I should be a walking blood bank. I’m one of only nine percent of Australians who are type O Rh Negative -” the most sought after of bloods because it’s the only type that can be given to anyone, yet I can only take O back.
I’ve never used an intravenous drug, never had an STD, never had unprotected sex, and most years I’m lucky to count the number of partners I’ve had on one hand. To top this off I recently had a blood test, which unsurprisingly came back negative across all categories.
If someone’s life was in danger and no other blood was available, a doctor could make the transfusion direct from my arm. But although I haven’t had sex since my test, the Australian Red Cross does not want my blood or yours -” simply because we aren’t heterosexual.
If I were straight, the Red Cross would accept my blood, even if I had unprotected sex with multiple partners every day of the week, so long as I didn’t think any of them might be a drug user, a recent migrant, a haemophiliac, or have a blood-borne disease.
To the Red Cross it doesn’t matter that the vast majority of gay men are both disease-free and responsible, that we use condoms far more frequently than straights, or that each donation is already tested before it goes into the supply.
Even though blood banks are crying out for blood, ours isn’t good enough for the Red Cross -” despite the organisation already accepting transplant organs from gay men, through which that same blood flows.
But the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal is now hearing a case that may change this policy thanks to the hard work of Launceston gay man Michael Cain and the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, who’ve been pursuing this issue for three years at state and federal levels.
Despite overseas precedents demonstrating higher levels of safety from screening individual behaviour rather than blanket bans, the Red Cross is fighting tooth and nail on this one -” and its conduct in this matter has been nothing short of bizarre, with representatives of the Red Cross repeatedly claiming homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle, that there is no such thing as safe gay sex and generally cherry-picking studies to paint gay and bisexual men in the worst possible light.
Thankfully an army of expert witnesses has been assembled to refute these claims -” and the case for change looks good.
It could be a year before a verdict. In the meantime my blood, and that of thousands of other Australian gay and bisexual men, will continue to go to waste.