Winter is coming to South by Southwest.
The Austin music festival will host a blood drive event called Bleed for the Throne, which runs today through Saturday. It is helmed by Game of Thrones and the American Red Cross.
Donors at the "immersive experience" — and many donation centers across the globe — will receive a bloody Game of Thrones T-shirt and will be entered for a chance to win a trip to the premiere of the final season of the HBO fantasy series in New York City this April. The contest ends Tuesday.
However, men who have sex with men are not allowed to donate blood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandates a year of abstinence for gay and bi men before they can donate blood — a rule that has been criticized as a discriminatory holdover from the height of the AIDS epidemic. (Prior to 2015, gay and bi men were not allowed to donate at all.)
The national contest — the largest blood donation campaign from an entertainment company in Red Cross history — has drawn renewed attention to the ban. And gay and bi Game of Thrones fans are left feeling excluded.
“It’s kind of a bummer,” GoT fan Erich Hazen told The Daily Beast. “Here’s this really great prize, but you can’t have it because you’re gay.”
That awk moment when your mom wants to go donate blood with you cause they’re giving out Game of Thrones shirts but you can’t donate blood because you’re gay and have touched a penis. #BleedfortheThrone
— kiss me im irish (@nicklinkefus) March 7, 2019
“I’m a gay man myself, and I think it’s discriminatory,” said Dr. Johnathan Applebaum, an HIV researcher. “We don’t do the same thing for high-risk heterosexual couples.”
In addition to fans, there are Game of Thrones cast members who are unable to "bleed for the throne," such as Kristian Nairn, the gay actor who portrayed Hodor.
Gay and bi men — or anyone else who is unable to donate — can technically enter the contest by contacting the Red Cross Donor Support Center, the health organization told the Beast in a statement. SXSW attendees can wait in a standby line at the HBO event to enter the contest as well.
But regardless of who wins the trip to the Game of Thrones event, the inability for queer men to donate is a loss for those who desperately need vitae — especially since the Red Cross is facing a blood shortage.