Positive change required
As a guy who likes sucking cock, I found it not only offensive but pretty difficult to answer the National Blood Service’s question: “Are you a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom)?”
For me, mostly it’s the kind of cock that one isn’t born with. Secondly, I know I’m not the kind of man ‘that counts’ to them anyway. Thirdly, I do always use a condom and I really think that should count for something. (A dear friend of mine got herpes as a teenager and that shit lasts forever. No thanks. Really, it’s worth it). Also, women can have cocks too you know.
The NHS, supported by leading AIDS charity Terrance Higgins Trust, says that men who have sex with men (MSM) present a high statistical risk of having HIV and this therefore justifies the lifelong ban on MSM donating blood. They claim that this is not discrimination: “The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour (such as anal and oral sex between men), rather than the sexuality of the person wishing to donate. There is, therefore, no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man nor of women who have sex with women.”
So their justification of why gay men are excluded is not because we’re gay but because we have sex? Nice one.
The truth is: anal sex is a high-risk activity for transmitting HIV, and unprotected oral sex is high-risk for other STIs, such as syphilis or herpes. But it is also true that not all gay men have anal sex, and lots of heterosexual people do. While it may be the case that more men who have sex with men are at risk of contracting HIV, it is not because they have sex with men, but because they have unsafe (or less safe) sex.
So, a question that (actually) doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexuality, but on risky sexual behaviours, would be: do you practice anal sex or unprotected oral sex (regardless of the sex or gender of those involved)?
In their lengthy justification for supporting the ban, THT state: “The Blood Service policy does not imply, nor is it based on the assumption, that all gay men are promiscuous.”
And continues: “not all assumptions are wrong… It is unfortunate that generalisations have to be made and that people have to be categorised and grouped, but we accept that in this instance it was not done in a judgemental or discriminatory fashion.” ah–hem.
By assigning people to social categories, rather than dealing with them as individuals, the THT and NBS reinforce negative stereotypes of gay men as promiscuous, dishonest and ‘unclean’. This is institutionalised homophobia, regardless of their claims that it’s not.
To sign a petition to lift the blanket ban on MSM donating blood, go to www.bloodban.co.uk.
For the full explanations given by the NHS and THT, go to: