I read, and reviewed, a friend’s book on her amazing, painful and brilliant cancer-diagnosis-journey. I cannot recommend her book enough if you, or anyone you know is/has been affected by cancer or simply want to read a powerful and biographical piece of art. Here is her story, and my review http://www.ataleof2boobies.com/book-reviews/heartfelt-to-the-core
Two days after I turned seventeen I visited our local American Red Cross to donate my first unit of blood. I remember feeling pretty heroic that day knowing I was doing a great public service. I was nervous but knew my rare blood would help someone in great need. I stepped into the anonymous cubicle where the nurse proceeded to run protocol prior to my donation.
All went smoothly until I was completely caught off guard with the question, “Have you had intimate contact with another male, even once?” Stunned and confused I quickly uttered “no.” Why would it matter, I thought? At seventeen I was completely unaware of any “gay blood ban.” Not to mention I was newly out and not prepared for such a private question from a complete stranger. I went on to donate that day, and for a few years thereafter.
During one particular donation visit the supervisor met me in the waiting room. He asked if I would come into his office for a quick chat. Running endless scenarios in my mind I nervously sat down. Soon, however, my mind was at ease when the supervisor shared he had good news. He proceeded tell me that upon completion of this visit I would receive my three gallon (24 donations) pin. The pin came with a big thank you and congratulations. What an indescribable feeling. I was helping save the lives of countless people during their most life-threatening moments. I was elated and remember having to look down at cloud nine the entire day.
I placed the pin on my dresser where it proudly displayed. One night, while getting ready for bed, I looked at my pin. The heroic feeling I usually felt however wasn’t there. Instead a feeling of deceit and despair overcame me. It was at that moment my entire blood donating journey would change. It hit me like a ton of bricks that the very pin I proudly displayed was given to me based on years of lying. I no longer felt proud but ashamed, and saddened. The lying haunted me even prompting a dream that night that I was “found out” while trying to donate blood.
The next morning I called the National Red Cross hotline to ask a few anonymous questions. The first question I asked was in regards to the tests and type of testing that were administered after each donation. I do not recall the litany of medical tests and procedures she responded with (though they include; Chagas disease , Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus , Human Immunodeficiency Viruses, Types 1 and 2, Human T-Lymphotropic virus, Syphilis, West Nile virus just to name a few) but she ensured me that every donation was thoroughly and rigorously tested with strict guidelines. I asked if two people of the same gender were in a long-term monogamous relationship completely drug and disease free would they be banned from donating? Her response was astounding. “No, a donation could still be made but if the answer regarding same-gender intimacy was answered yes the unit would be tagged and immediately destroyed.” That day I made a vow that I could no longer in good conscience lie. That was the day I stopped donating.
Fast forward twenty years I am still in a long-term monogamous relationship – married in fact. I am still young, healthy, fit, completely drug and disease free and yet still unable to donate to the blood shortage so profound here in America.
The following facts were taken directly from the “Facts and statistics” page of the American Red Cross;
- 4.5 million Americans would die each year without life-saving blood transfusions.
- More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day in the United States.
- Every three seconds someone needs blood.
- One out of every 10 people entering a hospital needs blood.
- Just one pint of donated blood can help save as many as three people’s lives.
– Fourteen tests, 11 of which are for infectious diseases, are performed on each unit of donated blood. All donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other infectious diseases.
- There is no substitute for human blood.
- More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
- A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.
- In the days following the September 11 attacks, a half a million people donated blood. Side note: if any of those donors were gay they would have had to lie to help during this nationwide devastation – how sad.
If a dear family member were on their death bed and needed emergency blood to survive would it matter to you who the person loved while donating? If this disgraceful ban were lifted there could potentially be 1.8 million lives saved annually. How many senseless deaths must occur due to this absurd and cruel ban?
Allow me a few eye-brow raising points regarding this needless ban
- The ban was instituted in 1983 in the early days of the AIDS crisis, when HIV testing was still rudimentary. It has not been altered or updated since.
- Gay people are banned for life from donating blood. Even with a clean bill of health gay men are considered more of a risk than straight ones who were treated for chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, venereal warts, genital herpes, or who pays for sex (including knowingly has sex with an HIV positive woman). If any (or all of these) apply, a straight man only has to wait one year before donating blood.
- The other blatant life-long ban is for Intravenous drug users. Basically gay persons are in the same group as druggies.
- Lesbians can contract HIV sexually (exposure to vaginal or other body fluids, blood from menstruation etc.) however they are not disqualified from donating. In fact unlike men their orientation is not even questioned.
- Gay people are allowed to donate organs. Yes you read that correctly. We are allowed to donate our organs, just not our blood. Huh?!?!
- The ban stigmatizes gay men. There has never been an emergency where anyone asked, “Is this gay blood?”
