This Tuesday, an openly gay man legally donated blood after abstaining from sex for a year, the first such donation in decades from a man who’s had sexual contact with men.
Jay Franzone, 21, made his donation as a statement against a 2015 ruling from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that stipulates that gay men are allowed to give blood, but only after going a full year without sex.
While the rule replaced an outmoded lifetime ban, established in 1992 during the HIV crisis, Franzone, along with many others, maintains that the new regulation is still discriminatory against the LGBT community.
“I can’t even get a blowjob,” he told HBO’s Vice. “It’s a minuscule risk; it’s unmeasurable. So I can’t receive oral sex over the course of one year—at all—but my best friend can sleep with eight different women in a week and go donate blood, no problems—without any protection. There’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”
After last year’s horrific mass shooting at Pulse, many gay men attempted to donate blood, but were turned away because of the policy.
“We want to be there,” the 21-year-old said at the time. “But we can’t because we’re gay. Discrimination is still alive and well in outdated federal policies.”
This summer, over 100 members of congress called upon the FDA to lift its ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men who’ve had sex with men, pointing to new procedures that more accurately test for HIV.
“[The ban] perpetuates a fiction that gay people are different, that our blood isn’t as good as other people,” stated openly gay congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), who spearheaded the initiative. “It’s just another example of discrimination without any basis in science, without any nexus to blood safety. It screens out the blood of gay people, and holds them to a different standard than straight people.”
Though Franzone will not be keeping up his abstinence, he will continue to advocate for the ban’s removal as communications director for the National Gay Blood Drive.
For those looking to join him in the fight, Franzone urges people to invite their local member of congress to join the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and to ask them for their opinion on the policy.
“Don’t just settle for them telling you their position on marriage,” he cautioned. “Talk to their health staffer and really get an answer.”
“Then, let me know,” he concluded. “I’d love to hear from them.”
h/t: Think Progress