I will never forget my initial first-hand encounter with institutional gay discrimination when I was a college freshman trying to donate blood.
Every question was answered with a “no,” until I was asked if I had recent sexual intercourse with another man. It was that “yes” that diminished my opportunity to save another life – whether black, white, old or disabled – in the same way my fellow straight peers could.
The embarrassment and discomfort I felt when I had to step outside of the line to donate made me feel sub-human. All of my life, I always took pride in being a civic servant – one who could offer service to all those who needed my help. The FDA in that moment put a bigoted shadow over that “S” that once beamed over my superhero chest.
Their rejection was an implication that men like myself could endanger the lives of others because of my sexual orientation. Because in their narrow minds, HIV today still feel like HIV in 1985 – when in fact it’s their perpetuation of the stigma that is stuck in the past.
But this week they acted as though they changed their ways, when in fact – they half-assed it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently ruled that gay men could donate blood 12 months after their last sexual contact with another man. This overturned their 30-year ban against gay men taking part in donations at all.
But unless you are a closeted priest, asexual, or living under a rock, a huge bulk of gay men who are regularly sexual active still will not be able to donate blood.
I, for one, still won’t be able to. I’m 24 and in a healthy, committed relationship that shouldn’t have to sacrifice sex for an entire year in order to save a few lives.
What the FDA ruled isn’t really revolutionary or progressive, but rooted in homophobia that’s making judgment calls on one’s personal behavior. They are rewarding gays with the ability to donate blood like straight people on the condition that they not partake in homosexuality – which is oxymoronic.
I shouldn’t have to deprive myself of what makes me a normal human being in order to save a life that most likely isn’t as gay as myself. HIV in America isn’t as mysterious or a death threat to citizens as it was 30 years ago. And for that progress in medicine and society, the FDA should recognize it by not treating men who have same sex relations as pariahs.
My taxpayer’s dollars shouldn’t fund administrations that suggest that the red of my blood isn’t as desirable as the green of my dollar.
Moments like this should remind the rest of the nation that equality for LGBTQ Americans didn’t end at gay marriage…but should continue with institutional policies from the FDA that treats us as second-class citizens.
Thank you, but no thank you FDA. This new policy is a backhanded slap to all of those in medicine and society who have reduced the threat of HIV only for you to reinforce its stigma.