Thousands of people are lining up at blood donor centres across Orlando, Florida, to help the 53 people wounded after a heavily armed gunman opened fire at gay nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning (local time). At least 50 others were killed in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, in what is now being described as the worst mass shooting in US history.
In fact, so overwhelming is the support from the community that blood centres are now at capacity.
“I’ve been here 13 years and never seen a response like this,” OneBlood spokesperson Pat Michaels told the Orlando Sentinel.
One donor lining up was Becky Orero, who’d worked at Pulse for five years.
“We have to be here for our community,” she said. “I made sure that I came down here so our friends and family can make it out okay.”
Yet the very fact that queer men – one of the targets in this hate crime – are unable to donate blood is prompting waves of anger.
Only thing I’d add to saddest tragedy in Orlando: It’s made even more tragic and sad that gay men are prohibited from donating blood to help
— Slade Sohmer (@Slade) June 12, 2016
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted the lifetime ban on accepting blood donations from gay men, replacing it with regulations that men must wait one year after sexual contact with another man to donate.
Rumours that this ban had been temporarily lifted in the wake of the shooting were quickly squashed.
All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true.
— OneBlood (@my1blood) June 12, 2016
At the moment, blood donation centres are at capacity. Michaels described it as being “a little too much, too soon”, encouraging people to make appointments and return later, when the diminished supply will need to be replenished.
Except, of course, for queer men.
It is illegal for gay men to donate blood. It is legal for anyone to buy the AR-15 assault rifle that spilled the blood of gay men today.
— spencer claus (@spxncxrx) June 12, 2016
i am just so angry because people are being murdered, our community can’t donate blood, and this just keeps happening while the US stands by
— Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) June 12, 2016
Maybe it would be easier for gay men to donate blood if they poured it into bullets and then shot it into the recipient?
— Luke O’Neil (@lukeoneil47) June 12, 2016
You know the most sickening thing of all? Gay people don’t even have the right to donate blood to our own dying community today.
— (((Ryan Houlihan))) (@RyanHoulihan) June 12, 2016
Of course, the US is not the only country with these controversial and out-dated bans. Australia also fits squarely into that bracket – just last week we published a piece from Heaps Gay editor Samuel Leighton-Dore on why Australia needs to bin its own outdated bans:“
The ban sends out an incorrect and irresponsible public health message by suggesting that all gay sex is a health risk while all heterosexual sex is safe,” he quoted the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Council
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have offered their support to the LGBTIQ community, but Clinton’s message is particularly poignant:
“This was also an act of hate. The gunman was attacked by a LGBT club for the month of pride. To all the LGBT people: know that you have millions of allies all over the country. I’m one of them. We will continue to fight for their right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hatred has no place in the United States.”
This is more than just homophobic paranoia. it’s denying certain members of the LGBTIQ community the opportunity to help their own in the wake of tragedy.
Photo: Getty / Gerardo Mora.