“As a gay man living in Northern Ireland, you become accustomed to being left behind.”
In the 1980s, a ban on gay men donating blood was introduced in response to the AIDS crisis. After more than 30 years, the ban was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales. However, it took Northern Ireland until 2016 to follow in their footsteps.
The rules stated that any man who had sex with another man was banned from giving blood. This was then replaced with a 12-month deferral system, meaning that gay and bisexual men could only give blood one year after their last sexual contact with another man.
While some have welcomed the end of the total ban, others have said that replacing it with a similar ban is not enough and that more needs to be done for the gay community’s blood donation rights. The IPF spoke to four young gay men from Northern Ireland to find out their views on the lifetime ban being lifted and what it means to them.
Jordan Spry, 20
Northern Ireland in recent years has become such an up and coming, trendy place. With such striving nightlife, cheap property and tourism. The days of sectarianism and hatred have somewhat been forgotten.
However, the LGBT community is one “minority” that has been left behind.
Being a gay male in Northern Ireland is not an easy task. We aren’t allowed to marry and until recently a man named Edwin Poots of the Democratic Unionist Party stopped us donating blood to people who really need it.
The ban on gay men donating blood being lifted is one small step in the right direction for the oppression of people in my community, to not be seen as second class citizens.
James McVeigh, 25
This was just another of their wicked schemes to preserve the ultra-conservative Christian orthodoxy in Northern Ireland. But we won in the end.
Bob Turkington, 31
As a gay man living in Northern Ireland, you become accustomed to being left behind; the last country in the UK to decriminalise homosexuality, the last to allow gay adoption, the last in which gay marriage is still illegal.
The news that the gay blood ban has been lifted feels like much needed progress, like taking a small joyous step towards full equality.
However, there is also a sense that every newly won right is begrudgingly bestowed upon us by a political system still dominated by a deeply religious and homophobic mindset.
Every battle still to be won seems distant if we are to rely on political will alone. With the looming realisation of Brexit and access to the European Court of Human Rights, the prospects for swift progress in the future look bleak. So we must take this chance to champion and celebrate progress when it has arrived.
Kevin Lunny, 26
This feels like a significant step towards the policies of our government catching up with the views of the general public.
Northern Ireland can be a very frustrating place to live as a member of the LGBT community because a large part of our government hold negative views towards us and are willing to discriminate against the citizens, based on their out-dated beliefs.
This ban contradicted reason, logic and the evidence provided. It sent a clear and dangerous message to some of our most vulnerable young people and was a source of embarrassment and shame for the country.
However, the removal of the ban and replacement with a similar ban means that this news is not of any significant value to the health service in Northern Ireland, which struggles with low stocks of donated blood.
The news feels significant, but I am left feeling more frustrated that our policies on this matter are not based on scientific evidence and that lives may be put at risk as a result.
NB: The IPF’s Comment section is a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily endorsed by the IPF.