Blood Brothers?

Posted: September 21, 2011 in bisexuality, homosexuality, Identity
Tags: , ,

Talking of bisexual men, and their erasure in our culture, which we were, here we go again.

http://lawandsexuality.blogspot.com/2011/09/gay-blood-ban-to-be-further-repealed.html

Law and Sexuality is a brilliant blog by Chris, who writes on a wide range of subjects around sexuality, society and the law. I have an enormous amount of respect for him. But sometimes I pull him up on his use of the term ‘Gay’ as a catch-all phrase which in reality can mean anything from gay men, to LGBTQ people, to ‘lame’.

Today was no exception when I noticed Chris reporting on the Liberal Democrat Conference discussions about the ‘Gay Blood Ban’. Chris wrote:

‘Interesting piece on Pink News this evening reporting on a vote at the Liberal Democrat Conference, taking the recent gay blood ban repeal further.  Pink News reports that earlier this month, ministers announced that the lifetime ban would be scrapped and gay and bisexual men would be permitted to donate blood if they abstain from sex for 12 months.  According to Pink News, members at the party’s conference in Birmingham agreed that the new 12-month deferral period is “a ban by any other name”. Read the full story here.’

So the blood ban does not just affect gay men, but gay and bisexual men. Indeed, I expect it is aimed at any men who have sex with men. So the label ‘gay’ not only erases bisexual men from discourse, it also serves to maybe enable men who have sex with men, but do not identify as ‘gay’, or even ‘bisexual’, to give blood when they may be engaging in risky sex, but not actually acknowledging it. The term ‘men who have sex with men’ is well established amongst health organisations, for the very reason that it allows men to acknowledge their behaviour without having to give themselves a sexual identity label.

I think Pink News and other gay rights organisations are using this issue as yet another example of how ‘gays’ are discriminated against, without actually thinking about the wider social and health issues in the case.

Which, in my view, is Gay.

 

UPDATE

This comment from Impeus (see below the line) suggests that the Blood Donor org. is using ‘men who have sex with men’ and it is everyone else referring to ‘gay’ men:

‘I believe the wording in the current questions asked of potential blood donors is specifically inclusive, asking if you are a man who has had sex with another man, or if you are a woman who has had sex with a man who may have had sex with another man. It’s the media and other commentators (including myself if I’m honest) calling it gay blood, not the, um, blood people, whatever they are called!’

 

Comments
  1. impeus says:

    I believe the wording in the current questions asked of potential blood donors is specifically inclusive, asking if you are a man who has had sex with another man, or if you are a woman who has had sex with a man who may have had sex with another man. It’s the media and other commentators (including myself if I’m honest) calling it gay blood, not the, um, blood people, whatever they are called!

  2. mgreenall says:

    Although I can’t really bring myself to agree with you entirely on where this bias comes from, I agree the bias exists. To my mind the use of the term “gay” here is at least in part an issue of laziness, and of using a term that people might think is more generally understood (even if it is inaccurate). But as I write this I can already imagine you replying and telling me that the assumption that everyone was heterosexual, a few decades ago, could equally have been described as laziness… which would be a fair point.

    In HIV we’re constantly confronted by the different perspectives that come from behavioural or identity-based categories. It’s all a bit of a mess because although epidemiologists try to measure things like HIV risk according to behaviours (e.g. “men who have sex with men”), when it comes to collecting data it’s hard to really get a representative sample of men who have sex with men, as you’re much more likely to get people who are open about that behaviour to agree to being sampled. “MSM” is interesting for other reasons; in many low-income countries it is becoming an identity even though the whole idea is that it shouldn’t be. A lot of research on MSM has included trans women because the researchers feel that, well for them, these people are still men. And in emerging “gay” communities you’ll often come across the term MSM, sometimes being used as a synonym for gay (possibly because a lot of funding and international support to these groups comes via HIV programming); but you’ll also come across gay groups who use MSM exclusively to describe those *other* MSM, the ones that aren’t out. And to make things more complicated, try asking a man who has sex with men if he is a MSM and he might react as if you’ve just called him a fag.

    It’s too confusing and I’m uncomfortable with these “identities” being created in this way. As someone who is interested in good health data as a basis for good programmes, sometimes I think I’d be much happier if MSM was just a secret between epidemiologists…

    • That’s fascinating insight into the ‘real world’ meanings of these terms Matt.

      But the thing I am not sure about is- the questionnaire that impeus has shared, does not mention ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ or even ‘mSM’ it simply asks if you are

      a) a man who has had sex with a man in the last 12 months
      b) a woman who has had sex with a man who has had sex with a man in the last 12 months
      c) someone who has been paid in drugs or cash to have sex, in the last 12 months

      so the ‘lazy’ gay label has not come from the health practitioners at all. Which leaves the gays, the media and the government, but I haven’t followed the story much except in the gay press so I can’t judge.

  3. It is amazing how msm is becoming an identity despite itself.

    The same is true of the ‘down low’ – which originally meant anyone having illicit/adulterous sex but now tends to be used for ‘msms’ but some people identify as on the DL.

  4. Matthew says:

    Two decades ago I had a friend from Nigeria who identified as “straight” but had unprotected sex with men and women. I identified as bisexual and had responsible protected sex with men and women. He told me as a “straight” man if you are bisexual then you are gay. Gay and straight cultures stupidity of invaliditing a bisexual identity IMO contributes to health risks on behaviorally “bisexual” men, regardless of what they call themselves. And yet still today many gay bloggers believe that “bisexual men don’t exist”. One has to ask to what ends does this lack of enlightenment serve? This lack of comprehending reality? IMO it only serves a narcissistic identity politics in which few will take responsibility. And yet self identified, truthful, bisexual men are scorned for their honesty and responsibility while living a sexually free existence.

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