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San Diegan can't donate blood because they are non-binary

Photo credit:
jbcharleston.jb.mil

A local non-binary person hopes the FDA will change their policies for blood donation.

As it is today, potential donors must fill out a questionnaire which provides them with only two classifications: male or female. 

However, Van Levy of Pacific Beach is non-binary and doesn't fall into either of those genders. Levy uses the pronouns "them," "they," and their."

Levy spoke with local news station ABC 10 about their experience in trying to give blood which ultimately couldn't happen because of the limited gender options on the application. If Levy didn't pick one or the other, donating blood was not an option. 

“It was really hurtful and painful, it reminded me we haven’t progressed as much as a lot of us like to believe we have, it just hurt," said Levy.

The two gender-specific questions are: In the past 12 months, have you:

  1. Male Donors: Had sexual contact with another male?
  2. Female donors: Had sexual contact with a male who had sexual contact with another male in the past 12 months?

According to the Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs at the San Diego Blood Bank, Helen Bixenman, the prescreening questions are significant to public safety. 

“It’s important for people to understand we have a wide range of questions, and these questions pertain to the safety of the donor as well as the safety of the blood products. They include medications, how you’re feeling, travel, risk behaviors," said Bixenman.

The guidelines are put in place by the FDA and AABB . Not making the gender choice means the person will be turned away.

Levy thinks this requirement is marginalizing.

“I definitely understand the rules and regulations that they have to adhere too and I think that there's ways to remove gender from the questions to get to same answers they’re seeking to protect people receiving blood," they said. 

This is the first time Bixenman has encountered this type of situation she says and is considering bringing it up to the FDA.