Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays! Equality, anyone?

Happy Christmahanukwanzasol! I'll be taking a blogging break while I meet my inlaws-to-be in NJ. You'll hear from me again in January. In the meantime, may 2009 wrap up nicely for you, and I wish you all a 2010 that brings you your deepest longings and the life of your dreams.

BUT before I go -- I tried to donate blood yesterday, "tried" being the dominant word. Let me share my thoughts about the experience.

Yay for the Red Cross, particularly all of their volunteers. They do work without which many people each year would die. Thanks! On the other hand, I have an issue with their policy of discrimination and blanket exclusion.

Discrimination, you say?

YES! Let me explain.

One of my formerly regular sexual partners had a boyfriend when he was in high-school in the 80s-90s. I have no problem with this - he's been FULLY tested clean and has already donated over a gallon of blood to the Red Cross. And so, when answering the Red Cross questionnaire, I told the truth.

Have I had sex with a male who has had sex with another male since 1977? Yes.
Was my last sexual contact with this partner within the last 12 months? Yes.

On this basis alone, I was DENIED the opportunity to donate blood.

Now, I understand the reason for their policy. They're trying to protect their blood supply and limit the potential number of false-negatives during testing, and thus the number of people mistakenly infected with a blood-borne illness as the result of emergency transfusion.

But their logic is faulty.

In the early 2000s, can they really claim that the gay male population is at greater risk for HIV and hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases than the publicly-declared straight population?

If you've had sex with a male who's had sex with a male, you are denied. But what if you've had sex with a male who's lied to you? What if he's been sneaking around and having unprotected male/male sex without telling you? And what if he's been having unprotected male/female sex without telling you?! In this day and age, women are just as likely as men to be carrying an undiagnosed illness, aren't they? (Especially while this myth of the biologically dangerous gay male is promoted.) People can lie about their sexual preferences as well as their past experiences, and so can their partners, and thus, everyone's sexual past must be viewed with suspicion.

IMHO, no single individual, unless they've been tested 3 months ago, and celibate or unfaultingly protected every day since, can declare their status with absolute faith. For the Red Cross to deny a whole section of the population the opportunity to provide such a service is an act of bigotry. It's illogical, wasteful, and it costs lives that could otherwise be saved.

Do I have a solution? No. There IS no solution. Their mistake is in thinking that their currently policy allows them to screen the blood supply and reduce their likelihood of mistaken infection. It does NOT. There is nothing but Testing that can make such a determination, and it is my opinion that the Red Cross should welcome all possible donors, and increase the rigor of their testing if what they really want is to serve the greatest percentage of the population and safeguard the lives of those they serve.

(There's a whole other blog I could write here about it being societally unsafe for people to tell the truth about their sexual histories and practices, but we'll save that for another day.)

Q and I will be voicing our dissatisfaction with this policy. If you would like to do the same, please call the Donor Care & Response Center at 1-800-737-0902 and tell them you have an issue with the Donation Criteria.

In the meantime, be safe, people. Keep your wits about you out there, be responsible for your own actions, and be aware of the actions of others. Enjoy your lives and your loved ones, and be grateful for what you've got. We're all in this together.


M. Makael Newby, 2009 - All Rights Reserved -

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