Clayre Sessoms
Canadian Blood Donor Turned Away Due to Trans Identity

By Parker Marie Molloy

Originally published on Advocate.com May 19 2014 6:47 PM ET

A Vancouver trans woman has been turned away from a Canadian Blood Services clinic as a result of her gender identity.

After arriving last week at a downtown Vancouver clinic where she had donated blood on a number of occasions prior, trans woman Clayre Sessoms was shocked, she said, when a clinic staff member asked her if she had undergone genital surgery.

After telling the clinic nurse that she had not undergone any sort of surgery, Sessoms was informed that the clinic would be unable to accept her donation.

"I was deeply hurt," Sessoms told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "I was kind of dumbstruck at first."

A nurse told Sessoms she wasn't excluded from ever donating blood but that she would have to fill out a special form. Sessoms has donated blood several times without any problems, including last November, after she had begun transitioning and changed her name, she told the CBC.

"Happily married to a woman, she said she thinks the clinic was operating based on negative stereotypes about the sexual activities of transgender people," the CBC reports.

The blood services group declined to discuss Sessoms's case, citing privacy considerations, but gave the CBC the following statement about its general policy: "Canadian Blood Services does not exclude any potential donor based solely on gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Any transsexual or transgender individual is screened at our blood donor clinics according to the same standard eligibility criteria we use for all blood donors.

"In certain cases, a donor with a complex medical history may be referred to one of our medical staff for further assessment. This procedure is in place to protect both the donor and the patient. We appreciate that a request for further medical consultation can cause distress for some donors, but we do this to ensure the safety of the blood system and it is not intended to reflect negatively on any individual."

In the United States, trans women are routinely denied the ability to donate blood, as the U.S. Food and Drug Association has a blanket ban on donations from "men who hve had sex with other men," and the FDA includes straight transgender women in this group.

"FDA's primary responsibility with regard to blood and blood products is to assure the safety of patients who receive these life-saving products," the FDA states on its website. "FDA uses multiple layers of safeguards in its approach to ensuring blood safety, which include donor screening and deferral based on risk factors, blood testing for markers of infection, inventory controls, and deferral registries. The use of these multiple layers helps to assure the safety of the producst in the event that one layer fails."

The website goes on to state that "a history of male-to-male sex is associated with an increased risk for exposure to and transmission of certain infections diseases, including HIV, the virus that cauess AIDS." The website states that this policy is not discriminatory as it is "based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections" among men who have sex with men.

In 2013, Canada lifted the ban on gay men donating blood, as long as those donating had been abstinent for five years. No such policy exists for trans women in relationships with women.

Contributor: 
Parker Marie Molloy