Volume 95, Issue 31

Friday, October 26, 2001
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London prepares for protests

Media pioneer visits Western

Students become alumni in mysterious ceremony

Professor criticizes ban on gay blood

MSA lecture discusses Islam

Police pursue possible sex stalker

The world at war

Professor criticizes ban on gay blood

By Jessica Leeder
Gazette Staff

Yesterday afternoon a Western professor declared his desire to be pricked with the needle of Canadian Blood Services.

The Centre for Women's Studies and Feminist Research kicked-off its 2001-02 Gender and Society Workshop with an inaugural presentation by arts professor James Miller, entitled "The Nessus Factor: Why Gay Men Cannot Give Blood in Canada".

Miller was introduced by Kelly Olson, an assistant classical studies professor. Olson explained the importance and uniqueness of the workshop series.

"This new monthly workshop is intended as an interdisciplinary forum for the presentation of faculty and graduate student work on topics relating to the study of gender, society and sexuality."

Olson continued by highlighting Miller's achievements, noting he is the founder and director of Western's Pride Library. He also teaches courses in modern languages, philosophy and visual arts, she said.

Miller's talk revolved around the "Blood, it's in you to give" campaign launched by Canadian Blood Services several years ago, after the tainted-blood scandal.

While the slogan sounds non-discriminatory, the screening process one must go through in order to donate blood weeds out "males who have sex with males," he said.

According to Miller, question 12 in the screening process asks that males who have had sex with other males since 1977 identify themselves and, accordingly, they are barred from donating blood.

"If you're a gay man hoping to donate blood in Canada, it's not in Canadian Blood Services to receive," Miller said, parodying the organization's campaign slogan.

"Gay men were accepted into the donor pool until 1986, [at which time] they were excluded from the ranks of accepted blood donors in this country."

Miller cited a number of processes gay males have gone through to change the provision in the questionnaire to no avail.

Miller said that, while he understands assertions that blood must be screened for "risk factors" and gay men barred because of their statistically high chance of contracting HIV/AIDS, Blood Services' argument "sounds principally logical, but in practice, it is less rationally so."

Shannon Thomson, a second-year masters of sociology student, said she thought the interdisciplinary nature of the workshops is excellent.

"This is a good way to discuss issues that typically there is no forum for discussion," she said. "Lots of people may not have even known gay men aren't allowed to give blood."

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