Post submitted by Ryan James Yezak, founder of National Gay Blood Drive
Despite a constant need for blood, and the essential role donors play in replenishing the supply, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
My personal journey with this ban began three years ago. There had been a natural disaster in the Midwest and my boss at the time asked me if I wanted to go donate blood with her. Without hesitation, I said yes.
I got up to grab my stuff when all of a sudden I had this vague memory of donating blood in high school – there had been this one particular question that more or less asked if I was gay. A quick Google search confirmed my memory. A gay blood ban, also known as the MSM deferral, bans any man who has had sex with another man since 1977, from giving blood— for life.
I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t feel real. I had to tell my boss that while I was healthy as could be, I could not donate due to the fact that I was gay. I had to explain the situation to everyone in my department. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was being treated differently solely on the basis of my sexual orientation - it felt alienating, it felt wrong, but above all - it felt unnecessary. I was not okay with it and so I set off to make a documentary about it.
I spent the next two years trying to figure out why this ban was still in place. I could not find a sound answer. The FDA refused my request for an interview. I called, I emailed, and as a last, unsuccessful, attempt I even went to Washington, D.C. to try to talk to them in person - but was turned away by their security.
I was ready to accept defeat and throw in the towel. Then I thought to myself: if they won’t let us be a part of this life-saving process, then we’ll organize a blood drive of our own. It was at that moment that the National Gay Blood Drive was born.
Last year, we organized the blood drive for the very first time and had hundreds of people participate throughout the country. Gay and bisexual men got tested to show their eligibility to donate and were then permanently deferred. We wanted to show the FDA that our community has something to contribute to the nation’s blood supply, so, afterwards, I delivered all of the negative test results to the FDA. I ended up receiving a generic response from Health and Human Services linking me to the MSM section of the FDA’s website - the same information I had been sent many times before.
What surprised me most about last year’s drive was the nearly equivalent amount of support and participation from our allies - people I didn’t even think this ban impacted. But the truth is that this ban affects everyone. 41,000 blood donations are needed every day. Someone needs a blood donation every two seconds in the U.S., and you never know when that someone is going to be you. People who need blood don’t care whether it’s straight blood or gay blood - blood is blood. They want safe blood and that is something that our community has to offer them.
I have organized the National Gay Blood Drive again this year, this time in a way that more people can get involved with, including eligible ally donors. On July 11, gay and bisexual men will come out in 61 cities around the country to show their willingness to contribute to the nation’s blood supply by bringing eligible allies to donate in their place. We will be raising awareness, we will be helping save lives, and we hope to see you there.
In addition to the drive, we have launched a White House petition calling on the FDA to end its ban against gay and bisexual male blood donors. If we can get 100,000 signatures by July 30, President Obama’s administration will issue a response to the ban. This has yet to happen, and signing the petition is another action that you can take at this time.
Civilities Chat: PFLAG’s Jody Huckaby on coming out for young people today -
SP: What’s the biggest trend you’re seeing when we’re talking about coming out?
The biggest trend that PFLAG is seeing though through our 350+ chapters across the country is more parents coming to PFLAG because their young child is trans, or is displaying or exhibiting behaviors that are considered gender non-conforming.
In fact, this is largest growth factor across our entire chapter network from our very urban areas like NYC, DC, LA and our more rural communities like Ames, and Omaha and Tampa.
And more adult people who are transgender are finding PFLAG as a place to build community and to build family.
SP: How is coming out different for a trans person than a gay or lesbian one?
Coming out as trans might feel like it was for us 25+ years ago. Very foreign and very scary, with few reference points as role models.
I even hear this within the LGBQ community that they have few if any personal contact with people who are trans.
I was just at the White House recently and saw Laverne Cox, who is a great role model for many people who are trans. Every time I see her, I thank her for putting herself out there as a role model for younger people.
SP: Speaking of people being younger to come out, what’s your advice on whether they should use social media services like Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Coming out through social media undoubtedly feels “safer” to a young person who is finally able to express who s/he really is. But there are so many dangers in doing so that we advise young people to think through the potential consequences of sharing themselves in such a public way.
Social media is a great way to communicate, and we can use it to share very personal aspects of our lives. I have lots of nieces and nephews and I live far from them but I get to read about and see photos of their expanding families. Still, we advise much caution in coming out through social media given the reality of cyber bullying.
Today, people are coming out as LGBTQ at a much younger age. The context for their coming is very different, thanks to the many good changes that have been occurring.
However, the sad reality is that for every positive story we hear through PFLAG of a child’s coming to their family, we also hear the stories of rejection, the stories of bullying at school.
Young people are still running away from home, or worse, kicked out of their homes by their families, because they are trying to live honestly and authentically as LGBTQ.
So yes, it’s definitely easier than it was for you and for me, but there is still so much more work to be done to truly create a world where young people can be all that they are, and be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are.
(Source: Washington Post)
Trans* + Partners Survey -
This is your chance to actively shape the direction queer research is going. I am an undergraduate psychology student working on a summer grant project and I see this research as having a positive impact on trans(*) communities in terms of creating a better place for queer research in academia. The survey should take around 20-30 minutes and your opinions are crucial!
