By Tony Crombie
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I have taken this quote to heart. Recently I was not discriminated against by an individual or a group, but by an institution vital to the survival of many people that is supposed to be indiscriminate in its practices. Since coming out of the closet, I had never faced any discrimination based solely on my sexual orientation until recently.
Recently, I had the opportunity to donate blood for the American Red Cross. Donating blood is something I have been doing since I was seventeen years old and is something I find immensely gratifying and enjoyable to do. I believe that donating blood is something that every healthy person should do. When I went to donate blood, I had to answer a questionnaire that asked many questions. I answered the questions truthfully to the best of my knowledge and as a result of answering one of the questions, I was indefinitely deferred. Indefinitely deferred means that you can no longer give blood for the rest of your life except to serve your own needs.
When the nurse told me that I could not donate blood ever, I was upset. I developed a feeling in the pit of my stomach and I could not get rid of it. I turned my sadness into anger and was mad for the rest of the day. If anyone has ever been told that for the rest of your life, you can't do something that you like doing, then you know how it is that I felt. It was as if the world came to a stop for one brief moment. I could not bring myself to believe until later that evening, that the American Red Cross was capable of discriminating in the face of such a crises as blood supply shortage.
The question that is asked, "Are you a male who has had sex with another male since 1977?" I answered the question truthfully and as a result, I was informed that I could no longer donate blood.
Here's my problem, if the Red Cross asks you this question and you answer it yes, the result is they will tell you that you can't donate blood. Why? The answer is simple. In the eyes of the Red Cross, a person answering yes to this question poses a greater risk of carrying the HIV/AIDS virus. However, if blood donated from any individual is tested for the HIV/AIDS virus and many other blood related diseases, why should they turn anybody down unless someone admits to carrying the disease? Is this the Red Cross's way of saying that their standard of testing blood is low? Do they test more for certain people, meaning homosexuals, and less for others? If this is the case, then the standards of testing should be the same for everyone, regardless of orientation. I find this act by the Red Cross disdainful and if what I just presented should be true, then serious measures need to be taken to increase the Red Cross's standard of testing blood. After all, they are the number one leading suppliers of blood in the country. This is a form of discrimination that is quietly being swept under the rug because they are the Red Cross and not some street punk with a bat and club.
The American Red Cross, by assuming that homosexuals are more likely to be at risk, has denied them the right to save lives. By answering yes, they are excluding the segment of the population that is more likely to know if they have any blood disease. Homosexuals are educated about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and about the practicing of safe sex. At one time, yes, AIDS was considered by all to be primarily a gay related disease. However now we are in a new era in which anyone can contract the disease. HIV/AIDS is no longer limited to one segment of the population, but is now indiscriminate in the spreading of the disease.
In forty-one states in the United States, it is legal for someone who is gay to receive a letter dismissing you from your job because you are gay. Connecticut is one of nine states where discrimination based on sexual orientation is not allowed. Denying the right to allow someone to donate blood because they have engaged in sex with someone of their own gender is discrimination! Not all homosexuals carry the HIV/AIDS virus. A significant amount of heterosexuals carry the virus as well. I was reading in the New London Day a month ago, that the HIV/AIDS virus was increasing among the age group of 15 to 25. This is statistically not limiting itself to homosexuals. It also means heterosexuals as well. Is the American Red Cross going to deny anyone in the age group of 15 to 25 years old the right to give blood simply because at the present, they are the highest percentage of the population that is contracting the virus. At one time, yes the AIDS virus ran rampant through the gay community, but times change, and with it so do statistics. If the Red Cross is going to continue its practice of discriminating against the gay male community then it's time the American people found out just who it is that is taking their blood.
Saving lives is not something that you can pick and choose. Donating blood is something everyone has the privilege to experience. How can an institution whose sole purpose is to save the lives of others practice in such an unjust manner that it would choose whose blood can be used. This is in effect, playing God with lives because what if my blood is that of a rare type, and someone needed it? What would happen to that individual?