Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bloed Skande

"Bloed Skande" - in Afrikaans, literally translated, means "blood scandal" or "blood libel" .
To be blunt, I think this applies to the situation I'm talking about here - where what is being done to the dignity, equality and humanity of gay and transgender people - wherever discrimination is being enforced by blood services, is nothing less than scandalous or libelous.

I read the linked article "Transgender blood donors in New Zealand" on the topic of discrimination against gay and transsexual or transgender blood donors in New Zealand. The idiotic reasoning employed by the NZ blood service appears to match the callous stupidity of our own here in South Africa - although it must be said that while NZ employs a 5 year ban on such blood donors, SA "only" imposes a 6 month ban - although, no matter which way you slice the pie, if you are a gay male or transsexual or transgender individual who wishes to be a full-time blood donor - you are still expected to remain celibate as long as you intend being a blood donor.

The article was written by a transsexual New Zealander who encountered this prejudice and irrational thinking present in the NZ policy and laid it out in her article. "The 5 year penalty [on transsexual blood donors] was put in place," She said "because until I have my vaginoplasty done, all sex with my [heterosexual] boyfriend is considered homosexual . But upon gaining a vagina, sex with my boyfriend magically becomes heterosexual!"

Here is the clincher: "I asked whether or not I could engage in anal sex after my surgery. The answer was yes, it would be no different to a cis woman having anal sex (i.e. it [anal sex] does not disqualify women from donating blood). Again, the ownership of a vagina magically qualifies me, regardless of how I have intercourse."

"Next I asked why they would require me to be monogamous for 5 years when cis women could have multiple partners (men or women) over 5 years and it did not disqualify them from donating blood. The answer was that transgender people live 'colourful lives' and an anecdote about trans hookers on K road in Auckland was used as an example to bolster this statement. Therefore they couldn't trust that I hadn't been out selling myself, doing drugs or whatever, without doing some kind of background check."

"...I pointed out that I could probably walk in, pretend to be a cis woman, donate blood, then walk out..." "He acknowledged that I probably could do this, but they rely on the honesty of donors to prevent this happening."

And of course, the paragraph that really got my blood boiling was this one:

"...the criteria is so blatantly discriminatory that I’m surprised they didn’t just say “dirty trannies can’t give blood” and be done with it."

Isn't it just like our blood "service" here in South Africa? And doesn't this just tie in nicely with the propaganda employed by conservative homophobic and transphobic groups who like to claim that gay and trans people are "anti-social" and don't want to help society - but in every way we try to express our involvement just like any other part of society, we are then separated, targeted - and called "dangerous", "risky" and "a threat".

These people are very adept in expressing their desire to both want their cake - and eating it as well.

According to this discriminatory line of reasoning, a heterosexual couple having anal sex (like many hetero couples do), would be having "homosexual sex" and be disqualified from donating blood - or would this very valid point (in my view) - be laughed at simply because they are heterosexual and because such rules simply do not apply to straights? Apparently this is not so in New Zealand - how is it in South Africa? Apparently anal sex is only "risky" if it is two males involved. Can anyone else see the lunacy in this deduction?

Hmm. Just what I thought - discrimination just doesn't make sense - no matter which way you try to justify it, does it?

I wonder what South Africa's blood service has to say about transgender people and heterosexual donors having anal sex? Does anyone know?

Will they treat you like a second class citizen and infer that you are "a dirty tranny" or "a dirty gay person"?

Do you know of any other social group who is expected to remain celibate in order to be a blood donor?

Do you know of any one social group that is EXCLUSIVELY at risk of spreading HIV? Or can anyone be infected with HIV in a multitude of methods?

Do you know of any other social group that is refused to be allowed to donate blood AT ALL simply because they are married, regardless of HIV status or whether they have been faithful or not?

Well, do you?

What excuses will the SA National Blood Service make if you confront them with the fact that an HIV test kit can deliver conclusive proof of HIV status within 10 minutes, and cost a whopping R17,00 per test? Will they say the tests are "not accurate enough"? Oh? But they are accurate enough to use at HIV test clinics all over South Africa - and to inform people that they are HIV positive - or negative and to send them for counseling?

Will they hide behind the excuse of not testing donors because "some people will donate blood just to know their status" - or try to hide the fact that they are either too lazy or cheap to test their blood stocks again before delivering it to hospitals to cut out the dreaded "window period"?

Don't you think the interesting fact that they take donated blood for FREE without the onus of testing the donor first - and then have the nerve to sell the blood for a tidy sum per unit, compounds the cheek with which they make this claim?

Do they really think that discrimination against gay and transgender people is "perfectly justifiable" while the exact same discrimination against Black donors was a PR disaster and a public embarrassment to them just recently?

Do they think this discrimination is perfectly fine and will stand up in court because "nobody cares" about gay and transgender people's human rights or dignity - or our equality or the triumph of facts over prejudice and common sense over bigotry?

Are they not gambling with the lives of those who receive blood by relying on the "honesty" of people who fill out a piece of paper?

Are they still going to hide behind the transparent excuse that "the safety of the receiver of the blood is more important than the rights or humanity of the donor"?

Do they still think that discrimination - and not blood and donor testing is the best way to protect the receiver of the blood?

Are they going to try to justify their bigotry, homophobia and transphobia with rhetoric and pseudo-scientific right-wing propaganda that will remind you of "Doctors For Life" arguing against the legal and medical "merits" of passing the still inadequate marriage equality laws of South Africa from a purely religious fundamentalist angle?

Find out. Ask them.

Oh, how I wish some legal professionals would volunteer their services in taking on this inexcusable bigotry and take these unashamed bigots to task for this disgusting homophobia and transphobia in South Africa.

I wish some lawyers or advocates with a sense of honor and pride and humanity and justice would stand up and say "I'm not going to take this affront to justice, human rights and dignity lying down" and take this matter up in the Equality Court.

I wish some fine upstanding legal and medical professionals would stand up in court and testify how biased, false and unreasonable the reasons which the SANBS uses to justify their bigotry and unfair discrimination, are.

Some things in life are not all about money and what the individual can gain from it - some things are important enough, I think, to give a little of oneself to benefit a whole community. It is after all, not as if we expect such legal professionals to go hungry while they do this - but it would go a long way to furthering the cause of justice, equality and human rights in this country - and of course, their own prestige as well.

The long and short of it?

As long as there is still unfair discrimination in South Africa, regardless of what group it is focused on - Apartheid is still alive.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to or use the Contact form.

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


  1. That's not that strange... I just for the hell of it called Blood Services Canada... Pre-op trans women are NOT women we're men apparently and therefore. Men who have sex with men (even when they're actually women :@) are not acceptable for blood donation... some crap about unclean lifestyles, prostitution and such shite... :( very rude... :'(

  2. I think this is something human rights groups need to look at globally, while looking at our total human rights status in every state - and I feel it should be managed/co-ordinated/supported under the auspices of the UN Human Rights department.