Transgender woman ‘advised not to donate blood’

Issue arose after Aoife Martin, who has given blood for 20 years, sought to change details

Transgender rights advocates are to contact the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) to discuss the service’s policy on blood donations from trans people.

Transgender rights advocates are to contact the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) to discuss the service’s policy on blood donations from trans people.

 

Transgender rights advocates are to contact the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) to discuss the service’s policy on blood donations from trans people.

Aoife Martin, a transgender woman who has given blood almost 30 times, recently sought to have her male details on the blood service’s systems changed in order that she may present as female.

The service wrote to her to ask her to come from her home in Dundalk to the National Blood Centre (NBC) in Dublin to discuss her eligibility to give blood and advised her not to donate in the meantime.

Ms Martin said that as someone who had given blood for over 20 years, she was very disappointed with the attitude of the IBTS.

The service told The Irish Times it had a policy on “gender reassignment” which had not changed in recent years.

It said it would accept whatever gender a donor says they are when they attend clinics. A donor’s gender could not be amended at mobile clinics but could be amended on the live system at the National Blood Centre, it said.

“We ask donors about their sexual relationships as their former gender and their current gender. We also ask about their medical history, current treatment, operations, blood transfusions etc. All of which are taken into consideration in the decision on a donor’s eligibility to donate.”

The service said this conversation took some times and it preferred to do that in a more private setting than the mobile clinic.

“Many of our clinic staff will not have encountered this issue in the past and find the decision on eligibility a complex one.”

The IBTS said if it was difficult for a donor to attend the NBC or the Cork centre it would offer to see the donor at the nearest regional centre.

Gender implications

It also said a donor’s gender had implications for the haemoglobin level required prior to donation.

Ms Martin said it appeared the policy was “geared towards those who have undergone, or are undergoing, gender reassignment”. She was neither on hormones nor undergoing gender reassignment and did not see how this applied to her.

“My haemoglobin levels will, of course, be the same whether I present as male or whether, as I would prefer, present as female.”

Ms Martin said being trans was “a very wide spectrum”.

“Thanks to the recent Gender Recognition Bill we are now free to identify as male or female but it seems that the IBTS doesn’t take that into account. They don’t seem to cater for anyone who is outside their narrow definition of what a trans person is.

“Having donated blood on and off for over 20 years I find this attitude disappointing and feel annoyed that I should have to go to Dublin to explain myself to them.”

‘Body parts’

Broden Giambrone, chief executive of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), said there was a “lack of clarity” about the IBTS’s policy.

“It’s based on certain body parts and certain sex acts. That’s really at the core of what that’s about. I think there’s a lack of understanding of trans identities and bodies.”

Mr Giambrone said he would contact the IBTS.

“Like a lot of these things, it can seem overly complicated when you’re looking at it from afar, but actually if you sit down and talk it through, I would be optimistic that we could find some way. At the end of the day, they want people to donate blood in a safe and accessible way and we want trans people to be able to donate blood in a safe and accessible way.”