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Another major country lifted its gay blood-donor ban. It's about time.

It's time to lift the ban. And it's been time for quite a while now.

Another major country lifted its gay blood-donor ban. It's about time.

I remember sitting alone awkwardly in a row of empty chairs at a campus blood drive when my friend looked over, smiled weakly, and mouthed, "I'm sorry."

She was standing in the line to donate blood. I'd gone with her to do the same thing, but I'd been told I wasn't allowed.

I wanted my blood to help someone out there who could use it. So it hurt feeling that this supposedly dirty part of me just wasn't good enough.


Image via iStock.

I wasn't allowed to donate blood because I'm a gay man. On that day a few years ago, I learned my blood wasn't just deemed less valuable — it was considered potentially dangerous.

When HIV became a public health crisis in America in the 1980s, the FDA banned donations from all men who have sex with men (MSM), aiming to ensure the nation's blood supply was kept safe.

Marchers in the AIDS Walk of 1995 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty Images.

Many other countries around the world also put similar bans in place.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now, we know much more about HIV and how it spreads than we did in the 1980s, and technologies that screen blood for the virus have improved greatly. So really, banning blood donations from men like me isn't justifiable — and it hasn't been for a while.

It's rooted in homophobia. It contributes to the stigma surrounding gay and bi men when it comes to HIV/AIDS, and it makes for a smaller pool of donors when blood is needed.

Fortunately, countries are slowly coming around to this realization. France is the latest.

In July 2016, its 33-year ban was reversed, allowing French MSM to donate.

Photo by Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images.

“This is a good sign, which shows that men who have sex with other men are becoming less stigmatized,” Sophie Aujean of advocacy group ILGA-Europe told France 24.

The FDA reversed a similar provision in the U.S. in December 2015. Canada, too, is on the fast track to lifting its ban.

Photo by Chris Roussakis/AFP/Getty Images.

These are all important steps forward. But there's a catch to the new guidelines in France, America, and Canada.

In each country, MSM must abstain from sex for at least one year before donating blood. Many advocates have argued that this expectation, while much improved from the previous status quo, still favors fear over actual science — and they point out that this discriminatory policy has real-world impact.

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at an Orlando LGBTQ nightclub in June, MSM were still prevented from giving blood.

How horrible is it that gay and bisexual men were stopped from helping save the lives of victims in their own community?


The irony is a grim reminder of why these kinds of discriminatory policies need changing.

I can still remember feeling like an outcast that day when I was told my blood wasn't good enough just because of who I am.

While we should recognize the positive steps forward on this issue, we also need to double down on demanding that our governments use science and facts — not fear and homophobia — to decide policy.

No one should be made to feel dirty or dangerous or judged the way I did on that day simply because of who they love.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.