Canada’s LGBTQ+ community is calling on Health Canada to change a policy that prevents gay men and trans women from donating blood.
Current agency guidelines stipulate that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are not allowed to donate blood within three months of having sex with a man. Some, including Catherine Jenkins, a trans woman living in Vancouver, believes these rules stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community.
“It doesn’t matter who I love and who I choose to date,” Jenkins told CBC, “My blood isn’t ‘dirty’ compared to other folks.”
The ban also restricts trans women who have had gender-affirming surgery from donating up to three months after surgery.
Similarly, in the United States the FDA has banned men who have sex with men and trans women from donating blood since the 1980s. With regard to trans woman, an FDA spokesperson told Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden that their policy is to “designate by sex at birth, that is all there is to it.”
Not only are the reasons for the restrictions on gay men and trans women donating blood absurd but they invalidate the gender identity of trans women who they view as men.
When Jenkins discovered she wasn’t eligible while filling out a Canadian Blood Services questionnaire, she checked a box to have her blood destroyed, telling CBC, that it “wasn’t a great feeling. It felt pretty gross.”
Health Canada says it’s funding 15 research projects to investigate the elgibility critera for men who have sex with men and is open to “eliminating the waiting period so long as the change is supported by evidence.”
On Saturday, following the El Paso shooting in Texas, in which a gunman killed 20 and injured at least 26 people at a Walmart, hundreds of people lined up to donate blood to the shooting survivors. According to these misguided regulations, some men who have sex with men and trans women are not allowed to assist by way of donating blood in crises like this.