My mother died of Leukemia at the age of 46. I was 22. After she passed, I promised myself I would give blood, but never did–too scared.
That was 11 years ago. Today, I kicked myself in the arse, put my game face on, and went to the local community center where they were holding a blood collect. I entered with much trepidation, but that nervousness quickly vanished as I was greeted by a group of charming senior citizen volunteers who immediately made me feel great about what I was doing for my fellow-man. Because in the end, that’s why I was there…To help save lives.
As was everyone there.
Well, there wasn’t that many “everyone” there. Just me and a couple more people–mostly older men and women. Where was my generation?
First, I had to fill out a very detailed questionnaire. By detailed I mean, highly personal questions followed by more embarrassing ones. Who’d I sleep with in the last 12 months? Have I used intravenous drugs? Have I ever been pregnant and if so, how did that pregnancy end: birth, abortion? Have I been to such and such country in the last 12 months? Have I ever paid for sex? Has anyone ever paid me for it? Have I ever slept with a man who may have slept with another man?
I don’t like answering these questions. It pisses me off.
But, I was willing to answer them because I wanted to fulfill my promise.
Why was I being asked all this?
What does it matter?
If you’re going to test my blood before you pump it into another human being, whom I presume is in dire need of it, and then proceed to test my blood for Hepatitis, HIV–all of the undesirables of the blood–why should it matter if I slept with a queer man or not? I’m here. I’m giving blood. Take it. Do what you want with it. I want you to put every drop of my blood under the microscope…Not my life.
Here are questions, which to me, would be deemed acceptable:
Are you HIV positive? Do you think you may be? Have you been practising safe sex in the last 12 months? Have you been tested for HIV? Do you use intravenous drugs?
If you answer no to all of these questions, you should be able to proceed. Of course, the blood is tested no matter what your answers are–as it should be. No one here is questioning that. At least, no willing blood donor.
Now, hear me out. If I slept with a bisexual man or paid an escort for sex, but practiced safe sex on both occasions, got tested diligently and was given a clean bill of health, what does that make my blood?
It makes it life saving blood.
There are risk groups/factors, I agree, but within those risk groups there are plenty of no risk donors. By rejecting these people on the basis of their sexual partners, and not their actual BLOOD, which if I remember correctly, is what the whole blood collect is about, we are cutting out a HUGE group of willing and healthy donors.
They took my blood today–I was considered low risk. Lucky me. Lucky you. Lucky everybody.
I left the place with a pamphlet and a sore arm. As I stepped out, I turned back and saw the line of old people waiting to give blood–bless them all–but, it occurred to me as I scanned the room for a young face–I didn’t have to ask where my generation was.
I guess my generation isn’t very low risk.
It’s definitely a queerer generation and if Héma-Québec doesn’t adjust to that reality, soon, their 3% donor population will dwindle to nothing.