As a bisexual man, when I can donate blood is dictating my love life

I donated blood for the first time in 2017 and it felt rewarding to be able to contribute in some small way to saving lives. After my appointment, I received a letter asking me to continue donating because I have the universal blood type – O negative.

Since then, I’ve donated around 10 times. But it’s not always gone according to plan.

Because I’m an openly bisexual man, I’m required to wait three months if I’ve engaged in oral or anal sex with a man to donate again – no matter if protection, medication or testing has been used – but the same rules don’t apply if it’s a woman.

This means I’ve deliberately not gone on dates with men to keep my blood donation appointment. It really feels like I’m having to compromise a part of my identity to continue donating blood.

In 2018, I went on several dates with a guy and wanted to take things further. Unfortunately, I had already booked a blood donation for a few weeks away so had to explain to him that I couldn’t progress our relationship sexually or else I would have to wait another three months before being able to donate again.

It didn’t help that the session had been booked during a time where we were both on holiday, which meant we went five weeks without seeing each other and by that point, he had lost interest. He said he was looking for a more sexually fulfilling relationship.

I feel like I have an obligation to donate blood.

O negative is compatible with every other type and found only in 8% of the UK population. It’s carried by ambulances and first responders in order to be used if an immediate blood transfer is required. This means it’s in high demand.

This, along with the fact that NHS Blood and Transplant are looking for more men to donate blood, makes it important for me to give when I can. 

Unfortunately, both these factors would count for nothing if I entered into a relationship with a man. And it’s something I’ve had to deal with in the past.

Last year, I was chatting to a guy at a club but I had to explain that I couldn’t go back to his place because of a scheduled donation. This led to the dancing turning into a lengthy discussion on the subject.

If anyone ever needs a way to officially kill the mood, I can recommend a conversation about the effects of contemporary medical discrimination. 

According to the National AIDS Trust, men who have sex with men account for 46.4% of HIV transmissions in the UK, while opposite sex transmission accounts for around the same – 46.2%.

While it’s true that HIV disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, the continued policing of sex between men does nothing but reinforce stigma and remind us that they do not have an equal place in society to others.

Essentially, I am able to contract STIs from any gender, but only one is policed.

Dating while bisexual is tricky enough as it is. Being perceived as either ‘too gay’ or ‘too straight’ for some people, having to face stereotypes of being promiscuous or not being able to commit to full time relationships, or in some cases just having your sexuality erased altogether. Throw in having to organise dates around acts of medical procedure and it feels like it’s had a negative impact on my identity.

This is because my attraction to women is perceived as standard and healthy no matter what, but my attraction to men is medicalised – seen as transcendentally harmful. Relationships that I perceive as equivalent are systematically separated.

This can result in internalised biphobia. The knowledge that I am only partially affected by limitations which impact gay men constantly can create the false idea that my attraction to men is somehow less legitimate, that I am not oppressed in the same way. 

It also means I am more conscious of the fact that my relationships with women and my relationships with men are not perceived as equal.

This frustrates me because I desperately want to continue donating blood. This is something older members of my family have done for years, and I am proud to do the same. The knowledge that I can – through minimal sacrifice on my part – contribute to saving lives is meaningful.

When I fill in the form to donate, I have to answer details about my sex life with men. Women are also asked on the form whether they have had sex with a man who has had sex with a man. I shudder to think how this has contributed to biphobic views by women who see dating bisexual men as somehow risky or harmful.

And ultimately, who benefits from all of this? Not me, as my sexuality is literally dissected every couple of months. Not other donors, who could themselves spread infections unwittingly. And certainly not the people who my blood, as a universal donor, could genuinely help. 

The only result is that if I end up in a long term relationship with a man, I will have to stop donating my blood. Not by choice, but because that relationship is seen as more of a risk.

I like to think that this won’t be a factor in my choice of life partner. But it’s infuriating that it could be. 

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