What Poots Did Next: Homophobia and Blood


Our last (but definitely not least!) contribution for Guest Post Week comes from Helen. Helen is a recent graduate with a MA in History and Gender & Women Studies. heS currently works for a local college in Northern Ireland and blog at @TakeitotheBR and at NursingClio.org. Her academic and blogging interests include gender, human rights and conflict resolution.

What Poots did next? The latest controversy

Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots is currently a factor in a legal battle on blood donations. An unidentified man is attempting to overturn the ban on homosexual men donating blood in NI. This case is another in a long line of Poots showcasing his inability to connect with, and properly represent, many of his constituents. My distaste for Minister Poots is well documented following his appalling record on reproductive choice alongside his homophobic prejudice.

In 2011, the United Kingdom updated the Blood Donation policy to be more inclusive of homosexual men for the first time following the AIDs scare in the 1980s. Those “whose last relevant sexual contract was more than 12 months ago” are now eligible to donate blood in England, Scotland and Wales.  Poots maintains that it is too dangerous to lift the ban against homosexual men giving blood in Northern Ireland. He has also called for further exclusions – those who have had sex “with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes”.

The Government Advisory Committee report which prompted the UK to update their policy indicated that a much shorter window existed than previously thought during which viruses such as HIV could not be detected. The period in which HIV is difficult to detect is usually up to three months. Keeping this in mind a 12 month ban still seems extremely cautious of the supposed danger of a sexually active homosexual man’s blood. While an improvement on what came before, as well as on Northern Ireland’s policy, this continues to feed the stereotype of the “promiscuous gay man.” A heterosexual man does not have to quantify his sexual life can give blood freely, whereas a homosexual man in a monogamous relationship cannot; this exposes the hypocrisy and discrimination of this policy.

For Northern Ireland, not even this 12 month window exists. Any man that has had anal and/or oral sex with another man is currently banned from donating blood in Northern Ireland. The reality is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV. Any ban which exists on homosexual men as a whole is a policy dictated by prejudice, not by scientific fact and medical evidence.

Poots’ comments and refusal to lift the ban perpetuates a culture of homophobia and exclusion from Northern Irish society. Ironic considering the “shared society” rhetoric which politicians (including the DUP) are constantly shovelling down our throats, yet simultaneously acting to promote the very opposite of that.

The Human Rights Commission have rightly pointed out that “Northern Ireland is subject to the obligations contained within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” This includes respect for all individuals without distinction of any kind. For the medical world to put forward 12 months as an extremely cautious safe guard against the HIV virus being transmitted through blood donations, it is therefore discriminatory for the life time ban to continue in Northern Ireland.

The case continues to investigate the legality of Northern Ireland policy.

Marriage and the Homos: I get comments


I woke up this morning to the following comment in my mod queue:

A true cynic will criticize everyone, both the majority and the minority. I oppose homosexuality, and I blame heterosexuals for promoting it implicitly by their own increasingly pleasure-seeking sexual activity.

http://agalltyr.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/gay-marriage-is-bad-for-society-and-so-are-condoms-and-porn/

To have a meaningful life, do not seek pleasure. Instead seek meaning and purpose. Homosexuality, like many forms of heterosexuality, has no real purpose.

While this comment is ridiculous and the blog the commenter links to even more so, I would like to engage with some of the ideas he brings up

Seeking Pleasure and Meaning

Matthew’s accusation towards us queermos (and a lot of you straight people out there!) is that we get into relationships for no good reason other than pleasure.

Guilty as charged.

While my relationship with the Ladyfriend brings many wonderful things into my life, the primary reason that I’m with her? Happiness. She makes me smile the kind of smile that feels like it goes past my face and under my ribs all the way to my frickin’ toes. Everything else stems from that. I work on our relationship, through our differences, to be the best partner I can be because being around her makes me really, really happy.

And y’know what? That’s precisely the same reason that straight people do exactly the same thing. We make each other happy. Happiness and pleasure aren’t different to meaning- they’re part of meaning. Sharing pleasure, joy and fulfilment are a huge part of what makes our lives meaningful. Following the things which bring you most joy is, in my view, one of the best ways to figure out what your life should mean.

No real purpose?

Matthew would have us think that homosexuality is purposeless, as is, I assume, any hetero relationship that doesn’t involve children.

Take a moment. Think about the people you love. Think about the ways they enrich your life. How they encourage you to follow your dreams. How you are inspired to be a better person by their example and presence. How much learning is involved in sharing your life with others. The ways that you help each other through hard times and share your happinesses. All of the innumerable ways in which the people you love make your life a hell of a lot better than it otherwise could ever be.

That’s purpose. That’s what our relationships are for– they’re an end in themselves. The good things about relationships are, well, the good things about relationships. If Matthew has never had a loved one support him through a tough time, or phoned up someone to share good news, or kicked back with a friend to enjoy a hobby, then I feel sorry for him. If he has, though, then he knows full well that relationships are important just as they are.