Did you know our government doesn't allow gay and bi men to donate blood?

There is so much work to be done for LGBT equality beyond just fighting for marriage equality. Marriage equality is incredibly important to the emotional, financial, familial, and political equality for so many LGBT couples and it is something I've written about here often over the years. But it's not the only LGBT equality issue out there.

One way to mentally divide up the struggles the LGBT community faces is into those that actively ban gay people from participating, those protections that are missing under the law, and then just the hearts and minds battle to have truly lived equality.

Active bans are things like the laws saying gays shall not be allowed to marry or serve as scout leadership or adopt, or the now repealed gays shall not serve openly in the military. We still have work to do on that front with the transgender community. Missing protections are things like the lack of employment or housing non-discrimination policies at various levels of government. Queer youth make up a disproportionately high number of the homeless youth at 40% when LGBT folks make up no more than 10% of the total population.

And hearts and minds ranges from not being called a faggot and threatened with violence while walking down the street all the way to hotels assuming your bookings are a mistake because surely two men wouldn't be sharing a bed so they try to fix it for you. Or being called an exhibitionist by a complete stranger for being witnessed to hold hands in public or kiss on a date. Or being protested whenever your community gathers to try to do something about these issues. Or to always be assumed to be straight thus forcing you to come out over and over again throughout your life whenever coming into a new environment. Hardly a week goes by that I don't read about an LGBT person who has been assaulted.

It's not limited to the LGBT community. A lot of folks who have experienced subtle discrimination because of their identity or background know exactly what it feels like to be hyper-sexualized or under-represented, to have subtle looks of disapproval, and to stand in a lot of moments and just not being able to be sure if the treatment you're receiving is because of who you are or not. In some ways I've got it easy as a white man with citizenship who gets assumed to be straight unless I choose to dispel that notion. It's why I have a rainbow bumper sticker and t-shirt because society makes us invisible otherwise through being assumed to be straight and cisgender.

The assumed closet is both a blessing and a curse. But these various levels of discrimination faced are also opportunities for coalition building across and at the intersection of race, class, gender, immigration status, etc because these issues aren't faced by the LGBT community alone. For example, the issue of vouchers has been in the news in North Carolina a lot lately as something that divides us by race and class, but public funds going to private and religious schools that can "no gay students allowed" is an opportunity for coalition building in opposition to this discrimination.

One step to making this happen is reaching beyond marriage equality in the media and social media. And a part of that starts with asking questions like did you our government doesn't allow gay and bi men to donate blood?


Moral Week of Action

As I linked above, one of the action step opportunities I hope people will consider taking is attending any of the Moral Week of Action days organized by the NAACP and other Forward Together partner groups. Sunday is the LGBT/equal protection for all under the law day. Here's that link again with all the details:


What prompted me to write this blog entry was being at my alma mater NCSU earlier today (go wolfpack!) and helping pass out some nonpartisan voter engagement handouts while encouraging people to fill out postcards we could send to the FDA encouraging them to overturn their outdated discriminatory anti-gay policy. Major props to the LGBT student group at NCSU for setting this up!

I expected the average college student first time blood donor not to know anything about this ban that has existed since before they were born. But as I mentioned what I was up to other folks throughout the day, they hadn't heard about this ban either, and I thought it was time to start changing that.

Here's one of those White House petitions where if you get 100,000 signatures in a month they have to respond. With a week and a half left and only a handful of signatures including one from my mom (love ya!) it's clearly not going to make it. But anything that helps raise awareness is one more step towards this discriminatory policy dying. I hope you'll consider helping spread the word about this ban however you see fit.

Straight people who engage in some risky practices can have relatively short deferments from donating, but gay & bi men are banned for life. Even folks like me who are married in a monogamous relationship for over a decade and have been tested to be disease free. This policy can be gotten around by lying on a form, so all it really does is serve to stigmatize a group of people who could otherwise be helping save lives.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science" according to William Kobler, MD who is an American Medical Association Board of Trustees member. Here's what Senator Elizabeth Warren and several other legislators had to say in a letter they signed on to.

"Further, the exiting lifetime ban continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men, and fosters an atmosphere that promote discrimination and discourages individuals from seeking HIV testing and treatment services. In 2010, the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability, a non-partisan group of scientific experts convened by HHS, concluded that the current lifetime ban should be changed. The Committee found the ban to be "suboptimal" because it allows high-risk individuals to donate white prohibiting low-risk donors from giving blood."

Photos from Equality Day

Here are some pics from the Equality Under The Law Day from earlier today over in Raleigh: