Blood Bank Denies Man For ‘Appearing’ Gay

FDABloodBan Most if not all LGBT people have experienced homophobia in their lives. So, too, do straight people.

Just consider Illinois citizen Aaron Pace, an effeminate straight man who was recently rejected from a local blood bank for "appearing" gay.

Via the Chicago Sun-Times:

[Pace's] character and behavior prompted a blood donation center to reject him when he tried to donate blood recently and he’s miffed, to say the least.

“I was humiliated and embarrassed,” said Pace, 22. of Gary. “It’s not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can’t. And I’m not even a homosexual.”

…During the interview screening process, Pace said he was told he could not be a blood donor there because he “appears to be a homosexual.”

The FDA, fearful of HIV infections, banned LGBT people from giving blood in 1983, meaning that anyone who is or appears to be homosexual can legally be discriminated against at blood banks from coast-to-coast.

Lifting the restrictions would flood blood banks with an estimated 219,000 pints of viable and much needed plasma. The FDA, however, continues to drag its feet on lifting the outdated and offensive prohibitions.


  1. Gabe R L says

    This situation is so incredibly stupid, whether one believes he is simply an ‘effeminate heterosexual(!)’ or not.

  2. William says

    Of all things, THIS is the most degrading form of legalized discrimination homosexuals face in the US. That homo blood is somehow not human. It’s worse than our inability to get legally married or adopt in most states, worse than DADT, DOMA, etc. It’s utterly ridiculous — and dangerous. The assumptions it makes about who is “safe” and more so, who is honest about their activities (sex, drugs, partners, whatever) is scary. The high school skanks who screwed the entire FB team during afternoon orgies (I watch Law and Order) can donate blood. The homeless can donate blood. Women who have husbands on the down low can donate blood (ah ha…here in lies the more proof of the fallacy that the situation is protecting the blood pool).

  3. GregV says

    “The FDA, fearful of HIV infections, banned LGBT people from giving blood in 1983, meaning that anyone who is or appears to be homosexual can legally be discriminated against at blood banks from coast-to-coast.”

    Wait a minute; this sentence has me confused. As far as I’ve ever heard, there is no ban on “LGBT people,” or anyone who an employee of the blood bank makes a wild guess might be in one of those categories.
    As far as I knew, the ban was only on MALES (regardless whether they are gay, straight or bi) who answer a written questionaire acknowledging they had sex with a man even once since 1977.
    Am I the one who is confused or is the writeup inaccurate?

    I’m also left wondering what is the other side to this story. How did the employee decide that he “appeared to be homosexual?”
    Did this (straight) guy say something like, “My boyfriend insisted I come down here to donate?” (Even that would not be a reason to turn him away since it wouldn’t mean he’d had sex — and the ban on those who have had only safe sex is not rational in the first place — but I’m left confused as to how someone decided he “appeared homosexual.”

  4. PLAINTOM says

    Does this mean the First Lady won’t be able to donate blood during the Bachmann Administration?

  5. daftpunkydavid says

    gregv is right… the ban is on males who have had sex with at least one male since 1977; so, technically, it’s not a ban on “l.g.b.t. folks”, though it’s pretty close to being equivalent to that, if you’re a sexually active gay or bisexual (or even straight i guess) man.

    now, this is not some instinctive contrarian impulse to play devil’s advocate. or maybe it is, whatever. but i don’t think the situation is black-or-white, as andrew belonsky seems to be implying. i don’t deny that a great deal of homophobia probably played a role in the decision to ban msm’s from giving blood. but to pretend that rates of hiv infection are not higher in msm populations is just plain dishonest.

    one interesting point is that other groups with higher hiv infection rates are not banned for life (like we are !), so clearly, something can be done to address the glaring difference in policies. policies should be based on personal conduct, not some generic “man who has had sex with at least one man since 1977″. that’s just a waste of needed blood.

  6. says

    I’m glad this guy is standing up for himself and us. I know plenty of truly straight men that I call “gay-identified straight men”. They’re completely comfortable with their somewhat effeminate selves and like the ladies.

