As some of you are aware, I've been a fan of the drama "Queer as Folk" (ie gay soap opera). Unfortunately the series finale is next week here in Canada. I was watching an episode last week with a friend of mine in Kansas. In this episode, a bomb explodes to kill/hurt as many gay people as possible. Michael (my favorite character), goes to the hospital and his friends and family are in the waiting room, anxiously waiting. Then the doctor comes forth with the news that Michael's fine but lost a lot of blood. His best friend Brian, immediately volunteers, knowing his O blood type makes him the universal donor. Then the doctor tells him no, that if you are a gay man, you are barred from donating blood. My friend watching with me was shocked and asked me if this was true.
Unfortunately this discrimination typical of the past is still in the present. For the last 15 years, any man who has been with another man since 1977 - even ONCE- has been permanently banned from donating blood. At the time this ban was imposed (1990), there was a high prevalence of AIDS in the gay male population. Even though this disease is now growing faster among the young heterosexual population, the American Red Cross denies this discrimination to be unfair. Therefore, donors who disclose having engaged in risky heterosexual behavior are only deferred from donating for a year, not for a lifetime.
I clearly remember the first and only time I donated blood. I was university at the time and my very good friend, Amy, was volunteering to help them out. I was very happy that I would be able to save a life by giving blood. As I was laying there, squeezing the red ball and my life-force draining out of me, I started to hear the ever-increasing loud lub-dub of my heart beat. I remember looking at her across the room and when our eyes met, she knew something was very wrong. She said "Do you need help?" I nodded my head. She then said "Well...ASK for help then!" I said weakly "h..help?" She got some people over and they asked me a bunch of questions, one which was "Are you going to vomit?" I truthfully hadn't considered it until it was suggested! Then I did! Of course then my blood was tainted and all that was for nothing. I felt really bad and never did go back.
I've always felt somewhat guilty though. The Red Cross keeps saying how desperate they are for blood donations. However it estimated that there are 62,300 gay men who want to donate blood, but are prohibited from doing so by the current law. HIV screening is the most accurate today than it has ever been and the American Red Cross conducts really extensive testing.
As a Christian, blood is a very pivotal part of my religion. We believe that through Jesus Christ's self-sacrifice on the cross, that our sins are, in a sense "washed with His blood." To commemorate this, often we re-enact the Last Supper that Christ had with his disciples. In this ceremony, we refer to the wine (grape juice if you are a Baptist!) as the Blood of Christ and bread (sometimes it's unleavened, ie without yeast, sometimes it's regular bread. In my church we used cut-up cooked pie crusts.) as the Body of Christ. If one is Catholic, one believes that this ACTUALLY changes to blood and flesh. I personally find that one a little hard to swallow (pun intended). For most Protestants, Baptists especially, this is just a metaphor, a symbol of that time. After all, the actual event was based on the Jewish seder during Passover and had no connotations of cannibalism.
Furthermore, Christians believe that Jesus did not discriminate when He shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. In a sense, his blood donation didn't see gender, race, income level or even sexual orientation. The Bible says that"No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends"(John 15:13). And although it wouldn't kill me to give blood, I would at least be allowed to have the opportunity to follow His example.