On Oppressive Homophobia

Posted on August 8, 2019


I’ve gotten used to casual homophobia. I think most gay people my age end up getting used to it. You fight it for years, but then at some point your sanity is at stake, so you learn to ignore it, to change the subject, to pretend it doesn’t hurt you. It’s how we survive.

But sometimes, the homophobia is so subtle that it becomes oppressive and destroys you.

Case in point:

In the 1980s, when no one knew anything about AIDS and people called it the gay cancer, blood banks across the world banned men who have sex with men from donating blood. This was an emergency intervention, put in place because there was no way of testing for HIV and people in the US believed only gay men were exposed to the virus and they didn’t want it breaking in to the general population.

Fast forward to today: Rapid tests can diagnose blood samples in seconds, gay men are much more likely to get regularly tested for HIV and other STIs, and HIV+ people with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners.

But gay people still can’t give blood in most countries, including Lebanon.

Not a big deal overall. Again, we’re used to homophobic legislation.

But here’s the thing. Yesterday, a relative of mine needed blood, and it happened to be my blood type. I didn’t even try to donate, because I know that I’m not allowed to. But I put out a call on Instagram.

The thing about us gays though, is we often need to create families of our own to survive ongoing homophobia and those families are entirely made of other gay men. Our close friends are all gay men. Our social connections are mostly gay people. Our Instagram followers are mostly gay people.

So, when you put out a call for blood, the people who you’re most likely to reach are people who are forbidden by law to give blood.

So you feel useless. You feel dirty. You feel stigmatized. You feel like you’ve done something wrong. You feel guilty.

That’s a kind of homophobia I just can’t seem to get used to.