feel guilty, dirty and un-American because I have to say no, even if I do qualify to donate. Yes, I know I can donate blood, but how can I when the system has taught me always to say no out of caution or to say no because I am gay? 

We need change now. We need advocates to stand with us to say that our blood is just as good as other people’s and it is not “dirty” just because we are part of the LGBT community.

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