Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anti-Gay, Or Kinda-Gay, or Sorta-Looks-Gay, Discrimination

A 22-year old Indiana man was prevented from donating blood because officials at the donation center informed him he "appear[ed] to be a homosexual".

Unbelievably, the center's undoubtedly highly attuned gay-dar misfired, as the man is in fact straight. Of course, the blanket ban on gay men donating blood (first put in place in the early 1980s at the height of the HIV-panic) has long since passed into insanity, but a federal committee upheld it as recently as 2010, provoking protests from gay rights organizations as well as the American Red Cross.


PG said...

Do you think the blanket ban on donations from people who lived in the UK during the mad cow scare is also insane?

David Schraub said...

Depends. Obviously, regulations that are not actuarially justifiable are generally bad; the ban on Brits should live or die on that count. But classifications that touch on historically persecuted groups (which gays are, but people who lived in the UK in the relevant time period are not) are more suspicious, for at least two reasons:

(1) They're more likely to be based on prejudiced or biased assumptions rather than strong empirical evidence; and

(2) They can have negative externalities with respect to reinforcing second-class status that doesn't exist with respect to generic regulations.

The ban on gay people giving blood seems to touch on both -- the Red Cross, at least, doesn't seem to think that homosexuality is a useful measuring stick comparing risk to reward, and of course, the blood donation ban is highly symbolic as a signal of second-class status for gay people.

PG said...

I didn't think the Red Cross disputed that, empirically, the rate of HIV/AIDS is drastically higher among homosexual men than among the rest of the population. I mean, gay special-interest publications run advertisements for HIV meds, which I've never seen in, say, Cosmo. The gay male community generally recognizes that it is at a much greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS than the lesbian or straight communities are.