Let me qualify that statement. You could have a completely normal existence as a homosexual person so long as you were willing to pretend you weren’t gay and you conformed to gender norms. The problems came when gay people attempted to portray their true selves and refused to conform to what was expected of people of their gender.
The partial list ranges from being forced to marry and forced to procreate (in years gone by), to being forcibly enrolled in ex-gay camps and being denied the ability to adopt children (in recent years). Of course the list of restrictions on people living openly gay, but also fulfilling, lives has been dwindling in the last few decades. Since the 1960s homosexual Americans have successfully asserted their ability to have committed relationships and live openly with partners, have careers, and join our military forces. Of course none of this is remarkable except for the fact that these goals being achieved by an openly gay person was noticed and remarked on because it represented a change in how our society viewed and accepted homosexuals.
Another one of these milestones is about to be reached. Openly gay men have been essentially excluded from giving blood since the 1980s because of bias.
Like so many other scenarios when bias exists, in this case the discrimination was based in fact. It was also motivated by a public health fear. During the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s gay men contracted the virus at a higher rate than the population in general. Because the virus can be transmitted by blood, safeguards were put in place to prohibit gay men from giving blood.
This perspective may have made sense in 1985 when there was still much to learn about HIV/AIDS. On the other hand I remember growing up in the 1990s and 2000s as a teenager and young adult and hearing repeatedly that HIV/AIDS is growing fastest among heterosexuals females. And yet no ban was issued against women. Basically gay men have been being singled out even though there are other safeguards in place to stop blood banks from storing and supplying patients with infected blood.
Recently the Food and Drug Association has announced that is reconsidering its ban on gay donors. That would be the right thing to do. As long as there are tests for all donated blood gay men should be able to get their trial size juices after donating. As long as it can be proven that to be gay is to necessarily be a carrier of HIV/AIDS gay men should be able to get the little snack packs of Fig Newtons.
Can you tell I like the goodies I get after donating blood?
I frequently see solicitations for blood donations. I give multiple times each year. The body is great at replacing what I give. But that doesn’t mean that the blood supply couldn’t use an extra pint or two. Once this ban is replaced it will help with public health by increasing the blood supply as well as remove another silly road block to gay men having dignity.
A win-win situation if ever there was one.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.