Photo by Maddie McEwen/OutWrite
On May 11, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially struck down its ban on blood donations from queer men. This news comes less than four months after the FDA initially proposed these changes in January for a 60-day public comment period.
The donation restrictions on gay and bisexual men originate from the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Due to the lasting fear that men who have sex with men (MSM) may pose medical hazards to blood donation recipients, restrictions have endured into the 21st century. It was only in 2015 that the FDA removed a lifetime ban on MSM donating and switched to a one year waiting period after the last occurrence of male-male sexual relations. In April of 2020, the FDA-mandated deferral period went down to just three months due to high demand for blood donations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the new 2023 FDA announcement, donation eligibility for men will no longer be dependent on sexual orientation. Rather, all individuals, regardless of identity, will receive the exact same eligibility questionnaire with a set of “individual risk-based questions.” The questions focus on new or multiple sexual partners and occurrences of anal sex within a particular time frame. While promiscuity stereotypes and the association of anal sex as solely homosexual had historically led these questions to be discriminatory, scientists are now recognizing the universality of these concerns.
The LGBTQ+ community has long endured maltreatment from institutions like the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While there is still a long way to go in combating stereotypes that paint queer men as contaminated and promiscuous, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Human Rights Campaign see this change in FDA instruction as a huge step towards progress. The lift of this ban can hopefully herald in a more optimistic era for the future of our rights in the medical field and a slow and steady atonement for the discriminatory past.
Author: Julianne Lempert (She/Her)
Artist: Maddie McEwen (She/They)
Copy Editors: Maya Parra (She/Her), Bella (She/They)