Monday, 27 April 2020

Three mistakes the Australian Red Cross makes about TGD people and one reason it’s still important to donate blood.

Three mistakes the Australian Red Cross makes about TGD people and one reason it’s still important to donate blood.

Recently, the Australian Red Cross published an FAQ on transgender blood donations that you can check out here. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens when organisations deal with the TGD community the information is problematic and/or incorrect.  Firstly, it’s important to say that the Australian Red Cross provides an incredibly important service and that every Australian should (if they can) consider giving blood. The LGBTQI community in Australia, and in particular the Men who Have Sex with Men community (MSM) have had a difficult relation with blood donation. There remains a number of rules in place around blood donation that are relics of the HIV epidemic of the 80s and 90s. You can check out more recent attempts to reform and educate on HIV and blood donation here. Its worth also saying there there are some important restrictions on who can give blood that has to do with the transmission of blood borne viruses. You can try the Red Cross’ online survey to see if you’re eligible, and to get an idea of who can and can’t donate. In short most of these restrictions are important and not about discrimination.

However, the problem is when assumptions are made about the behaviours of certain sections of the Australian community, or as in the case of the Red Cross’ recent misunderstanding about the complexity of identity in the transgender and gender diverse community.

Three mistakes the Australian Red Cross makes about TGD people: 

Perhaps the most obvious mistake the the Australian Red Cross makes is in stating that transgender folk considering donating blood will be unable to do so if they’ve had sex with a male or transgender partner in the last 12 months. The assumption here is that transgender means assigned male at birth (AMAB) and seems to place a restriction—for no good reason— on transgender, non-binary or gender diverse people who are AFAB, and are having sex with someone else who is AFAB. While this might seem like a minor point of confusion it's still hurtful. The great majority of trans and gender diverse people are eligible to give blood and some do. Being miss-categorised based on a stereotype of what being trans and/or gender diverse is widely miss-understood to be sux. 

Secondly, recent legislation changes at the federal level means that the 12 months restriction on blood donation by AMAB trans and gender diverse people and cis MSM is actually 3 months in the case of whole blood transfusion. This one is perhaps a bit more understandable in so far that the recent legislation change occurred a little over a month ago and probably hasn’t filtered through to the Red Cross. Perhaps.

Thirdly, the Australian Red Cross makes this interesting claim in the section, ‘Why Gender Matters;” 

There are important biological differences that affect blood donation. Many of these differences are relevant to your welfare – for example, females have a smaller blood volume than males of the same height and weight, so the amount of blood we can safely collect is smaller.”

It’s possible that this is true, but to date the Gender Centre has been unable to confirm the claim that blood volume is effected by gender. What we have heard from both doctors and nurses working in the area of blood donation and pathology is that gender assigned at birth can be important in particular and/or unusual cases, as in where pregnancy might be involved or a potential donor weighs less than 45kg. However, we have yet to confirm with any doctor or nurse that cis-females have a smaller blood volume than males of the same height and weight and that might in any way be translatable to transmen. But we’ll keep trying to confirm this.

All this aside here’s one really good reason to give Blood if you’re elligible, anyway:

Donating blood saves lives.

Eloise Brook

The Gender Centre has contacted the Australian Red Cross to discuss problems with their ‘I am Transgender. Can I Donate?’ article and they have responded. We’ll keep you updated in future editions of Polare News.