Last year, a Vancouver trans woman was turned away from giving blood at a Canadian Blood Services (CBS) location.
A year later, CBS has introduced a new policy, whereby transgendered people may donate blood, but it is still discriminatory, and may cause some trans Canadians unnecessary duress.
I was speaking recently with one of my trans brothers in Victoria who had visited a local CBS donation office and when he identified himself as trans, the nurse informed him that he would still need to be screened as a female. This despite he has been on testosterone for a number of months and has legally changed his name and gender on his birth certificate.
Coincidentally, I too was scheduled to give blood a few days later, and decided to ask the nurse what was up. She went over the new protocol, a three-page policy document she said had been sent to donor sites across the county a few weeks prior to my visit.
The edict, titled Credit Criteria, Procedure Number: CS01200v begins by categorizing transgender and transsexual donors separately. Transgender donors are described as, “identifying as opposite of birth gender, have not had gender reassignment surgery, and present documents that may reflect opposite gender.” Transsexual donors are those who have had “gender reassignment surgery (GRS)—genitalia consistent with gender they identify with.” They also must present documents that reflect gender reassignment.
So, if a person presents as trans male and has the proper I-D showing legal name change and male gender marker, but has not had GRS, that person is still processed by CBS as their birth gender, female. In the case of my trans brother, he was asked questions pertaining to being female, for example, “are you, or could you be pregnant.”
When I attended the CBS donor site a few days later, the attending nurse remembered interviewing my friend and agreed that the questions she asked were inappropriate, but she was merely following CBS protocol. I indicated that this line of questioning is traumatic in most cases, and she agreed. She informed me that the CBS staff in Victoria have difficulty with the protocol and find it both confusing and awkward. She mumbled something about trans women need to be asked (as birth gender males) whether they are sleeping with men to screen for the possibility of AIDS. I explained to her that not all trans females sleep with men, and that a large number were straight males and married to women prior to transitioning. She looked at me, eyes glazed over. She seemed overwhelmed with all that I was telling her.
The policy goes on to explain that once a trans person has had “gender reassignment surgery—genitalia consistent with gender they identify with and have documents changed to reflect gender reassignment,” that client can then donate blood as the gender they currently present as.
Well hallelujah, isn’t that grand! It’s not until you tell the CBS nurse, or staff what you have in your pants, and can prove it with a letter from a surgeon, you can do your good deed by giving something as precious as your own blood.
You can’t tell me that cis-gendered people who come through the doors of a CBS donation site are asked what they have in their pants. I doubt this very much.
And, my question is, would they make a trans person take down his/her pants to prove what type of genitalia they have?
This current screening policy is disgusting and discriminatory.