A long-time blood donor in college, today was the first time in two years that I was able to give blood again. The long delay was due to the “men who have sex with men” policy and my own insecurity with my gender. Early in my transition, while my focus was exclusively a binary push to be seen as the man I am, I changed my Red Cross gender marker to male. Living into my truth as a man I tried to convince myself that I could accept not being a blood donor. I struggled with this for two years as I desperately tried to ignore the ache in my heart as I passed by each new blood drive notice.
You see giving blood was one of the few ways that I could find value in myself during my darkest times. There was a time my internal world consisted of insults, cycles of worthlessness and despair. By giving blood I was able to share the one thing I couldn’t yet appreciate, life. Transitioning from female to male freed me to fully embrace my own life, even as I needed to cease sharing it with others. Giving up blood donation was a perpetually painful reminder that even as I had finally learned to live, my life was considered "inherently risky".
Part of my decision to donate blood today was inspired by the quote: “When I accept myself, I am freed from the burden of needing you to accept me”.
It occurred to me that as I’ve now embraced my femininity with the same vigor as I channeled my masculinity in my first transition, I should be able to tolerate being listed as a female if that is what it takes to give blood. A few phone calls later, and my plan was put into action. To donate I had to repeated clarify what was listed on my birth certificate, regularly correct pronouns and explicitly describe my surgical history.
My appreciation of myself held and as I made it through the hurdles. Freeing me to celebrate my victory. Even as I clicked “I am female” on the troublesome question I knew in my heart that I am also a man. I a man who’s had sex with a man AND is eligible to give blood. Even as the system cannot see my queerness, cannot treasure the nuance, I can delight in it.
The bitterness of today was the reminder that in many places I am not permitted to exist. I was told to choose a bubble, to watch silently as the structures of policy erase the gift of gender. Yet today was also a victory because I reclaimed a sacred space; a space where life flows from one human to another. I entered the maw of a broken machine and walked away unscathed. I chose the fullness of life, and found a renewed appreciation for my journey. Even with the bitterness, this is worth celebrating.