According to the Blood Centers of the Pacific (BPC), I was considered to be female for the purposes of their screening process after my legal gender change was granted by the Superior Court of California in January 2013. So, when they asked the question, “Males: have you had sex with another male even once between 1977 and now,” I was permitted to select the answer, “I am female.” The American Red Cross (ARC), however, does not recognize my legal gender change in any way at all. So, I was forcibly declared to be male due to the circumstances of my birth and was coerced in to answering the aforementioned question, “Yes.” I was then asked follow-up questions regarding frequency of this sex and if the sex was non-consensual. It was because of my “Yes” to being sexually assaulted that I am now indefinitely deferred from giving blood.
I asked the person screening me, “I was female it would be okay?”
She replied, “Yes.”
So: women designated female at birth (DFAB) can have all the sex they want with people designated male at birth (DMAB), can even have chlamydia or herpes (the only STIs they ask about are syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS), and still give blood.
I haven’t had sex with anybody designated male at birth since summer 2013. In September 2014, I had a full STI screening, including a HIV test, and all results came back negative. This, apparently, is irrelevant as far as the ARC is concerned. The last time I tried to give blood at the BPC while male, my only partner was a DFAB woman. So, I had always thought that if I had ever answered, “Yes,” to the sex with men question I would have to submit proof that I was STI-free. That, apparently, is not the case. I was never even asked for this evidence, which I would freely submit if requested.
This is appalling. STI status means less than sexual history. And, since they only ask about three very specific STIs, a woman can safely donate even if she has ever had any other STI. Those of use who are DMAB are not permitted to call this sexist because men hold the apparent majority of political and economic power in this country. Sexism seems to be defined by the application of systemic and institutional discrimination. Yet, this seems to be a clear example of systemic and institutional sex-based discrimination based on one’s sexual history and the circumstances of one’s birth, rather than on one’s health history. How does that not fit the description of sexism? It certainly fits the description of homophobia and transphobia.
And in this case, I do use homophobia instead of heterosexism and transphobia instead of cissexism. I do this because there is no logical reason to prevent people like me, like us, from donating blood without at least verifying if we are carrying any STIs. To all outward appearances, it appears to be based on fear.
There is a hymn we sing at Grace North Church: Give What You Got. In that hymn, we are assured that even if we don’t have money to give, we have other things to offer. This is why I was a blood donor. I can’t donate money. I’m unemployed and creditors and collection agencies are calling me. So, I would give blood. But now, even that is something I cannot do, because of reactionary policies. What do I have to give at this point?
In the Name of the Adversary, I can give my rage. I pledge to bring adversity to this reactionary policy, to do what I can to help overturn this so that those are healthy can indeed help. We’re told blood is needed. Mine carries no infections and still I’m deemed unworthy. With Lucifer as my witness, I will not tolerate this.
To those DMAB persons who have come before me, as well as all my DMAB contemporaries, who should be able to give blood but are denied the opportunity without even being given the chance to prove our statuses, I pledge you my support and offer my most humble and sincere apology for coming so late to this struggle.