Protest Heterosexism With NYU’s Queer Union

NYC may have failed to make the gayest cities in America list, but we’re here at NYU, we’re still chanting, “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it.” Today, the NYU Queer Union and the New York Blood Center will be hosting a combination blood drive and protest against the regulation that bans men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) and women-who-have-sex-with-men-who-have-sex-with-men (WSMSM) from donating blood.

They write,

“This ban is informed by a heterosexist discourse from the HIV/AIDS crisis that designated the queer body as the diseased, the contaminated, the unwanted body. The FDA implemented this ban in 1983,and it continues to this day–despite the fact that most folks view this ban as an anachronism in modern LGBTQ social contexts. Both the New York City Council and Washington, D.C. City Councils have passed resolutions to the FDA to change this policy in 2010, but we’ve yet so see any proactive response from the FDA.”

The protest is to raise awareness about this specific policy and other blanket bans that prevent whole populations from donating blood.


    Share Your Thoughts


  1. Jeremy Cahill says

    You’re babbling. Accusing me of misdirection to conceal your own isn’t going to get you anywhere.

    There’s not much else to say, really. You’re directly contradicting yourself. You want me to prove that the methodology employed in a study is “correct” while simultaneously holding that no such correctness could ever exist. You further contradict yourself by even posting here in the first place, since your knowledge of anything outside of yourself is incomplete and thus, by your own logic, you can’t assert that any of it even exists.

    Google “burden of proof” to learn how these things are supposed to work. The researchers did their job. They estimated the size of the MSM population in the U.S. with a high degree of confidence, satisfying their objective. You can listen to them talk about their methodology and findings here, although it’s more than clear by now that you don’t actually want to do so:

    That’s it. Burden of proof does not extend to “prove math lol but oh u cant see i right.”

    There is no scientific discussion here. It’s clear that you have a vested interest in trying to deny these empirically observable facts pertaining to HIV/AIDS because they come into direct conflict with your socio-political views. That much is evident from the various LGBT-related media and groups plastered all over your Facebook. It’s fine for you to have an ideological support of LGBT rights. But when it comes to scientific truth, your ideology is wholly irrelevant. Packaging your dissent as anything other than simple bias is disingenuous.

    Now please, stop. Emma DeGrand’s post warrants discussion, your posts do not.

  2. Joseph Bishop-Boros says

    Okay I can see that you do not want to post a direct response to what I am asking of you. I am discussing your assertion that 4% of the U.S. population is MSM. I never discussed the figures related to HIV/AIDS statistics. I am trying to encourage you to respond to a very narrow topic. But it is clear now that you are only able to attack the character of your critics and not directly respond. So feel free to continue to hide your heterosexism behind supposedly solid facts. And good luck critiquing Emma’s arguments. You are going to need it. Hopefully some other members of College Republicans can help you in your conservative agenda. Your arrogance amazes me.

  3. Jeremy Cahill says

    You’re giving me the run around and acting as if I’m dodging a question. That is why I’m finding it increasingly difficult to believe that you have anything serious to say. I already posted the audio file from the 2010 National STD Prevention Conference wherein the CDC representative details the findings and the 4% figure. You’re free to listen to them explain that it’s a meta-analysis of previously published surveys. You’re not “asking” me anything.

    The point was never to pinpoint a highly precise MSM estimate, even though the CDC estimate is a very good one. The point was to show that the risk-benefit doesn’t make sense given that there are alternatives for increasing the blood supply. Double the figure and the risk-benefit still doesn’t make sense. Triple the figure and the risk-benefit still doesn’t make sense. Quadruple it if you want, the risk-benefit still won’t make sense. I won’t claim that the CDC estimate is perfect because that’s not my claim and never has been. You’re trying to say that the estimate must either be perfect or totally wrong to the point where it should be disregarded entirely. I have a very hard time picturing someone with normal reasoning capabilities who would really believe that, and as a result am angry at what I perceive to be intentional intellectual dishonesty. If that’s what you actually believe, then my anger is misplaced and you should disregard it.

    Don’t bother with the evil conservative line. You’re going in the complete wrong direction. The “ideology is wholly irrelevant” bit applies to me, too. I didn’t wish a higher risk factor upon gay and bisexual men and I don’t derive pleasure from it. The goal is always 0 people of any designation with HIV/AIDS. 0 won’t happen without serious efforts on all fronts.

    Nobody can be blamed for historical chance. Don’t blame the heteronormative societal model, the FDA, CDC, or whatever or whomever else you may want to blame for the fact that a virus arbitrarily took hold in a certain group of people first and that since then, it’s been harder to control the rate of infection in that group than in others, largely because the prevalence was higher to begin with. There’s nothing fair about it, but it’s reality and however frustrating it may be, the public health focus must always be first and foremost on the present.

  4. Bryan Zubay says

    Saying that there’s ‘no one to blame’ for “historical chance” and a subsequent portrayal of the HIV crisis in this country as an unfortunate coincidence, with not recognition of the complexities, or the homophobia, or the politics of the governmental and societal response to HIV reveals a lot about the writer.

