On May 17th, Quebec’s Prime Minister François Legault reminded us that we should “continue to denounce homophobia and transphobia.” Despite this statement, government-funded health institutions continue to have homophobic and transphobic rules. The discriminatory nature of these so-called “safety precautions” has been recently highlighted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the mounting number of cases worldwide, health organizations have been pleading with the public to consider donating blood and plasma.
Montreal resident Adam Capriolo posted an image on his Instagram account which detailed his encounter with Hema-Quebec. In his post, Capriolo stated that he had caught the novel virus in early March but has since made a full recovery. He had submitted to donate his plasma to the organization, but he was immediately disqualified during the interview process when it was revealed that he had “homosexual encounters,” which were not specified by the interviewers, within the last three months. Capriolo’s potential donation may have been able to save lives, yet he was refused solely based on with whom he has sexual interactions.
During the AIDs epidemic, thousands of people perished from the disease. At the time, some were infected through tainted blood products. As stated plain and clear on the Canadian Blood Services’ website, these restrictions have been introduced by the Canadian Red Cross Society in 1977. The donor eligibility criterion of the latter has excluded all men who have had sex with other men. In 1992, Health Canada adopted the same criterion. In 2019, Canadian Blood Services implemented a three-month waiting period for this group in an effort to be more inclusive. Despite this small step towards inclusivity, it remains quite exclusionary, especially in a time of crisis.
These criteria are simply outdated and wrong. It is now proved that HIV and AIDs are not “gay” diseases that only affect a singular community. These diseases can be contracted by practically anyone and can be contracted in many ways other than sexual behaviours. Despite all the evidence, the restrictions continue to target men in same-sex relationships and other members of the LBGTQ+ community. Some members of this population have HIV, though not all of them do. Furthermore, HIV is not exclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, as some members outside of it can very well unknowingly have HIV and risk passing it on. Thus, instead of focusing solely on HIV and AIDS themselves, these health institutions’ focus seems to be on what goes on in the bedroom.
Additionally, the criterion is exclusionary towards those in the transgender community. Is a transgender man who has sexual interactions with another man now excluded as well? Does the same apply to transgender women in heterosexual relationships? These rules are not only homophobic, but also transphobic. In addition, the three-month waiting period excludes men who have long-term partners such as husbands or common-law partners. Heterosexual people do not have to endure the same obstacles to donate blood and do not receive entire Spanish Inquisitions over their sex lives, so why should others?
Throughout the years, many have been swift to call for these rules to change yet little has budged. Capriolo, who was beforementioned, even took it upon himself to make a petition on Change, demanding for these rules to come to an end. With the pandemic raging on, restrictions concerning blood donations have been loosened for the elderly, though the same cannot be said for those who identify as LGBTQ+. It is time that these rules change, pandemic or not.
Here is a link to Capriolo’s petition:
By Angélique Chu