Blood Ties: Homophobic Hypocrisy

by Elizabeth Sawka

Assistant Opinion Editor

Even after gay marriage was legalized in the United States, discriminatory policies were still in place, reflecting the institutionalization of homophobia. According to the American Red Cross Donation website, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed the guidelines for men donating blood who have had sex with men (MSM).  Prior to December 21, 2015, MSM donors were restricted from donating blood for their entire lifetime. The policy now is that MSM donors must refrain from sexual intercourse for one year, a marked improvement but overall meaning little in the greater scheme of hypocrisy.

Despite the fact that the Planned Parenthood website explains that, in order to get an accurate HIV test result, a sexually active person must wait three months for antibodies to develop, MSM donors are required to be celibate for one year before they are able to donate.  This is a clear example of institutional policy subscribing to stereotypes, specifically the stereotype of the sexually promiscuous gay man.  Though there are plenty of social stigmas for women engaging in sexual intercourse, this is a rare policy that disturbingly works to women’s favor.    Though women donating must answer a question revealing if they have had sex with a man who has engaged in intercourse with other men, there is no policy against women who have sex with women.  HIV is contracted through unprotected sexual intercourse and the sharing of needles with someone who is HIV positive, but there is no scientific evidence suggesting that the semen of a gay or bisexual man is more infectious than the vaginal secretions of a woman.  

The legalization of gay marriage was a wonderful highlight of the summer, but it is important that advocates for equality continue to pressure policymakers to update policies that are based not in fact, but in stereotyping.  The policy holds no foundation in science and does not ensure the safety of donation recipients, but does succeed in limiting the supply of donations.   It is worth noting that for many television shows and films, diversity is represented as a white gay man, and yet this is a policy that specifically discriminates against gay men.  Legalizing gay marriage was one step towards amending policies to award the most basic human rights, but policies such as these reflect how stereotypes are still a very present part of even institutions designed to help ailing patients in need of blood transfusions.

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