Looking Gay, the Blood Ban, and Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Image: Democracy Forum

You’ve probably heard the story of the straight man in Indiana who’s suing because a blood bank turned him away on account of “looking gay.” I don’t know that he’s a good poster child, but this case is a great illustration of how discrimination tosses logic out the window.

Numerous articles and posts have shown that the lifetime ban on men who’ve had sex with men makes no sense from a public health perspective. I’m very familiar with the FDA from my day job, and I’m convinced that it’s inertia pushing the decision to await further research, as other high-risk groups are subject to a one-year ban. This is a policy that’s a legacy of a gay panic, and it’s time for it to go.

I find it funny, in a sad way, that someone would be excluded for acting gay, a criteria that is obviously illogical for assessing HIV risk, under a policy that itself has no foundation in logic. Justifications boil down to “that’s just the way it is, and how it’s always been.”

Appearance and mannerisms often serve as a proxy for anti-gay or anti-trans discrimination because they are a visible marker of what makes the bigot uncomfortable. That’s why it’s crucial for non-discrimination legislation to address not only members of a group but those perceived as belonging to it. You shouldn’t have to claim an identity to be protected–bottom line, it’s wrong to discriminate against someone because of how they look or act. That’s equality 101.

Until a government agency offers a compelling reason to apply the laws differently based on someone’s queer identity, and to use appearance or perception as a judge of that identity, I’ll be opposed to this policy and others like it. There are logical, public safety-based ways to screen blood donors, and it’s time we relied on those alone. The FDA has offered no compelling state interest to justify this type of discrimination.

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on July 22, 2011, in queer and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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