Thursday, May 30, 2013
If I’m Honest I’m Out
I just read the headline about Evan Low in Campbell, CA who had been asked to help in his part for a blood drive in his city. He posed the dilemma of being an openly gay man who would not be allowed to donate and asked, ‘What would you do?’ in this situation.
This reminded me of my own experience not donating blood at work some years ago. At the time I was not an ‘out’ person and did not feel secure as I had just recently been hired. Though I had, and would have, many openly gay colleagues and would myself come out at work there were still colleagues who ‘tolerated’ but did not accept homosexuality.
In this case I had just started and many people had gone to donate, but one person in particular was enthusiastic about everyone participating. This same person I knew was not accepting and barely tolerant of homosexuals at least during work.
When I said that I would not donate she began an interrogation about my motivation/fears about donation.
For some time I had managed to appease her questions until another colleague joined the conversation. As a heterosexual woman she said she had a problem with the drive and that many people did not donate because there was a ban on men who had sex with other men after 1977. She said it discriminated against gay and bisexual men.
Her intentions were good but this gave the person interrogating me a new question which in an indirect way she asked.
I wanted to answer and I wanted to answer honestly but I felt worried about acceptance. I was about to say something when my second colleague defended my right to not answer.
In some way thinking back at that exact moment I was foolish. There were many colleagues who I subsequently found out were homosexual and I believe you cannot be fired in California for being homosexual.
Now years later I live in a state where you can be fired for being homosexual. Or at least there are no protections against being fired.
Though we have come a long way in terms of recognition and positive identity LGBTQ people can still be legally discriminated against in many states, saying nothing of lawful marriage.
But this is the dilemma. As a gay man do I admit to having sex with men and out myself from donating blood? Do I not donate blood and in effect out myself to my colleagues?
How many men who have sex with men (gay, straight, bisexual) do not honestly answer the question for fear of being discovered?
What are the standards for the question? Is it blood status or something else?
I think it’s institutional homophobia. I think it’s the threat, the potential, of two men having sex. I think it’s about a person’s own fears, their own unresolved emotions and inability to differentiate themselves from someone else by trying to control the world around them.