Tag Archives: discrimination

Our “underage and gay” – a long way to go

When I turned on Channel 4 last night and tuned into a programme called Underage and Gay, I was expecting an hour of pure emotion. I was right – but not in the way I expected. What I thought would be a highly negative hour of my life, turned out to be the complete opposite. Kudos to Channel 4 for that.

The real heroes here though are of course the starring teenagers. The sheer courage, intellect and resilience shown through the daily struggles in their lives can be described as no less than awe-inspiring.

Positive. Moved. Hopeful. Angry.

Anger is what I felt whilst watching this programme – what was, in my opinion, the most accurate insight we’ve seen in a long while into the lives of LGBTIQ young people growing up in modern Britain. All I could think is how much we’re failing these young people.

Last night introduced us to Alex – a 17-year-old trans male who was left homeless and is now living in social housing. He is unfortunately not alone. Just 2 weeks ago, the Albert Kennedy Trust published their report about LGBT youth homelessness which stated that up to a staggering 24% of the homeless youth population identify as LGBT. It puts this down to a higher exposure to experiences of parental rejection and familial abuse and violence.

The other young people in the show shared their experiences of being bullied, including whilst at school. Now this might not come as a surprise, especially as the all-too-frequent reports of LGBTIQ young people self-harming and tragically committing suicide hits the screens of our phones and tablets in this increasingly social media obsessed world that we now all live in (which of course comes with its own problems!). Not to mention the fantastic work done by charities to highlight the prevalence of homophobia in schools, and run campaigns around the inappropriate use of the word “gay” amongst other things.

This week, however, things became that little bit more bleak. An article published by the Independent quoting figures from the National AIDS Trust broke the news that 1 in 5 or a shocking 20% of gay and bisexual teenagers reported having been bullied or discriminated against by a teacher or another member of staff at school. This is personally incomprehensible, simply unacceptable and something needs to change.

If we ever needed an argument against the disbandment of pride events or for the introduction of compulsory inclusive sex and relationship education and a curriculum that harnesses diversity and prepares young people for life, this is it. We still have a long way to go.

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Give the gift of blood this Christmas – unless you’re a gay man

It’s that time of year again when the good people at National Blood Service put on their Santa hats and bring out the festive cheer by the bucket load in order to recruit as many people as possible, new and existing, into heading down to their nearest donation centre and donating blood. And rightly so. Giving blood is an important, and highly rewarding, thing to do. It’s a vital service in the NHS. It saves lives; in emergencies and treating people with long-term conditions. Why wouldn’t somebody want to donate? Especially at Christmas…

(c) NHS Blood Donation

(c) NHS Blood Donation

What many people aren’t aware of is that most gay and bisexual men are banned from giving blood. I say most. Let’s be fair about this. The Blood Service doesn’t discriminate against gay people, just men who have sex with other men (MSM). It’s not a lifetime ban – that rule was changed in 2011 following a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs – so now it’s just a referral period of 12 months. And ladies, if you’ve had sex with a MSM in the last 12 months, you’re banned too. Sorry.

But hang on – you always practice safe sex and use a condom? That doesn’t matter either. Essentially, somebody at the Department of Health has looked at a pile of statistics related to HIV and other blood-borne viruses and infections and decided that the blood of gay and bisexual men is at too high of a risk of carrying them and compromising the safety of blood donations – along with sex workers and people who have injected themselves with drugs. You can’t argue with facts. HIV might well be more prevalent within the LGBT community, but the decision to individually risk assess your own behaviour isn’t one that MSM are deemed competent enough to make for themselves.

Seems pretty unfair, right? It’s discrimination. The Blood Service makes it quite clear it’s not to do with somebody’s sexuality but their practice. But yet two consenting adults who are in a monogamous relationship and only practice safe sex using a condom are still banned? Something doesn’t quite add up there.

So next time you’re bragging about giving your half-a-litre of the red stuff, just spare a thought for the likes of me who would like nothing better than to save a life this Christmas, but can’t, because I’m gay.

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