    I can’t offer a better answer than Emma’s, but: The statistics might be “right” or “true” (some of us seem to have a not-so-nuanced understanding of how the science of statistics works) but even if they are, in a democratic society we do not marginalize, punish, or otherwise mistreat members of a group based on the behavior or traits of other members of the group. To paraphrase Barbara Fields, this ban is premised on the grounds that a higher proportion of gay people are HIV+positive and are therefore not entitled to donate blood or, in a more profound sense, are designated as a contaminated population. No matter that the rate of HIV infection among HIV-negative MSM is the same as the rate of infection among HIV-negative heterosexuals, and that punishing one person for another’s conduct negates the basic premises of a law-governed democratic society.

  5. Jeremy Cahill says

    Emma DeGrand – I’m about 3 weeks late, but given a choice, I’d rather post late than not post at all. I’d also rather write a long-winded and tedious response than an incomplete one, so here’s my wall of text:

    Firstly, let me state the obvious: the paper is a report, not a study. This:

    The study uses real serious science to prove that a blanket ban against all men who sleep with men is a less efficient screening method than using questions targeted at the safety level of people’s actual behavior.

    is never done. The report is only that – a report. It reports on analyses previously examined and deemed insufficient by the FDA.

    Secondly, it extrapolates in dubious ways from source material and cites unreliable sources – a Guardian piece entitled “Bloody Bigots” that makes use of openly biased rhetoric and terms like “antichrist” is not an appropriate source for this report. The report also makes claims about the negative effect the MSM ban has on the number of Americans willing to donate blood without citing any sources.

    These problems aren’t trivial ones. The report shouldn’t have been published in its current form.

    Thirdly, this insistence on noting the correlation between HIV/AIDS infection rates and the inclusion of MSM donors in some countries is just all kinds of wrong for so many reasons. It’s the main feature of the “banned blood” page and it factors into the Gay Men’s Health Crisis report as well. False cause fallacies everywhere.

    Now, on to actual ideas. Right away, there’s a false dichotomy being made here. Screening for MSM/WSMSM and screening for unprotected sex are not mutually exclusive procedures. I agree that screening questionnaires should be reformed to focus primarily on unsafe sexual practices. I do not agree that it in any way follows that MSM screening should thus be discontinued. The ideal system would do both.

    If you think about it, the idea of *replacing* MSM screening with another form of screening that disregards whether a man has had sex with another man is inherently flawed.

    Let’s call the procedure that screens for MSM/WSMSM Procedure A, and the group of potential MSM/WSMSM donors this procedure excludes Group A. Within Group A, we have multiple subgroups: Group A-1, the entire population of men who have “unsafe” sex with men, Group A-2, the entire population of women who have “unsafe” sex with men who have sex with men, Group A-3, the entire population of men who have “safe” sex with men, and Group A-4, the entire population of women who have “safe” sex with men who have sex with men.

    Now let’s call the procedure that screens for unsafe sex Procedure B, and the group of potential MSM/WSMSM donors this procedure excludes Group B. We have: Group B-1, the entire population of men who have “unsafe” sex with men and Group B-2, the entire population of women who have “unsafe” sex with men who have sex with men.

    You might think Procedure B is great and the high risk donors have all been screened, but that’s where you’re wrong. Groups A-3 and A-4 from our first procedure are given a pass even though we don’t know that their risk levels are on par with or lower than those of currently accepted donors. In all likelihood, Groups A-3 and A-4 are probably at a fairly high risk of HIV/AIDS.

    This highlights a fallacy central to the anti-blood ban arguments. “Safe” sex doesn’t exist as an absolute. There is no truly “safe” sex, only “safer” sex. When people talk about the “safeness” of sex, they’re just using an expression of risk framed in terms of the likelihood of being ok and not contracting a disease. It’s the same thing, just inverted: “safe” sex is low risk sex, “unsafe” sex is high risk sex.

    This is the problem: to evaluate risk for a given pair or group of sex partners, we need to evaluate behavior. But evaluating behavior isn’t a simple matter of checking to see whether the pair or group used protection. Protection is not absolute, and sex does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. We’re talking about a state of relation between two or more people – at minimum a binary relationship. The actors and the actions are inseparable.

    Think of it this way: assume that you always use protection. You go out and have protected sex with an HIV- individual. A week later, you go out and have protected sex with an HIV+ individual. Which scenario is riskier?

    The answer’s obvious: as long as the form of protection you use isn’t an unequivocal, 100% guarantee of safety, and none are, sex with an HIV+ individual is necessarily riskier than sex with an HIV- individual.

    What’s hard about it, really? The same principle extends beyond the scope of the particular individuals you might have had sex with. Given that one and only one person in a network of sexual partners is HIV+, the shortest path back to that individual will represent the riskiest sexual behavior. And if we treat everyone in the network as potential blood donors, it directly follows that the individual or group of individuals associated with that path represents the highest risk blood donor(s).

