The Piece: Problematic exclusivity at blood drive
Original Publication: The Los Angeles Loyolan
Date of Publication: October 13, 2011
Background: In October 2011, I went to LMU’s biannual blood drive to give something back. (And get the fun colored gauze on my arm, because I’m a sucker for fun colors.) I hadn’t ever given blood before, so I had no idea what restrictions were placed on those who couldn’t give.
Conception: When I arrived at the drive and began filling out the form, I realized that my sexual orientation was an obstacle to me giving blood – any MSM (men who have sex with men) is legally prohibited from giving blood. I walked out of the drive bleary-eyed and confused. Why had I never heard of it before? And more importantly, why the hell did that restriction exist?
So I did my research and found that the law is highly contested in multiple parts of the world. And I wanted to say something publicly about it all. I hadn’t previously written for the Opinion section, but what better time than when you have something big to say?
Execution: Opinion isn’t the easiest thing to write well. It’s much harder than column writing, to be sure – it’s much less about the personality of the writer and much more about the well-developed argument. Having to cite statistics and articles in my narrative flow was disruptive and abnormal, so I took a different tact: I wrote the piece naturally, then went through and inserted all the information in the appropriate spots. That’s a strategy I still use today, from board editorials to other Opinion pieces.
One thing I haven’t mentioned was that at the time I wrote this piece, I was still pretty on the fence about how much I wanted my sexuality to define me as a writer. In fact, when it came time to write my next Opinion piece, about the It Gets Better project and bullying meme that was popular in the media at the moment, I had serious concerns that I was pigeonholing myself. However, it wasn’t ultimately much of a question whether I wanted to put my sexuality into the heart of this piece. It just didn’t work without the personal pain and anger.
Still, there are clear signs of my unease. For example, I never talk about my own sex life in the piece, nor do I ever actually identify myself as MSM or gay in the piece. I speak of my discomfort with the policy, but I don’t directly link it to me not being able to give blood.
Revisiting: If I had to rewrite it today, I wouldn’t be hesitant about drawing those connections. As a homosexual man, this policy horrifies me, and the fact that over one year later it still goes unchallenged is even more frightening. For all the focus on marriage equality and other crucial issues for the gay rights movement, it does floor me that no one is protesting this issue too loudly. It’s a disgusting, antiquated law, and it should be abolished posthaste. I say that not only as a gay man, but as someone who can see common sense. And that’s a point everyone can understand, no matter your gender, sexuality or creed.