If you are over 18, involved in a relationship, identify as transgender or have a partner who does, click through to access the survey.
Please only take survey once to preserve integrity of results.
Questions? Email Sarah Bussen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Over 18? Trans? In a relationship? Or cis but dating someone who is trans? Take this survey!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -
Maybe vocalizing what you feel is difficult, and it’s easier to write or type it out. Or maybe you are Dear or Hard of Hearing, and phone hotlines are not accessible to you. Whatever the case may be, here is a link to an online Lifeline Chat. There is always help and support.
We are so glad you are all here. Please stay here with us.
Please use them if you need to, SHWM. There is no shame in asking for help.
Please stay here with us.
Judge strikes down Kentucky's gay marriage ban - Associated Press - POLITICO.com -
Happy Pride 2014!
lovemyself09 said: So about 3 months ago i came out to my parents and they were really disappointed. They took me to a psychologist and honestly i was getting tired of them pointing at me and sayibg many homophobic things that i just told them that i wasn't really gay (lesbian) that all i wanted was their attention. I know i'm gay. i've always been and i'll always be. i came out to a friend who is also gay. But i just want my parents to accept me the way i am, i'm living a lie. i wanna be who i am. help!
That isn’t uncommon. I be a lot of people reading this are saying “I did the SAME thing!” Your parents think there is a way to make you straight- perhaps shaming you, or denying it, or dragging you to close-minded, homophobic counselors.
Do you have a long time before you’ll be independent from them? You may want to wait until you’re out of their house to come out again. Or, have a heart-to-heart and explain that you tried to not be gay in order to make them happy but it just doesn’t work like that. Explain that they can “not allow” you to be gay but you simply ARE and it isn’t going to change. They could keep you from being happy until you are away from home (and come to terms with parental rejection), or they could accept and celebrate you as the real person you are.
As usual, I recommend PFLAG.org for support material for them and for you. You can download pamphlets on different queer-related topics. Ideally, you could get them to a PFLAG meeting but until the, print some of their things and see if they will read them
Obama to Expand Safeguards for Transgender Workers - ABC News -
If this action is redundant- so be it. We should state it clearly- leaving no doubt or room for argument- Discrimination against transgender people will not be tolerated in this country. It is past time to give this respect and protection to ALL people.
The text in full:
The White House is preparing an executive order offering transgender federal workers formal protection from discrimination at work, President Barack Obama announced Monday.
At least two other measures already prevent the federal government from firing people for being transgender, so Obama’s announcement is largely symbolic. Still, advocates hailed the move as a powerful act of recognition for transgender Americans by the first American president to even utter the word “transgender” in a speech.
"The majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies to protect their employees because it’s the right thing to do and because many say it helps to retain and attract the best talent. And I agree. So if Congress won’t act, I will," Obama told a supportive crowd in the East Room of the White House during a reception marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
Obama in 2009 signed a presidential memorandum saying the federal government shouldn’t discriminate against workers for reasons unrelated to their job performance. While it didn’t refer to transgender people specifically, the memo was perceived as offering blanket protection to workers whose gender identity doesn’t correspond with their gender at birth.
And in a major ruling last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal law enforcement agency, said that the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bars discrimination based on gender also applies to gender identity.
The White House declined to provide any details about the executive order that Obama has directed his staff to prepare for his signature. But LGBT rights groups said the order will likely mirror one that President Bill Clinton signed in 1998 that barred the federal government from firing workers for being gay and lesbian. Activists said they expected Obama’s executive order would include language specifically referring to gender identity, enshrining those protections in a more formal manner.
The move comes just weeks after Obama announced plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against millions of employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Obama had resisted signing that order in hopes Congress would pass a broader non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers, but changed course amid signs that lawmakers will not take it up in an election year.
In the White House reception, Obama thanked activists for supporting and guiding his administration on same-sex issues and equality policies. He cited influential figures in his own life, including an old college professor, who he said helped shape how he thinks about many of these issues. He also repeated his call for Congress to act to ban discrimination for all workers based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
"We’ve got a lot to be proud of, but obviously we can’t grow complacent," Obama said. "We’ve got to defend the progress that we’ve made."
Anonymous said: I told my mother about a year ago that I was gay and she still does not accept it. I told her about my girlfriend and she told me to get rid of her so I cannot have any communication with my girlfriend anymore. I can't see nor talk to her and she's the one I truly love. What do I do.
"Get rid of her"? How very harsh! See some of my other answers on this subject. Parents plan out their kids’ lives and that includes them being straight-cis people. Get her support: PFLAG, keep the lines of communication open, don’t sneak around because getting caught could be pretty awful. Family counseling would probably be useful. Your mom needs to realize that she can’t make you straight by keeping you away from your girlfriend. You may want to mention that you are a lesbian now and will be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. So keeping you away from your gf will just make you miserable between now and when you find your NEXT gf. She can wait till you graduate from HS and leave home, but it won’t make you straight. She should know that it COULD, however, make you depressed, drop out of school, engage in high-risk behavior, and generally feel abandoned by the woman you need most in your life (her). Ask her, given your sexual orientation, what she expects from you.