A lot of queer and even cishet individuals are familiar with the rules regarding donating blood while being queer. When it comes to what the Red Cross calls “MSM” it requires that any man who has sex with another man must refrain from doing so for at least 3 months before they are allowed to give blood. This is obviously due to the horrible stigmatization of the HIV/AIDs virus and the people that it affects. Obviously, it is important to prevent diseases from being spread via blood, but this particular rule is incredibly homophobic.
The Red Cross also states on their website that all blood donated is tested for HIV types 1 and 2 along with NAT and antibody testing. So, what’s the deal? If Red Cross already does all of the testing possible to determine is someone is infected with HIV/AIDS then why would they insist upon keeping this homophobic rule in place? Again, they are already fully able to remove any infected blood donated from being circulated since well they already do that.
But this is only the only the beginning as the information provided for trans and nonbinary people who wish to donate is also iffy at best. When it comes to transgender blood donors, the Red Cross does allow individuals to register with the gender they identify. Which at first sounds good until you read further that a worker with the Red Cross will verbally clarify your gender with you — something which may be scary for non-passing trans individuals.
The Red Cross also states that no donor is required to tell employees that they are transgender, but again when you consider non-passing trans folx and the fact that an employee will verbally clarify your gender with you, this really doesn’t mean anything and is totally unhelpful. Non-passing trans donors will essentially be forced to out themselves if they wish to be gendered and recorded correctly and potentially face transphobia from employees or just stay silent and be misgendered.
As for nonbinary people, they have decided that we must just suck it up and pick between a male or female identifier for our blood donations. The best part is (at least from the research that I did) that there is no reason to need to know what someone’s gender identity or assigned gender at birth is when it comes to blood donation. What little I could find was only regarding people who have very recently been pregnant. So, if this is the case then why do they even need to record someone’s gender? If it were wouldn’t they also do hormone testing on the blood they receive?
It is clear the Red Cross either has no understanding of the queer community or they simply don’t care enough to educate themselves beyond their fake acceptance of trans people on their website. It is no secret how homophobic and transphobic the Red Cross can be and yet some people still don’t care. They shrug their shoulders and tell us to just not donate blood — it’s that simple. But in a world where blood donation is so important for so many people, those of us who wish to be able to help should be allowed to just like everyone else.
Beyond that, one of my college professors this semester offers us extra credit in the form of proof of a blood donation. That is the only form of extra credit she lists. So now I, as a queer student, can either out myself to my professor in an attempt to educate her about this issue and hopefully get other extra credit offers. Or I can suck it up like the Red Cross wants me to and be misgendered and possibly denied anyway since if asked to choose between female and male I would pick to be identified as male — and guess what? My partner is also trans-and-male so I may not be able to donate based on the Red Cross’ homophobic rule for MSM.
Or perhaps the employees decide that I am female / AFAB based on my appearance, instead of my actual identity or my choice to be recorded as male, and take my blood donation since to them I would be considered a heterosexual woman. You can really see the problem here — not only with the Red Cross’ policies as a whole, but their trust in the people who work for them to not be homophobic or transphobic to potential donors. It’s even worse when all of this prevents me from even getting some extra credit on a college exam as my peers.
About the Author:
Emil Tinkler is a 21 year old college student living in Central Florida. They are a gay agender person. Emil is a psychology major and a humanities minor. They want to be a therapist one day and help trans kids access medical care, and they love Harry Potter, Bad Suns, and LGBTQ activism. Emil was Vice President of the LGBTQ group on their campus for a year, and will continue to keep activism close to their heart in everything they do.