At 30, Evan Low is the youngest, openly gay Asian-American mayor in the United States. His town of Campbell, California was recently approached to host a blood drive for the American Red Cross, but as a gay man, Low himself is unable to donate.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, “men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”
So if you’re a gay man, and unless you’re completely celibate, you’re unable to donate blood, much like Evan Low. He took his dilemma public by posting the letter from the Red Cross and posing the following question on his Facebook page:
As mayor of my city, I can host a blood drive, but I cannot donate myself. I am conflicted. I want to support the Red Cross, but because of the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) discriminatory ban, gay men are prohibited from donating blood. Even though the blood is tested. I want to support the community with blood donations, but I will not tolerate organizations discriminating any group of people. What would you do?
The blood drive is part of the Red Cross’ City Blood Challenge 2013, a competition between Northern California cities to “combat the threat of summer blood shortages and to increase awareness about the constant need for blood.”
One could argue that if there’s this vampiric need for blood, opening up a whole other artery of potential donors would be a good thing. Automatically disqualifying any man who’s ever had sex with another man — and when you think about it like that, who are we fooling? — is not only discriminatory, despite the FDA’s arguments, but also extremely stigmatizing. A scarlet GAY, if you will.
But as a mayor, Low has an obligation to ensure the public good…so what should he do?
UPDATE: Mayor Evan Low provided us with the following quote: “Many public institutions have nondiscrimination policies in place and I urge the FDA to revisit its discriminatory policy. The LGBT community has a tradition of putting the community at large ahead of its own interests– by serving in the armed forces, serving in the Boy Scouts while hiding their identity, and by wishing to donate blood. As an elected official, my commitment and duty is to the greater good of all people.”