Bleeding in the drain

Couple of weeks ago, I attended a first-aid workshop for critical cases; not your usual first aid workshop of how to do a CPR or how to care for a strained ankle, but the one where you learn how to deal with a gunshot and the aftermath of an explosion. I was surprised to learn that when you are in a critical situation; and you have to save someone else’s life; the first thing you do is actually to stop the bleeding, rather than opening the airway of this person to breath. “Breathing takes a secondary stage after stopping the bleeding,” the trainer told us, “when you lose blood, you’re losing life; and the sooner you can stop the bleeding, the better chances this person has of survival.”

I learned that day a number of techniques to stop the bleeding of a person who is suffering from a gunshot to the limbs, in the torso or in the upper body; then I learned how to clear the airway of this person and make sure they will survive. 

“The body of one person holds up to 7 letters of blood,” the trainer explained, “you might think that’s a lot and that you’d have time to work on the airway first, but empty couple of bottles of water on the floor, and you’d discover that losing all of your blood is a pretty easy thing that might take seconds if not dealt with right away.” 

A month or two ago, Beirut saw a tragedy that shacked the lives of everyone that witnessed it. A car bomb caused a number of deaths. Up to 110 people were injured in that explosion, which took place in the upper-scale Achrafieh area of Beirut. The injured were rushed to four different hospitals around the city. 

That day, and among reports of the casualties and while I’m busy reporting on the story; I couldn’t take my mind off the images I see on all the Lebanese channels of wounded people carried to hospitals, my friend, a nurse in one of the hospitals, sent me hysterical messages on Whatsapp, telling me stories of children injured, people arriving to the hospital gasping their last breathes and of families crying for help. On Facebook, calls to donate blood started taking place from all the Lebanese pages I follow, and all my friends started announcing their participation in a movement to donate as much blood as possible to the people in need. 

My boyfriend and I dropped everything and head out to a hospital nearby, we stood there in line of people donating blood while I’m still carrying my laptop and working. When our turn came, we walked to a room where they asked us to fill a form before we donate the blood.

Among the questions, I remember, I saw one that asks if I had sex with other men in the past six months; I automatically checked it as a No; for reasons I forgot; my boyfriend, on the other hand, was honest about his history, and checked it as a Yes.

We went home feeling that we did our part.

Today, while browsing the internet, I discover an article written by Donner Sang Computer, a blood donating organization, where I discovered that as gay men, I am not allowed to donate blood, and the blood I donated most probably won’t be used. 

Their justification of the matter was simply that: 

Because monogamy (having only one partner at a time) in this community has been decreasing over the years, mostly in European and American countries, while on the other hand promiscuity (having sexual intercourse with multiple partners over the course of one’s life, being unrestrained in sexual behavior) has been increasing.

One U.S. study reports that “the average homosexual has between 20 and 106 partners per year. The average heterosexual has 8 partners in a lifetime.” – Bell, A. and Weinberg, M. Homosexualities: a Study of Diversity Among Men and Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.

The same study adds that “Of homosexuals questioned in one study reports that43% admit to 500 or more partners in a lifetime28% admit to 1000 or more in a lifetime, and of these people, 79% say that half of those partners are total strangers, and 70% of those sexual contacts are one night stands (or, as one homosexual admits in the film “The Castro”, one minute stands). Also, it is a favorite past-time of many homosexuals to go to “cruisy areas” and have anonymous sex.”

Men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for the presence of and transmission of certain infectious diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.

They have, according to the American Red Cross, an HIV prevalence 60 times higher than the general population, 800 times higher than first time blood donors and 8000 times higher than repeat blood donors.

Now I remember why I did not honestly fill the form they gave me. I had this conversation about the same matter years ago in Egypt, and I remember my friend telling me that if I donated blood while stating that I am a gay person, this blood will be considered unusable; and it will most probably be destroyed.

 

Can you imagine? A litter or two of my blood, the most important part of my body system, will be destroyed instead of used to the good of others! It will go down the drain, or be burned. But it will never see the light of day, or be used to deliver the message I went there to donate it in the first place for.

My response to this article; which basically says that I am an animal, a sex-hungry beast, and not human enough to donate blood was the following: 

This is both outrageous and offensive. I am a homosexual man who checks for his AIDS status at least twice a year, despite the fact that I am in a committed relationship with my partner and that I have never in my life had unprotected sex except with a long term partner after we both check our HIV status together.
I do understand the limitations you have and I do understand why the banks in the hospitals do not accept “gay” blood; regardless of how homophobic these rules are; however, the way you tried to justify for yourself such actions are both offensive and bigot; picturing all homosexual men as animals hungry for sex and going on “one minute stands”! Seriously? Did you seriously think that this is your way of clarifying the topic?!
Your behavior is why I always have to give false information whenever I donate blood (which I do twice a year as well) on the form and deny have sex with other men; because I am doing good for humanity; and I am sure of who I am and what I do and what is my HIV status; while your limitations are killing my act of kindness towards others.
I’m a proud gay man who lives in a committed relationship and thankful for a great health. My best friends are other single men who might have one night stands; but at least they are informed about the STIs and are aware of how they protect themselves. Both of us, the two stereotypes of gay men, are putting a pound of our souls in your hands when we donate blood; hoping that it would go to another person in need; not down the drain!
Shame on you!

Fight discrimination! Fight homophobia! Fight those who claim we cannot be part of the society’s tragedies! Fight those who claim to be angels of mercy, yet when we give them parts of our own bodies for the good of others; they would refuse it. 

Question: I’m planning to donate my body organs when I pass away! Will they take them? Or a gay heart is not a good heart?  

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Pete
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 17:47:15

    Exactly, my dear friend,

    I only once went to donate blood when I was a teen. At the time I truthfully checked NO because I wasn’t yet sexually active, but I had an inkling of what my orientation was and I don’t think that learning that gay blood was “risk” blood made it particularly more easy for me to accept who I was growing up to be – and I don’t think it is helping people with accepting us.

    Modern Western medicine is expected to treat an unthinkably large number of people while being only able to examine very few cases in only so much time. To bridge this paradox it works with probabilities and categories, e.g. high risk groups. As a gay man it is almost impossible to escape one specific high risk group, which is that of the HIV infection. A straight man can whore around bareback in front of my eyes as much as he wants I will still feel more compelled to use protection simply because we belong to those different categories. It’s reinforced in a way by the safer-sex campaigns, which is why I have mixed feelings towards them (though I always use protection).

    Your experience points out how medicine is an underestimated factor in labeling us gays in a way that makes it very hard for us to be thought of as “normal”. I’d go as far as to argue that in my part of the world it is much more meaningful in this respect than religion.

    Thanks for another great post that made my day. Too bad you’re not online, but I guess you have a life to live. take care.

    Reply

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