China lifted a ban on lesbians donating blood this month, but gay men are still strictly banned. Though I am pleased by this achievement, discriminatory regulation still exists.
As a volunteer for Shanghai LBT organization Nvai (translation: woman love), I started an online campaign on 17 May this year advocating that every healthy woman regardless of their sexuality to post their pictures online with the slogan ‘I’m healthy; I donate blood’.
I was disappointed when less than 10 women joined the campaign because of privacy concerns, even though the campaign message was that no healthy person should be banned from donating blood, not just gay people.
What needs to be controlled is the quality of the blood not the donors’ sexuality. Anyone can be infected with HIV if they have unprotected sex, no matter if they are gay, straight, bisexual or transsexual.
The reaction from the Chinese public to the lift of the ban for lesbians has been mixed. Some people have made panicky ignorant statements at the thought of transfusing gay blood, while some media reports criticize the fact that gay men are still discriminated against.
Some doctors are quoted as saying that gay men’s lifestyle is most likely to transmit HIV. However, doctors and legislators are surely aware that being gay does not mean you are HIV positive, but they won’t lift the ban on gay people give blood completely because they are helplessly homophobic.
China banned all gay people from donating blood in 1998. Donors are required to fill an application form asking them if they ever had sex with people of same gender. If they answered yes, they wouldn’t be allowed to donate.
This form seems ridiculous to me, how can hospitals know donors are telling the truth? How many gay donors hide their sexuality? At least a dozen of lesbian friends of mine donated blood before the ban, and I bet thousands of gay men do too.
I never donated blood before the ban was lifted because I felt like the application form was an insult, and I didn’t want to hide my sexuality. People donate blood with good intentions but gay donors are treated like inferior citizens, as if their blood is poisonous.
The slogan of this year’s World Blood Donor Day on 14 June sounded ironic to me. ‘Every blood donor is a hero,’ it said. Thousands of those heroes are actually gay, but many countries around the world officially ban them from giving blood.