Let Gay Men Donate Blood

To allow bigotry to contribute to a public health crisis leaves the realm of hurtful and enters the realm of absurdity, but that is exactly what is happening in the United States today.

Around the country, the American Red Cross is calling for donors to step up to donate blood in the face of severe blood reserve shortages in almost every state.  In the context of this reality, blood donation centers are encouraging anyone eligible under federal guidelines to step forward and donate.  But that meas that if you have had a tattoo in the least year or have visited a country where malaria is present in the last year, you’ve gotta wait a little.

Oh, and if you’re a man and have had sexual contact with a man since 1977, you can never donate blood.  Not once.  Never.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “WHAT!?  That can’t be right!  That is blatant homophobic discrimination!”  Well, while it may be blatant homophobic discrimination, it is also federal law.

What’s worse is that you don’t need to be actually gay.  Because of the law, screeners have turned away folks like Aaron Pace, a Straight Indiana man who was turned away from a donation center for appearing gay.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Well, isn’t this just some sort of antiquated crap that just needs to be done away with?”  Well, while it is antiquated poo that needs to be disposed of, it was upheld by the Congressional Health and Human Services Committee last summer.

Those in Congress and around the country who support the ban on Gay men donating blood point to the fact that half of new HIV infections in 2005 were among Gay men, but they ignore the fact that the fastest growing rates of HIV are among young women, African American women, and Hispanic women.  Would the federal government consider banning African American women from donating?  No!  That’s absurd.  Such a policy would not even be considered, and if it were enacted, public outcry against the racism and sexism would be loud.

After all, blood banks are now required to screen all blood with advanced screening processes to ensure that it is safe for transmission to those who need it.  Thus, there is no need for supposed “lifestyle questions” that blatantly discriminate against Gay men.  So what explanation is there for discriminating?

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Community Heals

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing in the last week.  Last weekend I was at my Alma Mater, Earlham College, to speak at New Student Orientation, and I realized that many people are just beginning to move past grief and into healing after two students were lost to a tragic car accident this summer.

I’ve also been present with the sad anniversary that approaches for me, the 5-year anniversary of my close friend’s suicide and the healing that I have been able to do in my life as well as the healing that I must still do.

I also had the incredible fortune of speaking at the 3rd Annual Tennessee Rape Prevention and Education Institute this week, and it was great to take some time to focus on the healing survivors experience that we rarely see in the work of primary intervention, as most of the participants were police officers, advocates, shelter operators, and agency staff.

In the midst of hustle and bustle like in the new school year at Earlham, in my busy life, and in the midst of a focus on the hurt and pain that often comes with the work of those at the conference, Healing is Vital.

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Respecting Those Who Serve Us

Working in most any service industry is hard. Working in fast food just plain sucks. The hours are long, the pay is terrible, and far to often, the customers treat you like you are somehow less than human once you place that “McDonald’s” hat on your head.

I used to work at Subway, which in the hierarchy of fast food garnered me more respect than if I had worked at, say, Burger King or Taco Bell. Even there, though, people yelled at me for putting peppers on their cold cut trio, berated me for the fact that we were out of honey oat bread after the lunch rush, and one person even threw their sandwich back across the counter at me because it was cold when it was supposed to be hot.

With that in mind, I always try to greet those serving me with a smile and leave them with a thank you. This morning I stopped by a fast food joint in the terminal at Denver International Airport before boarding a flight to Earlham College in Richmond, IN. Most of the women at the counter seemed to be East-African immigrants, likely from Somalia or Ethiopia considering the size of populations from those places in Denver. I smile and place an order, double checking the monitor to make sure I heard right when the young woman said, “$6.76, please” through her gorgeous accent.

As I waited for my order, I watched a middle-aged white man struggling to understand the woman serving him. Though she was speaking perfect English, she did speak with an accent. He got more and more frustrated, slamming his money on the counter, shaking his head and saying, “Learn to speak English.”

I could see the frustration in the young woman’s face as she undoubtedly thought, “What language am I speaking?”

You see, it’s tough to work in fast food, but’s even more difficult when you work in fast food and have dark skin or speak English with an accent.

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Should Change From Within Advertise (Poll)?

For a while now, I’ve been wrestling with a dilemma.  My time is pretty precious these days.  I am working more and more, and I am always picking up on new projects.  I am hoping to start a book soon, and I really want to find a way to see certain friends and family a bit more than I have been able to lately.

As I think about the demands on my time, I inevitably think about Change From Within.  I love blogging once a week.  It gives me a chance to really dive into tough issues, and it forces me to take the time to really think about and craft my own understandings of some of the tough issues of our day.  I spend anywhere from 2-6 hours a week on the blog, and while I enjoy every minute of it, when my time is strained, I can’t help but think about the dreaded advertising (Dun Dun Dunnnnn).

While it would be great to be able to pull in a small amount of money simply by having my loyal readers click on my blog, advertising brings up a whole host of issues.  I mean, what if I publish a post on the objectification of women, only to realize that this American Apparel ad is appearing on some people’s screens as they access my blog:

Or maybe I am writing on racism, and a link to this Duncan Hines ad pops up:

Plus, there are just certain corporations (Wal-Mart, McDonalds, or Nike) that I would plain not want associated with my blog.

The tough part is that once you open the door to advertising, it is pretty tough to restrict what kinds of ads appear on your site.  I mean, you can strictly say that you don’t want porn advertised, but some ads (like the one above) are not much better.  Thus, you just kind of have to deal with the crap that appears down the side bar.

As an avid consumer of blogs, I also just don’t like to read with silly, flashy advertisements down the side.  I hate seeing a fast food ad or one for a dating site at The Beautiful Struggler, but at the same time, I know Sista Toldja is working hard to provide amazing insight in her writings, and if she wants to do that full time, she has to find a way to pull in some revenue.

Thus, I wanted to ask my readers through a poll how they would feel about seeing advertising (even if crappy ads like the ones above are included) as they read my musings at Change From Within.

Please Please Please take a second to vote.  Comments are also appreciated.

Privilege and Housing Discrimination

In what seems like a second full-time job, I have spent much of the last few weeks house hunting in the Denver area.  Holy cow has it been a pain in the butt.  Denver has one of the highest occupancy rates in the U.S., with less than 5% of housing available for purchase or rent at any given time.  For me, that has meant that with most places I called to visit or fill out a housing application, there seem to be 10-15 other people competing for the same space.  Thus, I have spent tons of time chasing down dead-ends, all the while getting more and more frustrated and worried that I wouldn’t be able to find something I like before moving out of my apartment in less than two weeks.

Fortunately, though, my housemates and I think we’ve found a place that we can love.  Though it will take some TLC, we should be able to comfortably live in a space with a garden and a back yard for the pup to run around.  Whew.

As I toasted my housemates last night in celebration of finding a place (though I should cross my fingers as credit checks still have to go through and the lease must be signed), I couldn’t help but say, “As difficult as that process was, we really had it easy!  Think of how much harder that would have been if my skin was brown!”

We, three white dudes with college educations and stable jobs, then started rattling off all of the aspects of identity that would have made finding housing so much more difficult: race, ability, education, employment, credit history, immigration status, ability to speak English fluently, sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation), religion.  All of these and more can affect one’s ability to find housing.

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