Giving blood is an experience that can be both fulfilling and terrifying. The truth though, is that no matter the emotion you feel, that little donated bag has the potential to save a life. So when you hear people dissent about being excluded, specifically homosexual males, it’s hard not to take their outrage seriously.
“I definitely would give, so it kind of sucks with my situation,” says Cody Lee, a Laurier Brantford student, “we say we’re an open society, but this is something major.”
Lee is only one of many gay Canadians who are either facing exclusion now or see it in their near future.
On the formal quiz everyone must take before donating blood, question number nineteen acts as an absolute deal breaker if you answer in the affirmative: “Have you had sex with a man, even one time, since 1977?” If you are male and you check next to “Yes,” you cannot donate blood.
The question being raised is, is this constitutional? The courts have ruled that it is, since the Canadian Blood Services is only a quasi-governmental body, allowing it to be exempt from charter requirements. On top of this, they point out the potential risks involved if homosexuals were allowed to give.
When contacted, representatives for Canadian Blood Services state quite explicitly that engaging in homosexual sex increases one’s risk for contracting HIV greatly. Their pamphlet warns: “Your blood will be tested for HIV. The tests for HIV cannot detect one hundred percent of HIV infections.”
Lee counters, “heterosexual couples can obviously transfer those kinds of diseases as well.”
Lee’s assessment, though simple, is spot-on. Women, scientifically, are more likely to contract HIV from sexual intercourse then men, but straight women who qualify to give blood are allowed to do so.
Obviously, many deep and complicated issues are wrapped up in this regulation. For homosexual males, it’s yet another symbol of inequality. Over the past month, the mainstream media has reported several incidents of gay harassment-related suicides that have plagued the gay community, and reminded all that true acceptance of alternative lifestyles may still be far from being a part of modern day reality. For proponents of upholding the regulation, the issue of public safety trumps liberal rights.
Although the problem is complex, and the solution isn’t always clear, no one can doubt that those who speak out are in want of passion or conviction.