  7. Itsme says

    There are all kinds of things that will get a person deferred or banned from donating, either for a short time or for longer. Travel to a place that just happens to have more malaria, even if you were never bitten by a mosquito, will get you deferred from donating for a year. Having sex with a hooker, even if she claims to be a virgin, is another one. Having sex with someone who has ever been tested as Pos for Hep C (even if they’ve been successfully treated), will also get you deferred. Accutane and other medications, intravenous drug use, CJD, trading sex for drugs, and lots of other things can get you into an epidemiologically risky category, or can have health affects on a blood recipient. There are even debates about simply deferring all women who have had a child due to the extra antibodies they produce which can cause reactions. Don’t be offended if they are trying to protect the blood supply. They try to weed out higher risk people. Higher risk doesn’t mean dirty or unworthy, just higher risk. And the data supports that it is working, lowering transfusion related diseases by a large amount. Retroviruses like HIV get into the cell’s DNA, and may lay dormant until activated. Nice thing about all that is, if you ever need blood, you’re risk of anything seriously bad from receiving it is low. [signed, a Med Tech]

  8. Randy says

    One group of people that you are forgetting about is, any military person who has served outside of the United States, is also banned from giving blood for life. I served in the Gulf War in !990-91 and was stationed in Germany from 1986 to 1992 and all those who have served outside the U.S are banned for life from giving blood.

  9. unruly says

    It’s funny but all my friends (which all but 1 happen to be straight) have me as the blood donor if they go into surgery. They simply know that I’ve never had any disease/virus that is transmittable and am extra cautious and overly tested. Sadly, I can’t donate to the Red Cross. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  10. GregV says

    @Itsme: The FDA estimates that if they allowed MSM to donate, the incidence of HIV-infected blood would increase by less than one in a million (because of infected men donating during “the window period” when a test would give a false negative.
    They don’t analyze how many lives might be saved by having more than 999,999 liters of safe blood for every one liter of infected blood.
    The question as it is now worded rejectes people for an overly-broad reason.
    Imagine I am a 52-year-old celibate monk, and that the only sexual experience I’ve had in my entire life was letting my healthy college roommate jerk me off once when I was 19 years old. Does it make sense to reject me for an activity that never carried ANY risk?
    Meanwhile, a women who had anal sex without condoms with the whole football team yesterday donates without a problem. (If it was a gay team, she has to wait till next year to donate).
    How about a question like: “Have you had anal sex with a man in the past 25 days?” Would that question not at least narrow the question down to a kind of sex that can be risky, and narrow the time period down from a ridiculous 34 years to the window period (outside of which HIV would show up on their test anyway)?

    To be realistic, there is no way they are going to actually ban all women who have given birth. They will also not ban, for example, all black straight women (who, like gay men, have an elevated risk of HIV as a whole population, but are not necessarily at any risk as individuals).

    Cross-referencing the numbers of white gay/bi men vs. black straight women on national election exit polls with the statistics for HIV rates at the CDC, it would appear that the risk is at least almost identical, if not higher, for black, straight women vs. white MSM.

    Part of the reason they are banning MSM is that we are considered small in number (regardless of the fact that, truth be told, men who qualify as MSM under their criteria make up a HUGE number — maybe even approaching a majority of men). Another reason is that we are easier in this society to scapegoat than many other minority groups are.

  11. Francis says

    So what we have here is:

    1) Making assumptions that a person is gay solely on how they “appear”, based on ignorant stereotypes.

    2) Discriminating against that person because of their perceived sexual orientation.

    3) Gay=AIDS connection.

    Yup, typical homophobic behavior.

  12. Francis says

    I know a girl (not closely, but that’s irrelevant) who worked as a prostitute, then she stopped, and after a year she gave blood, and her past wasn’t an issue. When I knew about that, it infuriated me, and at this point I simply can’t hear any of the justifications for these rules. The rules are fear based, solely. I’ve never had an STD, the majority of gay men don’t have HIV, yet we’re seen as diseased leapers.

