Monday, March 16, 2009

Opinions of Radical Queer Action Against Red Cross

Radical queer activists in the Twin Cities recently put up fake blood drive flyers to protest the Red Cross's homophobic policy of not accepting blood from men who have sex with men. Upon hearing of this action, Autumn Sandeen from Pam's House Blend wrote two blogs about it (first and second). I usually enjoy what she has to write, but this time around I was really offended by her posts (and some people's comments). The following is what I wrote in reply.

I personally have mixed feelings about this action. It did get people's attention and it brought to light the policy of the Red Cross. But it's also true that the poster was potentially damaging. For instance, Fritz brought up a good point in saying that it could make people doubt whether future blood drives are legitimate.

I can see where the activists are coming from in the use of Jennifer Gale's name. I am not sure that was an appropriate action to take. However, the attitudes that keep men who have sex with men (and people who have had sex with "MSMs") from donating blood are the same attitudes that lead to the death of people like Jennifer. Even if I did end up disagreeing with their use of her name, I can also still appreciate the radical queer activists' reasoning relating to churches being named for saints.

I feel as if the Red Cross/FDA policy might as well say, "No f*****s allowed." Their policy flies in the face of science and everything we've learned in the past few decades about HIV/AIDS. The fact that the FDA and the Red Cross know the facts and still have this policy is inexcusable. Even if the Red Cross opposed the policy in 2006, that means... it took the Red Cross until 2006 to oppose the policy. Three years ago.

Frankly, Autumn, your posts on this topic are potentially alienating to queer activists both young and old. You say that the radical queers' words are insulting and then you insult them repeatedly. That's not the type of thing that makes me open to what you said. Your point would have been better taken (and would have been something I could respect) had you written a less inflammatory and more respectful response. Even if you strongly disagree with the activists' action, there's no need to insult them. Don't bring yourself down to that level. How productive is it to sit around and call people names? This comment also applies to Fritz - who I believe still wrote something much better than what Autumn wrote by sharing examples of ways to improve Red Cross policy. Finally, like many other problems that we must face, there is not necessarily one correct way to approach it. Different tactics and different angles can have different results. The history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer movement(s) are not without radical action. Radical action is not always negative and does not always have negative results. Nor is it always best as a last resort.

As a young queer activist myself, I want to work to make change in an effective way. Sometimes I see that path within the system. Sometimes that path lies outside of it. There are many failures in our history and our modern day from trying to work within the system (JTI, anyone?). I would even argue that the erasure of bisexual / trans / queer people and people of color from many mainstream GL(bt) organizations' political campaigns is related to some degree to trying too hard to look "normal" and to work within the system. That's why I have so many mixed feelings about those groups, the marriage movement, etc... and this action.

The bottom line is that you're not going to get people to listen to what you have to say by throwing around hateful language. And please stop acting like the situation is black and white. If you want to criticize the way these people did what they did, and to get your message across, do it in a way they - and others - might actually want to listen to.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting what others may be too afraid to.

Danelle said...

I don't have a problem with radical activism, but it does seem like the protest is misdirected. Sure, it took the American Red Cross an unacceptably long while to come around on this, but they did, as you said, in 2006. It seems kind of pointless to me to protest against a group that already agrees with you - the better target for a protest is the FDA, at least here in the US. However, the Red Cross is not blameless: the international committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is all over the place:

Radical queers should stage protests at ICRC headquarters in Geneva...or of the US/Canada Delegation in DC.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I signed up for a blood drive earlier today as a matter a fact. At my school, we make sure all queer guys show up to donate blood each time. We answer all the questions honestly, and when they send us away we politely (assuming they've been polite) state our disagreement with the policy. And they have on record the fact that they turned away a shitload of people who could have donated a lot of blood that would have saved a lot of lives FOR NO LEGITIMATE REASON.

The Bi Avenger said...

Anonymous - I was happy to post this and I am even more happy that I did after reading your comment. It makes me sad that anyone might be afraid to post something like this, but I can think of a few reasons why that might be the case.

The Bi Avenger said...

Elián, that's a really good idea, and I'm going to look into the possibility of starting to do it here.