Calum McSwiggan

Drawing Blood

In Gay, Love on December 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

Blood Donation

‘Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with his own blood.’

 – Friedrich Nietzsche

We’re not having sex for a year, I said to my boyfriend as I read about the changes to the law preventing gay men from donating blood. It now allowed gay men to donate providing they hadn’t had penetrative sex with another man for a full 365 days. I was clearly joking, there was no way I was going to sacrifice a full year of intimacy with my partner in exchange for the right to donate blood, no matter how passionately I felt about it.

It was the principle of it all, I’d adamantly fought against this law in my own small way since I first discovered the ban. I’d always been told that gay men weren’t allowed to donate blood but always shrugged it off as a rumour that couldn’t possibly be true. So when I was rejected as a donor in my first year of University, my blood began to boil at the mere fact that it wasn’t wanted. My best friend kindly offered to donate on my behalf but it wasn’t enough to satiate this growing desire. I wasn’t prepared to let this quietly slip by, I had to speak out.

I got into heated debates with the National Blood Service; I publicly spat angry spoken word about the injustice; and was nominated an award for an article that challenged the controversial law. And because of all of this, this victory seems somewhat bitter-sweet. It’s a step in the right direction but this new law is just as discriminatory as the last. Sex is one of the most basic vices of human nature and giving somebody the right to donate in exchange for the right to have sex is a bit like giving somebody the right to wear jeans providing they don’t eat. The outcome is simple: nobody’s going to be wearing jeans.

When the law was originally put in place, I agree that it was the right thing to do, the AIDS virus broke out into the gay community and until we learned more about it putting precautions in place was the responsible thing to do. However, a few years down the line when we began to learn more about it, the law should have been repealed and not stayed stagnant for all this time. This new law has been designed to satiate both the homosexuals and the homophobes, but that isn’t what a law should be about. A law should never be about trying to please two opposing parties, it should be about affording everybody equal rights regardless of whether that upsets closed-minded-Bob who just can’t stand it when people wear jeans.

However, it just so happens that as of December 1st, for the first time in my life, I am legally allowed to donate blood. I didn’t realise at the time but when I told my partner that we wouldn’t be having sex for a year, I was speaking fortuitously. We broke up a few weeks later leaving me involuntarily celibate for the months that followed, but amongst all of the emotional baggage that comes along with the end of a relationship, it never really occurred to me that this might be my opportunity to abstain for a year, it just sort of happened.

A strong believer of the three date rule, I fooled around with Americans, Germans and Irishmen, but never staying in one place long enough to go on three dates, I didn’t do anything that would result in resetting my one year ban. And so I’ve wound up here, one year down the line, legally allowed to donate blood. It’s like I’ve suddenly been released from prison on probation, one slip up and it’s right back to square one. Suddenly temptation is overwhelming, I always want what I can’t have, and it would be so easy to pick up the proverbial baseball bat and steal the proverbial Mercedes.

If this law doesn’t take another step forward this could be the only opportunity I ever have to legally donate blood and that isn’t something I should discard just because Claus invites me for a game of swing ball. It would be a waste to throw away this opportunity and so I’m actively abstaining from sex until I have donated that pint of blood I’ve so badly wanted to give.

Donating could be tricky, though, although my sexuality won’t affect my chances to donate blood, my nationality will. Due to the risk of mad cow disease, UK nationals aren’t allowed to donate here in Spain, and so it will be a costly flight back to England to afford myself this luxury.

So why go to all this effort? Why abstain from sex, why spend money, why kick up all this fuss? The answer is simple. I know that when that blood finally leaves my veins that it’s going to be the most incredible high of my life, and knowing that I’ve finally been afforded the right to give life will be better than any sexual encounter could ever be.

  1. In Canada, women who have had sex with a man who has had sex with a man since some time in the early eighties are also ineligible to give blood.

    And that’s showing no sign of changing anytime soon.

    At least things are beginning to change on that side of the pond.

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