Wrong on so many levels

Sometimes a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. Other times, the broken clock is so thoroughly fucked that it manages to so completely tell the wrong time that space distorts around it.

This article is even more thoroughly and completely broken than the metaphor above.

The story is short: a man went to donate blood. He was turned away from the blood donation centre because the staff thought he looked gay. There is much to be angry about here.

It is wrong that the blood donation centre failed to even bother screening a potential donor, following good practice. Every time I have ever given blood I have been given a questionnaire which asks about prior sexual behaviour. I am sure that practice is not that far removed on the other side of the pond. If it is not, that is something which must be changed. That is because it is also wrong to believe that one can gauge a person’s sexual orientation from their “appearance and behaviour” as the staff in question did in this incident. There are no magical markers of homosexuality. A heterosexual man may moisturise. A gay woman may wear frivolous shoes. To say there are visible indicators of sexual orientation is to fall into an unpleasant well of stereotypes. In this case, the man was turned away for being “noticeably effeminate. It would seem that only gay men are allowed to display any kind of feminine traits. This is grubbily unfair to all men.

Ugly generalisations of groups aside, another incredibly fucked up thing about this situation is that men who have sex with men are barred from blood donation. This blanket ban is highly discriminatory: the ban currently applies even to men who are in monogamous gay relationships or those who practice safe sex. It is a product of crude Bayesian statistics, and could easily be rectified by fine-tuning the screening procedure. Furthermore, in the UK, more heterosexuals than gay people have HIV. The move in the UK to lift the ban for men who had sex with men more than a decade ago is not good enough. Completely banning a group of the population from giving blood is wrong.

The wrong does not stop here, though. I wish it did.

The title of the article gives a clue as to what another layer of wrong is: “STRAIGHT MAN TURNED AWAY FROM BLOOD DONATION CENTER BECAUSE HE “LOOKED GAY”.

The actual sexual orientation of the man is thoroughly irrelevant to the story; to reference it shows a nasty pile of distasteful attitudes towards gay people. It makes it seem as though it is worse that a man is labelled as a homosexual than it is that a clinic is failing to follow good practice, falling prey to stereotyping and is a cog in a wheel of systemic oppression. It is sad that a man being mistaken for gay is what makes news, rather than the millions of men who are actually gay facing this sort of bullshit every single day of the year. Unfortunately, that is how society is.

It doesn’t help that the man who was turned away is a bit of a weeping syphilitic chode himself (as are the writers of the article and those who thought it fit to publish). Not only is he so mortally offended by being mistaken for gay that he told his story to a magazine, he also displays prejudice against another group of human beings:

Pace told the Sun-Times he felt “humiliated and embarrassed.” “It’s not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can’t,” he said. “And I’m not even a homosexual.”

Those dirty homeless people, with their AIDS and their promiscuity! They’re worse than the gays! Did I mention I’m totally not gay, because that would be thoroughly icky!

The article tells the story of a cornucopia of wrongs in our society, and its write up reinforces prejudice. I would be impressed at how wrong it manages to be in less than 200 words were I not so thoroughly disappointed that this shit is still roaring on in 2011. Isn’t it supposed to be the future now?


One response to “Wrong on so many levels

  • Richard Brennan

    “Ugly generalisations of groups aside, another incredibly fucked up thing about this situation is that men who have sex with men are barred from blood donation.”

    Seconded. Each time I give blood I have to remind myself I’m doing this for the people who need blood and not the homophobes who set up with policy.

    Also, I think most people needing blood would much, much rather have blood from a man who has had sex with another man than no blood at all.

    Great post.

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