Surviving the World

A Photocomic Education by Dante Shepherd

Lesson #615 - Similarities to Blood Donors

The Red Cross likes my blood. I mean, they REALLY like my blood. Once they realized I was mistyped as a kid and am O-negative, not AB-positive, and once they realized that my blood sinks like lead when they test for iron content, they started calling me endlessly to get me to donate as often as I can. If there wasn't a mandatory safety period in between each donation, I think they'd try to get me to donate every day. It makes me feel like such a blood whore.

Talking about blood donors brings up some interesting, amusing, and disappointing stats and information. First of all, only a third of blood donors who give once will ever give again. If you're ever hurting in terms of income, but still want to make a charitable donation of some kind, blood donating is a pretty good solution.

Secondly, if they REALLY like your blood, you might get asked to donate double red cells, where they take your blood, run it through a centrifuge to separate out the plasma, and then actually inject your plasma BACK INTO YOUR VEIN. And because the plasma has been sitting out at room temperature while in the centrifuge, you actually get a mild freezing sensation in your arm while you're focusing on the tubes, ready to grab and squeeze if it looks like an air bubble can get anywhere near your arm. The science and details of this type of blood donation is amazing enough that it kind of makes donating doubly worth it.

Finally, and most importantly, you may not know that the FDA currently has a ban preventing gay males from donating blood if they have ever had sex with another male. Ever. All it takes is once, and your blood is apparently polluted permanently. I mention this not only because it's ridiculous and disappointing and stupid, but also because too often the Red Cross gets blamed for the ban when the FDA is actually at fault. (I was kind of angrily making some comments about it on Twitter on Friday, only to have someone from the Red Cross point out that I'd been mistaken all this time. That's fine, but if they were more vocal about their opposition to the ban, the misperception wouldn't be so common.)

I know there's a great deal of disagreement about homosexuality in our culture, but overturning a ban on blood donations is incredibly different than changing marriage laws. There are so few people donating blood today, and we're preventing an entire group from being able to contribute when the world really needs more blood donations. Recently a group of U.S. senators have begun addressing the possibility of overturning the ban, which is certainly a step in the right direction. But it's another sign of discrimination in our society that, frankly, is honestly hurting society in ways that few people can argue with.

So let's make sure everyone is properly informed about the issues, alright? The world needs blood donations - perhaps it would be possible to build on other gay rights by pushing for ones that would be extremely difficult to form a religious argument against. I don't know . . . but it's certainly something to think about.