2015 will go down as the year of ever-expanding equality; around the world, LGBT campaigners and the LGBT community as a whole have won major, groundbreaking victories, all within the first 6 months of the year.
Last month, in June, the US Supreme Court voted to legalise gay marriage across all 50 states. A monumentous occasion if ever there was one. But, this is only the beginning for what has been a struggle, decades in the making.
The main reason I started the #EqualBlood campaign was because I think it’s about time. I think it’s time that the LGBT community stood up and fought a ban that has been in place since the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980’s, a 12-month ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. One that is so antiquated I am, frankly, surprised not many more have created a lasting petition – past a few hundred signatures – before me. The 12-month ban is no longer to be based on research, but is now instead just a purely discriminatory law that deserves to be quashed.
I feel that it is, somehow, part of a subconscious duty that I hold within myself, to act. I have the tools to create such a petition and the willpower – hopefully – to persevere. Surely that is reason enough for me to start a petition, to begin such a campaign, but it’s so much more than that. It’s personal.
All through my life I have been able to give blood and, as soon as I could start donating, I did so every 3 months like clockwork. I have a lifelong phobia of needles – not made better by those big enough to be able to drain my body of blood – but all you need to think about is the bigger idea when you give blood. Those people who need your help, need your red blood cells, need your platelets. Those people will benefit from what you’re doing as a donor.
But that all changed at university. Due to my own personal choices, I found myself unable to give blood due to an archaic rule in the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) guidelines that does not permit the LGBT community to donate blood in the UK. How is this, in 2015, fair?
What got me most worked up was that the fact that a perfectly normal, monogamous homosexual or bisexual man couldn’t donate blood, yet a wholly promiscuous heterosexual man can. This strikes me as a little odd – surely the same questions that are asked of heterosexual donors should be asked of their homosexual counterparts? However discreet, the ban can be construed as discrimination and this is one of the main fires that were lit under me which, ultimately, led me to starting the #equalblood petition to get the 12-month ban dropped.
The science behind the ban just doesn’t hold up anymore – it was introduced in line with the prevalence of AIDS in the 1980’s as a way to safeguard the donor blood supply due to the lack of accurate HIV testing at the time. Then, in 2011, the previous lifetime ban on donations was shortened to 12 months, but this can only be a step in the right direction, not the final goal. Even last year, in 2014, Tory MP Michael Fabricant echoed the idea that the ban is outdated but that it also seriously negatively impacts NHSBT blood stocks in times of crisis when a whole community is prevented from becoming donors.
What do you think? In an age of ever-widening equality and fights for equal rights the world over – see the US Supreme Court decision to Caitlin Jenner’s inspiring struggle – should we not carry on, with the victories carried bravely onto the next challenge, the next fight?
This is for you, John Pattullo – the Chairman of the NHSBT Board. John, you’re the key. You can change the status quo.
Let’s go one step further.
Let’s get it done by Christmas.
To sign the petition, please visit Change