Blood is as important as water, especially to patients who depend on each donated blood to save their lives. While it is not a forgotten act of kindness, some parts of the world still suffer from blood supply shortage— a matter that should not be taken lightly.
This scarcity in blood supply can be solved by having more eligible blood donors. That way, there would be no shortage in the blood stock, and more patients will get what they need in no time. This is, actually, pretty easy to achieve— if only homosexuals are allowed to donate blood.
Unfortunately, they are not.
Some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are questioned at every blood donation center because of their sexual orientation and their possible connection with the dangerous human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Gay men who have sexual intercourse with other men (MSM)— and most recently, transgender women (men who physically transitioned to women)— are permanently deferred to donate blood, as per the rule of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the early 1980s.
Come to think of it… gay men and transgender people can actually contribute to the increase in blood supply, right? But why are they deferred in the first place? And is there any chance for them to donate blood and end the blood shortage forever?
In the United States alone, there have been several cases of transgender women being denied their right to donate blood. Here are three different people from different states, but with the same story of rejection and, as they think about it, discrimination:
A woman in Minneapolis, Minnesota was reportedly told outright by a blood donation center nurse that she cannot donate plasma simply because of her sexual orientation. “You people can’t give plasma,” the nurse allegedly said.
Officially a transgender woman since her gender reassessment surgery in 2006, Lisa Scott filed a lawsuit against CSL Plasma, the center which denied her the right to give plasma. Given her new gender, Scott was disqualified by CSL because she was a “transwoman,” even without further testing.
However, in the defense of the center, a representative of CSL Plasma stated that it is in their policy to forbid any transgender person from donating plasma, even if there are no federals laws that actually prohibit transsexuals from performing plasma donation.
Anyway, Scott is still pushing for legal fee payments and damages in excess of $75,000. She is also determined to require the center to abolish their transsexual policy and erase the discrimination against people like her.
Another transgender women shunned away by CSL Plasma, this time in Kent, Washington.
Jasmine Kaiser was reportedly discriminated at CSL Plasma after she attempted to donate plasma for cash. She was banned from donating plasma because her gender was “male at birth.” After this incident, CSL personnel told her that she would be put on a “permanent deferral list” and that they would inform other blood donation centers about her case.
Now, the center faces a lawsuit for discrimination, just like in Scott’s case. Given that both centers are under the same firm (CSL), this one which banned Kaiser also defends their action, saying that their blood donation center “operates its business in accordance with all applicable industry, state, federal, and international laws, regulations, guidelines, and guidance documents.”
Briana Reynolds has been a loyal plasma donor at BioLife Plasma Services since 2009. Back then, she had no problem donating lifesaving plasma as a male, and doing so kept her life stable financially.
However, when she began her transition to a woman in 2013, her usual routine at BioLife changed for the worst.
Ever since she became a transgender woman, Reynolds has been banned from donating plasma at BioLife, in accordance with their rules about male-to-female transgender people and plasma donation. According to the center, the FDA does not approve of the hormones she has been taking since her transition, so she cannot donate plasma because of that. Even if she is willing to change hormones, the center still would not budge.
Reynolds, who is a virgin, is under harsh discrimination just because of her sexual orientation. Like Scott and Kaiser, she has not been subjected to any physical examinations and screenings before being denied of the opportunity to donate. Instead, they were told outright that they simply cannot do so.
WHAT ARE THE RULES, ANYWAY?
Since the HIV epidemic in the late 1970s, the FDA has always been firm about its policy about MSM and blood donation. According to them, any men who have had sex with men since 1977 (even once) are permanently deferred to donate blood. However, even if there are recent advancements in this field, gay men and transgender women are still unfit to donate blood.
Male homosexuals and transgender women are, in general, considered to be having regular sexual intercourse with people of the same gender. With this notion in mind, they are feared to be carrying HIV, which can be transmitted once they donate blood. So, if the policy about abolishing the permanent deferral in gay men is passed, MSM are still subject to one-year deferral.
For the LGBT community, this is quite insulting and does not change anything. For transgender women, it is much worse.
Blood donation centers such as BioLife Plasma Services, CSL Plasma, New York Blood Center, Blood Centers of the Pacific, and even the American Red Cross, prohibit MSM from donating blood. In general, this includes transgender women. The hormones that they are taking are actually not an issue, just as long as it is HRT, or hormone replacement therapy. The American Red Cross clearly states that “women on hormone replacement therapy… are eligible to donate.”
Almost all blood donation centers in the United States prevent MSM and, sadly, transgender women to donate blood or plasma. Nothing can be done about it, really, because it is in accordance with the FDA policy.
But, there is a silver lining in this dark tunnel of discrimination. As days pass by, more people are voicing their opinions out in favor of the LGBT community, so who knows what might happen? With the advancements in the field of science and health, the permanent deferral— even the one-year deferral— imposed on homosexuals can be eliminated soon.
For now, these are the rules, though. We can only hope for the best.