    Now let’s try to picture what a map of all sexual contact between humans might look like. Say we represent each human as a node and indicate sexual contact between two humans with a line connecting the two relevant nodes. HIV+ nodes are red, HIV- nodes many connections removed from any HIV+ node are blue, and all other HIV- nodes are colored on a blue-red gradient based on the number of connections between them and the nearest HIV+ node. Bluer means a greater number of connections in between, redder means a smaller number.

    There’s obviously no way to make such a map. But If there were a way to actually do this, we’d be left with a vast network made up of countless smaller networks, almost all of them overlapping and intersecting each other in some manner. We’d see hotspots of HIV activity – hubs surrounded by clusters of individuals either already infected or at high risk of infection. If we did some geographical filtering to get a map of sexual contact only in Western countries and started sampling the highest risk clusters, we’d discover inordinately high percentages of men who have sex with men within those clusters. Almost all of those MSM nodes would link exclusively to other MSM nodes, with sporadic exceptions. All of this just serves to emphasize that simply being gay puts a sexually active man at substantial risk for HIV/AIDS alone.

    Having sex at all is riskier for gay men. I can’t think of a simpler way to say it. It’s not just how you do it, it’s also who you do it with. That should have been simple from the start. I still fail to see why it ever needed explanation in the first place, really.

    It comes down to this: If they can’t quantify risk levels for the A-3 and A-4 groups I mentioned somewhere up towards the top of this post and show them to be on par with or lower than those of currently accepted donor groups, opponents of the MSM/WSMSM blood ban have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the blood ban debate.

    The FDA has been very consistent about its stance: if it can be shown that lifting the ban on MSM/WSMSM donors won’t cause the overall risk of HIV in the blood supply to go up, it’ll be done. Your blood report doesn’t even attempt to do this, because the data just isn’t there. “No net increase” does not mean “very small net increase,” or even “very small net increase that comes out to one or less than one extra infection in x years.” “No net increase” means no net increase, none, zero. That condition has not been satisfied.

    Bryan Zubay – don’t insinuate that I’m a bigot. And if you must, state it plainly. The way health organizations and politicians utterly failed to seize control of the HIV epidemic in its early stages was a goddamn travesty. The pervasive public view of HIV/AIDS as a “gay disease” was and remains a goddamn travesty. The fact that gay men continue to account for the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. even after all this time is a goddamn travesty. The fact that there isn’t a cure (that’s been made known to the public) even after all this time is a goddamn travesty. The whole thing is a travesty, but we have to try to make it less of one in whatever ways we can. To do that, we have to divorce the facts from whatever preconceived notions we might have about HIV/AIDS. I said that “nobody can be blamed for historical chance” because health policy organizations and governments, despite their failure to contain HIV early on, didn’t cause the disease to first take root in populations composed predominantly of gay, white men. That much was in fact historical chance, unless you know something that I don’t.

    I don’t pass any judgment on gay men simply because they’re gay. There’s no good reason for me to find fault with anyone’s sexual orientation, so I don’t. And I don’t pass judgment on gay men who practice unsafe sex simply because they’re unaware of the risks, because there’s nothing constructive about that. I do pass judgment on gay men who repeatedly partake in unsafe sex despite being aware of the risks, just as I pass judgment on anyone else who willfully disregards their safety and the safety of their sex partner(s) – for whatever reason. That’s not prejudice, that’s reason.

    Also, don’t insinuate that I misunderstand statistics. If you think I’m wrong about something, correct me. If you don’t, don’t. Snideness is not a virtue.

    The civil rights argument is nonsense. It’s just bad thinking. Any argument that uses vague, poorly-defined concepts to make some general appeal to democracy is a bad one. With an approach like that, you could just as well be arguing against the introduction of seat belt legislation in New Hampshire or arguing in favor of every citizen’s right to bear arms. Imprecise use of language is a manifestation of imprecise thought. And imprecise use of language leads to statements like, “the rate of HIV infection among HIV-negative MSM is the same as the rate of infection among HIV-negative heterosexuals.” Gay men who don’t have HIV don’t have HIV? I don’t think anybody ever argued differently.

    Here’s a simple model that does away with all unnecessary abstraction:

    1) Knowingly killing a person or causing them a lifetime of pain and suffering from an incurable disease is immoral.

    2) Doing this as a representative of a government agency is both unjust and immoral.

    3) Lifting the MSM blood ban is the responsibility of a government agency.

    4) There is reason to believe that lifting the MSM blood ban would directly increase the rate of new HIV infections obtained through transfusion, even as this rate falls on average.


    5) Lifting the MSM blood ban would be both unjust and immoral.

    There’s nothing complicated about it. We can’t rewrite the history of blood donor policy, nor can we do away with blood donation altogether. All we can do is build on the donor policy we already have, making sure that whatever we do, we don’t make things worse than they are presently. End of story. We really should know not to make appeals to “the greater good” by now.

    That’s it.