The Heterodox

The Heterodox

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Blood Brothers?

September 13, 2010 , , , , ,


Anyone following the mainstream national news broadcasts this past week has probably come across the story involving a gas rupture in a Bay Area neighborhood which caused massive property damage as well as eight deaths. This being provincial news for those of us who live here, one could safely assume that we would be more inundated with the story by our local media than the rest of the nation, and you would be right. It was within one of these news updates in which a de rigueur social calling was announced, the kind one naturally expects after any disaster, this event being the call for blood donations. All of the these events happened to coincide closely with some sanguinary news from Canada. So, this recognized nexus of contingencies got me thinking that I could no longer put off writing about a long extant issue of gay inequality which involves blood donation.

To start off with, an ineludible aspect to this controversy is in regards to the vast amount of people who are unaware that it is in fact illegal for gay men (lesbians are free from this particular expression of homosexism) to donate blood in this country and that this has been the status quo since 1983. A little bit of history, before going any further, should help put this political act into some context and relief. This law was initially enacted within the ignorant and opaque era of HIV when it appeared to the medical community that gay men were the sole individuals afflicted with this new pathogen. This disease also presented itself at a time when blood screening technology was calamitously ineffective, so the law can be seen as prudent within that milieu even in light of flagrant bigotry. Since that time though, the entire AIDS oeuvre has completely changed within society mainly thanks to medical and scientific advances. The social stigma associated with being infected with the virus has been greatly mollified. Also, the virus itself has been attenuated enough by drug therapy so that possessing the virus is now more a chronic affliction than a presumptively lethal one. Coexistent with these medical advances has been the advance in blood screening technology, making blood transfusions as safe as they can possibly be.

All of these advances, especially in view of the past ten years, has brought certain questions to the fore yet again. Should the ban on gay blood donations finally be lifted, particularly in light of blood bank deficits? And if not, then how much longer will gays and lesbians be forced to render themselves mendicant for their civil rights? How much longer will straight elitism allow for gays and lesbians to be seen and treated like third-class citizens, whose existence of rights can be debated in the agora? And finally, isn’t also interesting to notice that all of these questions and criticisms can be postulated in the gay marriage debacle as well…coincidence?

These questions were last raised in this country in 2007 and the ban was kept in place that year for the usual dubious reasons. A similar legal injunction has also been prolonged this week in Canada. Since this proscription is only tenable on scientific grounds, one would assume that the science being offered up was sound and logical, correct? Well, to be able to answer that question one has to be aware of the fact that there is only a federal body which makes this decision, and not an independent medical one like the AMA or ASH. This litigious body is the Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and their stance ostensibly is that a man who has sex with another man is always going to possess blood that is statistically higher for pathogens (the infections at issue here being HIV and Hepatitis) than those men who solely engage in vaginal sex. And please remember that this legislative body is in no way, shape, or form a medical or scientific outfit, it is purely political. As already mentioned, the advances in blood screening technology have increased enough so that no one individual’s blood is more or less dangerous for donation than any one else’s, in spite of their sexuality. I am glad to see a majority of health professionals concurring with this new scientific undersanding, and that a reconsideration on lifting this demurrable mandate is making its way through the Congress as I am writing this article. Nonetheless, I expect to not hear much about this legislation in the mainstream media due to the continued bigotry that is hurled towards gays, and of course due to the material preoccupation so many of us still have and will continue to have with the economy.

Lastly, we must now consider the simple logic as to why gay men are at such a risk for sexually transmitted pathogens as it is a reality which continues to be pathetically disavowed or merely ignored within our society. Men are evolved sexually insatiable animals with male sexuality also being very protean; no one educated or honest will disagree with this fact. But some people still continue to have problems with acknowledging that by the process of evolution, the penis is the most efficacious transmitter of disease due to its active posture as opposed to the passive posture of the vagina or anus. This coupled with the male libido is what created the initial tide of HIV among gay men. The spreading of HIV had nothing to do with being merely homosexual, but it had everything to do with being a male primate. After all, HIV eventually found its way into the straight world, did it not? This fact of life makes women along with men equal in standing of being exposed to a penis transmitted disease. Yet, we do not see women being subjected to a lifetime blood donation ban, do we?

This ban has become so outrageously mendacious as well as socially irresponsible, that we all need to put our energy toward achieving its repeal. What makes this issue so pressing for me though was not just fighting against the continual heterosexual immiserations against gays, but because I happen to have O- blood which makes me a universal donor. Because of disgusting ignorance and heinous bigotry I am kept from helping my fellow primates and also from partaking in my own exigent need for social solidarity and responsibility purely because of my sexuality. What could be more invidious than this state of affairs? Of course, I also have my own vested interest in seeing more blood donation being allowed, especially for my own type. Anyone can have my blood, and I am glad to give it, but I can only have O- blood. One way or another we all have a vested interest in seeing this superfluous ban lifted and I can guarantee that I will keep issuing forth my critiques until this goal is reached. Surely that leaves only one question left to be asked, at least for now. What will you be doing in this fight?

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