The recent announcement that the FDA plans to deny gay men the right to be potential anonymous sperm donors is yet another act of institutionalized homophobia. The news dovetails a parallel fight to lift the long-time ban on gay men from donating blood.
The fear? Rates of HIV/AIDS are higher among gay men so it's better to exclude the entire category than to consider rational alternatives.
Why the fear is ignorant and without validation:
1. All donated body parts -- whether blood, sperm, or organs (which is currently the only category to not discriminate) -- are subject to medical testing to ensure that they are, among other things, HIV free.
2. While self-identified gay men do have the highest rate of HIV/AIDS of any other sexual identity demographic in our country, there are plenty of other ways to look at what groups are so-called "high risks" broken out by race, class, geographic region, and socioeconomic class.
3. Excluding "gay men" as a category conflates sexual identity with sexual practice -- two very different ball games. In fact, one might argue the highest risk group might be self-identified straight men who have potentially-unprotected sex with other males on the side and then sleep with woman without informing them of their secret bedroom habits.
4. To eliminate a group like "gay men" which includes potentially millions of people who are healthy and responsible is akin to denying any other class of Americans on the basis of race, class, ethnicity, gender and is purely homophobic in theory and practice.
5. If the FDA is going to start targeting specific groups to ban from helping others, they might start with the actual highest risk groups including IV drug users and prostitutes (not that I have anything these folks, but just that they're more likely to spread HIV/AIDS than a gay accountant who's been with the same partner for 26 years).
Banning all gay men from donating sperm means denying oodles of women and would-be parents a diverse selection of potentially genetically sound babies (not to mention what that signals about removing gay from the gene pool if the belief is held that gay is somehow genetic). Continuing to disallow gay men to donate blood translates to the ongoing shortage of blood for emergencies at our nation's hospitals. Most notably, gay men are not banned from donating vital organs, and shouldn't be for any other body parts that have proven most helpful to saving the lives of others.
The sociopolitical and homophobic implications are more than skin deep.
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