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Out For Blood

Egale shines a light on the discriminatory blood screening process in a bold (and slightly sassy) campaign…
 
By Lauren Jerome
 
Deep into Pride season, Egale’s most recent initiative is in full swing, and you’ve likely recognized some faces – Canadian celebrities, artists and social influencers – who are getting behind the cause. If you haven’t seen the swarms of “Be My Surrogate” and “I Am a Surrogate” messages plastered all over your social channels, here is the lowdown.
 
Hot on the heels of World Blood Donation Day, Egale – an organization that works to improve the lives of those in the LGBTQI2S community – launched Blood Surrogates, a campaign that challenges the sweeping restrictions on men who have sex with men (MSM) to become blood donors unless they remain celibate for 365 days.
 
One. Whole. Year.
 
It’s a stigmatizing and outdated policy. And though the five-year abstinence period (originally a lifetime ban set in the ’80s) was reduced to one year in 2016, it’s simply not enough. The reality is we’re living in a new era—one where detection of HIV and other blood-borne illnesses, such as hepatitis B and C, is wildly more effective. (The window between infection and detection has been reduced to between nine and 11 days). Even the waiting period for giving a blood donation after getting a tattoo was recently reduced to three months.
 
Yet, MSM need to wait one whole year.
 
And that’s regardless of behaviour: even someone who is trans, gay or bisexual, who is regularly tested and has been monogamous with a male partner for years would still be denied.
 
“It’s important to create awareness around the discriminatory nature of this policy,” says Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale. “The policy itself targets MSM and trans folks, and is based on a discriminatory stereotype about risky or reckless sexual behaviour.”
 
Part of the beauty of the initiative is its simplicity: go to BloodSurrogates.ca, select whether you’re in need of a surrogate or looking to sign up as one, follow a couple of steps and, boom, you’ve generated a totally shareable social post that will rally others to get involved. You can also check out progress, creep the Blood Surrogates Instagram feed and learn more about the issue on the site.
 
So, if you haven’t already, watch out for Blood Surrogates on your social channels (and maybe even some upcoming Pride events across the country). You’ll see their killer swag, which shamelessly flaunts stereotypes with colourful bandages, glitter blood bags and a whole cast of animated characters—transgender, queer, bisexual, and the campaign’s totally loveable spokesperson, Gary the Gay Blood Cell.
 
Egale’s goal for this campaign is to create awareness on the absurdity of the issue, with the ultimate aim of changing our screening process to one based on behaviour and not on sexual orientation or gender identity. And, hopefully, putting a dent in the blood shortage—one man-loving-man and ally at a time.
 
Follow the campaign on Instagram @bloodsurrogates, find them on their Facebook Blood Surrogates page and tune into Gary’s Twitter feed at @garybloodcell. Find all you need to get involved at BloodSurrogates.ca.
 

 
LAUREN JEROME is a freelance writer based in Toronto and a full-time content editor at Sid Lee.
 

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