I just gave blood. It was the first time I’ve done it since being out, proud and queer.
It was a big moment for me, because the law only changed last year. A bunch of queer folks who were unable to donate before can now do so.
But it also provided a moment of reflection, about how many more people can - and are - actively donating.
Walking into the room, it was immediately clear everyone had great respect for each other.
I’ve never been nervous of needles or uneasy with the sight of blood. But the first step was my private consultation, which I was worried about.
I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I knew certain questions would be asked. The nurse, however, was fully understanding of my difficulties. We talked about it, and she recognised how important donating blood was to me.
The nurses were so attentive. I felt comfortable. They took all the weight out of the situation with cheery comments.
Being able to donate is such an honour. Knowing that I’m helping someone in need gives me a unique feeling of charitableness and generosity.
While I was sat there, I began to think about how far we have come, in our fight for equality - and about how long it’s taken to get to this stage. The long-running Freedom to Donate campaign was only successful last June.
And we still have so far to go. Many countries are only just following suit, as France’s recent removal of any questions on sexual orientation in the donation process shows.
Statistically, nearly five thousand donations are needed every day to keep up with demand. Now that more queer men can donate, it is important that we do.
There is a growing demand for better-matched blood, and the need to increase the diversity of donors is vital - especially young people and black donors, who have also had discriminatory restrictions removed last year.
The LGBTQIA+ community consistently shows up. We have a long history of supporting others when in need, going back to Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners and beyond. Or, more recently, Lesbians and Gays Support Migrants - their message of ‘Queer Solidarity Smashes Borders’ really hits home with me. It sums up our togetherness.
Now more of the LGBTQIA+ community can donate blood than ever before, let's show up like we always do.
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