  13. jason says

    I have no problem if the Blood Bank has rules but I do have a problem if it accepts one group (heterosexuals) while rejecting another (homosexuals) on the basis of the same type of behavior. There’s a double standard in how the Blood Bank is operating, and it reeks of prejudice. It’s totally unacceptable in my view.

    Aaron Pace’s experience illustrates just how paranoid and illogical the Blood Bank has become.

  14. ProfessorVP says

    There’s a lot of there there when it comes to both the scientific and ethical questions of banning MSM donors when other seemingly dicy groups are given a pass. But that said, you’d have to suspend all reality to take this guy’s word that he’s hetero. No, not every gay man is a make-up wearing, cross-dressing, flamboyant queen. Not even most gay men or a majority of gay men are. But you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know he’s lying.

  15. ProfessorVP says

    Well, even a professor can be hoodwinked. The photo accompanying the article- either a biological woman or a drag queen- is not Aaron Pace. You can see the real Mr. Pace on other websites, for one.
    So, regarding my comment above, as Gilda Radner used to say… nevermind.

  16. A says

    Read the story that the Sun-Times posted for a full account. I wouldn’t call a “plasma center” a blood bank because these are private places that can PAY donors for plasma, which isn’t allowed at blood banks since people would lie during their donation interview to make money. The bigger deal (as many have already mentioned) is that msm (no matter how you identify) are permanently deferred from donating even if you’ve had sex just once since 1977 with another male. This assumes that if you did contract HIV in the one time you had msm that they may not be able to detect it or that they don’t trust you are telling the truth. These questions should deal with sexual history more than anything but this is still how this stands. There are many representatives on the FDA boards that make these decisions so that’s why its so hard to get rid of it. Also, its not plasma that the country is in dire need of (which is what this place BUYS from you and which gets manufactured instead of used as fresh blood products), its red blood cells and platelets as well as plasma, all of which are made from donating whole blood. These are products that get used after being separated from the initial donation. You cannot be paid to donate these products because its another way to prevent people from lying to donate so they can get money and therefore keep the blood supply safer. So all those who are outraged, but aren’t msm and can donate based on the blood donation question, should go DONATE to help support those who can’t!

  17. wimsy says

    Reason #16 why I never give money – or anything else – to the Red Cross, which demanded this ban and got it.

  18. Tone says

    The initial ban in the 1980’s was understandable, a knee-jerk reaction both to the fear and the perceived carriers of HIV. Testing and screening was not as refined then either.

    Now a quarter century later there is no excuse. HIV can be detected as easily as any other pathogen and infected blood can easily be kept out of the supply.

    It is nothing more than homophobia that continues to justify this discrimination.

  19. The Iron Orchard says

    You now how the christian right, and other anti-lgbt organizations say that homosexuals lead a diseased life style, and have a lower life expectency? And here is the government, through the fda, reinforcing that idea.

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  21. SCVMalcolm says

    FACT: The American Red Cross was the leader of this ban originally. About a year ago when the FDA was re-evaluating the ban, the American Red Cross AGAIN motivated that the ban be kept in force.
    I am SO glad that there are other charities that do what the Red Cross does without discriminating against us. They are the ones that I donate to. SO how come gays can donate organs but not blood?

  22. says

    The blood supply today is so highly screened and refined that the chances of HIV pathogens finding their way into the blood bank are ZERO. Yet, the Red Cross continues to foment fear abd hysteria by continuing this archaic, absurd ban on gay males donating blood.

    By their logic, a man who has had sex just once with another man on or after Jan. 1, 1977 cannot donate, but if I’ve had sex with a man at a quarter to midnight on Dec. 31, 1976, (and never again thereafter) I’m OK to give blood?

    I agree with some of the other comments here. I do strongly suspect the ongoing prohibition against gay (or gay-appearing) men donating blood has more to do with institutionalized homophobia than any real risk to our nation’s blood supply.