Canadian Blood Services will treat transgender donors as their sex assigned at birth unless they've had genital surgery, according to a new policy.
"Trans* donors who have not had gender-affirming genital surgery will be screened by their assigned birth sex," CBS said in a statement to BuzzFeed Canada.
"We recognize their assigned birth sex may be different than the gender with which they identify."
Donors who have had genital surgery will be screened by their "chosen sex," but they must wait one year after their operation before donating. CBS said "trans*" includes "all transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming identities."
The new screening process will be in effect as of August 15.
This is CBS's first policy regarding trans donors and Dr. Mindy Goldman, speaking on behalf of the agency, said the goal is to create a standard approach across Canada.
"We felt that it would be better to have a standardized procedure and that way an individual trying to donate in Vancouver would be treated the same way as someone in Newfoundland or Ontario," Goldman told BuzzFeed Canada.
"It would be more respectful of donors because they would know what the policy was."
Goldman says that because CBS deals with blood, "our criteria tend to be pretty black and white." That means people are placed into broad categories instead of being individually assessed for risk.
"Where that leaves us with trans donors is they’re not an easy population for us to screen because they're transitioning often, they don’t fit nearly into a category," said Goldman.
Intimate partners will factor heavily into this. A trans woman who has not had genital surgery and has a male partner would be treated like a cisgender man with a male partner, for example. The one year deferral period after having genital surgery is designed to match the one-year abstention period for gay and bisexual men.
For those fighting to have their gender recognized regardless of anatomy, the new policy isn't sitting well. Montreal trans advocate and chef Sophia Banks called the policy "disgusting transphobia."
In addition to the fact that not all trans people desire genital surgery, Banks said this way of thinking fuels anti-trans violence.
"The government is saying that straight men who sleep with women like [are] actually gay men or bi men," she wrote.
"This fuels transmisogny, it fuels trans panic, it fuels the reason men have been violent with me."
It's especially problematic, she said, on the heels of Canada's decision to add gender identity and expression as protected classes under human rights legislation.
"And so Canada thinks making it a hate crime to attack trans women will solve problems but in the same breath tells men that sleeping with me is an act of homosexuality," she wrote.
The policy change from CBS comes along with their new guidelines for men who have sex with men.
Previously, gay and bi men had to have abstained from sex with other men for five years before donating blood. That has now been reduced to one year. That change will also come into affect on August 15.
Goldman said that while she empathizes with trans Canadians upset with the new policy, but she doesn't want trans people to be discouraged from donating if they fit the criteria.
"A lot of people are upset when they’re deferred and they want to donate. Our approach lumps people into categories, and in this particular situation for trans people, I can see that this is particularly complicated and difficult."
Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.
Contact Lauren Strapagiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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