Posted by: Kate | July 26, 2008

Concealed (Biological) Weapon

In my head, there are certain things that Good People Do.  Like, floss.  And smile at strangers.  And donate blood.  So every once in a while, I try to do each of the above.  Not all at once, mind you, but perhaps all in the same day.  Even though I’ve had my share of brain-erasing frustration whilst attempting to legally rid myself of bodily fluids in public, I’m willing to do it again.  Because if Good People do it, then perhaps I should, too.

So, today, after a hectic morning at work and an intense meeting that really deserves its own post, I drove the back way home so as to stop by the Legion/VFW/Elks/whatever-old-man-fraternity was hosting a blood drive.  It took some wandering to find the correct door, since my previous deliberate-bleeding efforts were at a different facility, but I got there, got my weird repetitive bubble sheet and my very large number, and found a seat near the soft-rock moaning radio.  I filled in my bubbles, scowling a bit because only a few hours earlier I had been unhappy with the scale and now here they’re asking for my weight again, but I’m just as comfortable lying about my weight as anyone else.  Especially since I am nowhere near the danger zone – in either direction – that might make blood donation an inherently risky activity.

I spent the next half hour or so knitting and pointedly avoiding eye contact with the man sitting to my left, whom Willem and I both know as “the loud guy from the post office.”  He’s a dedicated public servant and I appreciate his enthusiasm, but I get irritated with his need to turn every question into a game-show-host display of exuberance and center-of-attention overacting after 45 seconds of trying to mail a letter.  I’m certain I would have ended up hissing and snarling if I’d allowed myself to show recognition when he sat down.

(See?  This is how you know I’m not really a Good Person.  I’m only sociable with people that don’t irritate me, and otherwise I am fully and intimately in touch with my inner bitch.)

Anyway, my turn came, and I wandered over to begin the interview.  The interview, which, inexplicably, starts with the taking of vital signs and painful pricking of finger and then moves on to the words part.  So I already knew my blood pressure and had a Band-Aid on my finger when we got to the question, “In the past three years, have you been outside the United States or Canada?”  Why, yes, I have.  Twice, in fact.  She smiled politely when I told her I’d been to Paris, and then the smile fell off her face and landed on the floor with an audible plop when I said the word “Jamaica.”

“Oh,” she said, torn between disgust and sympathy.  “Well, um.  Jamaica is actually on our high-malaria list, and so your donation will have to be deferred for one year after you returned.”

Deferred, you see, is Red Cross code for rejected.  So not only did my trip to Jamaica give me a hellacious sunburn and a broken tailbone, but it also rendered me a silent menace to the general public, despite the painful vaccinations and lack of actual malaria exposure while there.

Fair enough; I would prefer that the blood-collection agencies of the world (well, more specifically, the blood-distribution side of things) err on the side of caution, at least in terms of malaria.  It makes me a little bit crazy that gay men can’t donate blood (scroll down to the “HIV/AIDS” section), because it seems like perhaps medicine and diagnosis might have advanced a little farther than that, but that’s not a battle I can fight.

I walked out of there feeling just a little more dangerous and hardcore than when I walked in.  And they let me keep the free t-shirt anyway (maybe they were afraid I had contaminated it?), and I can defer the guilt that I haven’t donated blood in a while until next March.  All in all, not a bad afternoon.



  1. I’ve never donated. I never weighed above 110 most of my adult life and when I finally did, after my first child was born, I was diagnosed with MS. I hear that MS is no longer on the “cannot donate” list, but I haven’t bothered to call and find out for sure.

  2. How very odd!

    I gave blood a few months after my trip to Jamaica. The technician looked up the code for where I stayed and said I should be fine.

    I sure hope I didn’t donate just to have the reject my donation later. That would be a HUGE waste.

  3. I commend you for trying, any attempt to preserve another’s life is good enough whether or not it was “successful.” You are still a good person.

  4. Fussy lot the blood bank . . .but better safe than sorry I s’pose. I must admit that apart from donating my own blood for my op last year I haven’t actually given blood for a while but then I’m A- so it’s not a very popular blood type. Good on you for trying!

  5. (See? This is how you know I’m not really a Good Person. I’m only sociable with people that don’t irritate me, and otherwise I am fully and intimately in touch with my inner bitch.)

    This is So Me… and oh, you make me laugh and laugh. Brain-erasing frustration, indeed!!

  6. I really want to be a good person, althoug it is diffilcult.

  7. Kudos for at least trying.

    The first time I gave blood and they asked me that question – when I said I had been to South America and the Middle East the Red Cross lady about had a heart attack.

  8. Where does it say gay men can’t donate blood?

    I can’t find it on the guidelines page you link to.

  9. @zayzayem – it’s not on that page, oddly. But when you go to donate blood, there are a series of questions, such as if you’ve ever had sex with another man, (or if you’re a woman, if you’ve had sex with a man who’s had sex with another man), if you’ve used illegal intravenous drugs, and if you’ve ever paid someone, or been paid, for sexual acts.

    I do like how the site says “persons who are pregnant” may not donate. Wouldn’t want the men to feel excluded?

    This site includes the sexual behavior exclusions.

  10. Lisa, I responded directly to that commenter, but I suppose I may as well repeat it here… it is on that page, you just have to page down. There’s a section called “HIV/AIDS” and it says that anyone considered to be at risk for HIV infection cannot donate; the second entry on the list of people presumed to be at risk is men who have ever, even once, engaged in sexual activity with another man.

    So I suppose a gay man who has never actually acted according to his sexual orientation would be able to donate, but… well. Whatever. Not my fight to fight, but it is right there on the website. Mostly I feel like it’s more discrimination than safety, but I don’t feel it so strongly as to be willing to try and change it.

  11. Well, it was nice of you to try to give blood. I can relate to being frustrated when you were determined to do something good for someone and then you were sidetracked and unable to follow through.

    As far as being a good person, ummm, I’d like to know what you think of my post entitled I Am Not a Sinner! You can find it, if you wish, at

  12. I’m not agreeing with Red Cross, but technically they aren’t actively discriminating against homosexual guys.

    Just those that have (or have ever had) sex with guys.

    MSM (Men who have sex with men) is an epidemiological demographic that is high risk for a number of bloodborne diseases. It includes *straight* guys who have sex with men too (and those GOP politicians with active feet).

    Personally, I think the CDC could do to think of a better way to redefine this group. But they can produce stats to back up its definition (ie. they are distinct men who have sex with women in a similar fashion).

  13. Well, there’s technical discrimination and there’s de facto discrimination; I know that the Red Cross is well within their legal rights to restrict the demographics of their volunteer donors in any form they want to. They could insist that only blond-haired, blue-eyed people donate, on the basis of certain genetic disorders more commonly found amongst other populations.

    I get it, without liking it. The same can be said for a lot of things about society, I suppose.

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