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Don't Be Angry With 'Game of Thrones' for Hosting a Blood Drive

Game of Thrones

Not when the federal government is right there, sis!

HBO is finding itself on the wrong end of a Red Wedding situation.

At South by Southwest, HBO launched a blood drive campaign called Bleed for the Throne, which challenges attendees to donate blood to the American Red Cross. The event is promo for the show's final season and those who donate will get a limited edition blood-spattered Iron Throne shirt and a chance to win a trip to the final season premiere in New York City.

Holding a blood drive for the final season of the show has led some gay and bisexual fans of the show to call discrimination, according to the Daily Beast. Because the FDA says that men who have had sex with other men in the past 12 months -- or, a person of any gender who is had sex with a man who had sex with men in the past 12 months -- cannot give blood, some fans believe that the blood drive campaign is by discriminatory by design.

"It's kind of a bummer," Erich Hazen, a Games of Thrones devotee from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, told the Daily Beast. "Here's this really great prize, but you can't have it because you're gay."

HBO and the Red Cross have since clarified that those who can't donate blood can enter the contest by contacting the Red Cross Donor Support Center, though that information was not available in press materials or social media posts and was not publicized, according to the Beast.

There are plenty of other things I don't love about Game of Thrones, including its over-reliance on rape as a narrative tool (sure, dragons exist, but a world without rape is a bridge too far!) but directing anger at HBO is a bit too short-sighted.

In choosing the Red Cross as a partner, HBO's judgment is open for questioning. The problematic organization has not really disclosed how much of its donations go to direct relief and ProPublica listed some disturbing receipts about the organization, including taking emergency vehicles away from first aid respondents to use as props.

But aside from HBO's questionable partnerships, this is a question about the stage on which the drama is set, not the actors involved. Unfortunately, the Red Cross is mandated to follow these homophobic, biphobic, and sex-negative laws.

Most gay and bisexual men already bemoan the fact that the federal government bans them from donating blood. The FDA first implemented the ban in 1983 at the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The agency updated the ban in 2015, changing it to the 12-month deferral period.

"The ban is really based on old science," Johnathan Applebaum, Florida State University College of Medicine's clinical services chair, told the Daily Beast. "I'm a gay man myself, and I think it's discriminatory."

The ban is a structural issue and a remaining relic of our government's terrible response to the AIDS epidemic, which includes not only the gay and bi blood ban, but things like HIV criminalization laws, as well. These serve as reminders that queer bodies were and continue to be considered a threat to the government, a threat that had to be regulated and penalized by federal and state laws.

On some level, the Red Cross probably wishes it didn't have to. According to the Daily Beast, severe winter storms led to the closure of several donation centers nationwide and the loss of an estimated 14,000 blood donations. Not only is the blood ban homophobia at its finest, it's also costing real lives.

When it comes to whom will garner our ire for a blood drive, I will always blame the federal government, not Game of Thrones. Knowing that the government considers my blood a threat rather than a potential life saver is a sobering reminder of what it means to be queer. The federal government refused to commit to action on the AIDS epidemic for years -- and now we and those in need are punished for it.

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