- MANY countries have already learned this ban is not medically necessary and lifted their ban. Countries such as Italy, Chile, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Uruguay, Spain etc. no longer exclude gay men. Countless others; Australia, Brazil, Japan, Finland, Argentina, U.K. etc., defer one year from sexual contact. Albeit it is still a work in progress, with some minor restrictions, Canada lifted their lifetime ban several years ago.
- Current blood tests can detect even the slightest contamination of any kind. (This begs the question if ALL donations are tested then why not let anyone who wishes to donate do so)? The H in HIV stands for ‘Human’– not homosexual.
If you are as irritated over this as I am regardless if you can, cannot, or choose not to (for whatever reason) donate I ask that you take a stand and not only sign this petition http://www.banned4life.org/website/get-involved/sign-the-petition/ but send it to friends and family to help end this egregious, discriminatory and senseless ban once and for all. Thank you
*Update. I just heard that the ban was in fact amended (gay men can donate if they have not had sex in a year). While this is a GREAT start it still precludes tens of thousands like myself who are married and monogamous. I shouldn’t have to be celibate for a year to save a life. We have a way to go, please sign and share.
The very month that we celebrate our anniversary the Human Rights Campaign features our family http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/completing-our-lives-the-galvez-family, and my recently published children’s book :) How blessed we are!
This month I turn 40. I completely embrace age. Life offers many wonderful moments that often lead to lessons. Lessons often bring wisdom and wisdom presents limitless possibilities!
“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Unknown
“The days are long, but the years are short.” Gretchen Rubin
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln
Our local paper wrote a story on my book; I thought I would share it on my blog (source) http://www.eaglebulletin.com/news/2014/jul/23/no-child-left-behind/
“During his more than 20 years of teaching in elementary schools in Brooklyn, Atlanta and Washington DC, Jason Galvez taught many different classes, several subjects and hundreds of students. And during his time working in Washington, DC, only one of his students came from a home with a mother and a father.
Galvez would spend hours searching through the school libraries for books that depicted all different kinds of family dynamics, and usually came up empty handed. “I would either have to lie to my students and change the pronouns, or try to order special books that cover diverse families,” said Galvez, who now resides in Manlius. “And instead of continuing to try to find more, I decided to write one.”
On Feb. 25, Galvez’s first book, titled “I Am Loved Right Where I Am,” was released on Amazon.com and on Barnes & Noble’s website. The book follows a little girl named Sylvia who lives with her grandmother in Washington, DC. She takes the reader on a journey to meet all of her friends, who all come from different family dynamics: children who are raised by foster parents, same-sex parents, stepparents, an older sibling, a single parent and even a family with a mother and father.
“For children not just to survive but to thrive in life, your foundation, which is your home, needs to be relatively solid,” he said. “I remember seeing fellow teachers teaching a lesson on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and you would see some kids sort of slump in their chair a little because they didn’t feel belonged. And if we’re going to arm our children for success, it needs to start at home and we need to give them a solid foundation [by enforcing the idea that] where they are is precisely where they belong and that they’re loved.”
Galvez, a self-proclaimed psychology enthusiast, said the bare-bones idea for the book came from psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which states that love and belonging are among the basic human fundamental needs in life.
He began writing the book when he was still living in Washington, DC as a way to help students who may not fit the traditional family dynamic feel that they do belong, and for children who come from homes with a mom and dad to realize that the world they live in is much bigger than what they may see or are used to. And he’s noticed a real need for the book – since Galvez began working in public schools 20 years ago, he said it’s becoming more and more common to see children coming from untraditional households.
“Even statistically, if you look at the divorce rate ten years ago compared to now it has changed,” he said. “And family dynamics have changed, and we need our media and books to keep up with those changes if we want our children to survive.”
On the last page of the book, Sylvia asks the reader, “What kind of special family do you have?” Galvez hopes the book will be used as a catalyst for family discussion about family dynamics, a topic that’s as uncomfortable to many parents as sex. A lot of times, for whatever reason, parents don’t want to say, ‘Do you know that so-and-so doesn’t have a dad?’ Or that ‘So-and-so is raised by their sister?’ And I don’t know why that’s such a taboo topic when it’s around us everywhere.”
Proceeds from “I Am Loved Right Where I Am” go directly to charities, Galvez said. Although he wrote the book for a third-grade audience, he’s received emails from parents with toddlers to eighth-graders who have enjoyed the book. To order the book, visit amazon.com/Am-Loved-Right-Where/dp/1630633038. “If I can help one child walk out of their house in the morning feeling a little more confident, my job is done,” he said.”
Please share this post as my book has helped many children and families, and I would love to see it help many more. For a list of all ordering options;
Barnes & Noble http://tinyurl.com/p822wrz
Signed Copy http://jasonj.biz/author.php
Youtube Video http://tinyurl.com/ocupldl