Rekha*, a trans woman, once donated blood to an anaemic infant. It saved the infant’s life.
The parents of the baby wanted to personally thank Rekha for her help. When they met her and found out that she is trans, their behaviour completely changed. They did not even let her see the baby.
Next day, Rekha and her friends found an infant lying in front of their door. It was the same baby Rekha had donated blood to. Rekha also found a note with the baby written by the parents.
The note said that the baby was no longer fit to be part of their family since she had received blood from a transgender. The family worried that the baby will become ‘one of them’ now since a transgender’s blood was running through her body.
Rekha later contacted the hospital to inquire about the baby. The hospital staff confirmed that it was the same baby from the previous day.
Rekha was shocked by this incident. But being a fighter that she is, she decided to adopt and raise the baby.
The pain of abandonement
Somewhere she could relate to the child. Rekha too was abandoned by her parents. After knowing that Rekha was not a boy as they always thought her to be, her parents disowned her.
And when Rekha saw the newborn girl in front of her door that day, all her past bitter memories flashed in front of her. She decided that she wouldn’t let this child suffer like she did.
‘I myself have gone through the pain of being rejected by one’s own family. I think I am connected to her by this bond,’ Rekha said.
Today the girl is six years old and goes to a public school. Rekha and friends are her new family who tries to give her the best possible facilities.
But the incident left a deep impact on Rekha’s life. The little girl was the second person Rekha had donated blood to and the aftermath of the incident scarred Rekha for many years.
‘I was unable to muster the courage for next four years. But eventually, I understood that I could not let the happiness of donating blood be overshadowed by the incident,’ she recalled.
Rekha started speaking openly about the injustice being done to the third gender when it comes to blood donation. She started asking questions and continued donating.
However, the deep-rooted discrimination constantly reminds her of the bigoted behaviour of the society and the government.
Activist Srini Ramaswami said that ban is just one aspect of the bigger problem. “If we flip the coin we realise even when someone from the community is in need of blood people usually don’t come forward,” he said.
The ban is not new. In 2009, homosexuals were banned from donating blood at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi.
Speaking on the ban, social activist Harish Iyer added: ‘Ban is just pigmenting the community. Blood from even the straight people can be at high risk of HIV,’ he said.
‘If there is a loophole in the medical procedure, that needs to be standarised. With a ban, we are encouraging people to lie about their sexual identity thus further increasing the spread of HIV.
‘Rather than treating a disease as a disease, we have somewhere started treating people as a disease. It does not need ban rather a voluntary appeal to the community to keep in concern the medical aspects.’
Cash for blood
The community still faces discrimination at the ground level because there is still no parallel connection between social and the legal acceptance.
An Avert report says that HIV epidemic in India is driven by heterosexual sex, which accounted for 87% of new infections in 2015.
This bias is also stopping authorities to let healthy homosexuals donate blood.
‘We are not just banned from donating blood, sometimes it feels as if they have banned issuing blood to our community as well,’ Rekha said.
‘Whenever someone from our community is in need of blood, either their requests are turned down by the blood banks or they are charged very high prices or no donors turn up.
On asking how people can support the cause and make blood donation easier for the LGBTQ community, Rekha said: ‘It’s not about making things easy. We are not against anything. We just hope that the system makes it easy for our community to get blood issued whenever we are in need of it.’
‘Before expecting people to help us in this cause, we want them to solve the very problem of discriminating against the LGBTQ community. The discrimination is so deep-rooted that there seems to be little hope even for the future.
“As for me and my friends, we never stopped giving back to the society. We still go and donate blood with our identities hidden now of course,” she said.
What we need today from both government and the society is to accept the people of LGBTQ community. The deep-rooted discrimination can only be stopped if the gap is bridged between the community and the people. For things as simple and important as blood, no one should have to face such challenges.
How to make a difference
You can support the cause by spreading the word about the issue and coming in support of the LGBTQ community.
*Rekha is not her real name
This story first appeared on The Stories of Change and has been republished here with permission.