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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.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via Jody Danielle Fisher / Facebook

Breast milk is an incredibly magical food. The wonderful thing is that it's produced by a collaboration between mother and baby.

British mother Jody Danielle Fisher shared the miracle of this collaboration on Facebook recently after having her 13-month-old child vaccinated.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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