OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Bans

New airport screening rules introduced by the Harper Conservatives appears to have the side-effect of banning trans Canadians from flying entirely. Section 5.2(1)C of the Aeronautics Act now states that anyone who “does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents” is barred from flying. While I doubt this was a deliberate action against trans Canadians, it certainly demonstrates that they aren’t in the government’s consciousness. (Well, either that, or they really, really like trans Canadians and never want them leave.)

Canada Mulls Ending Gay Blood Ban

September 14th, 2011

A man hauls a large bucket of blood.

Hot on the heels of the United Kingdom, which ended their gay blood donor ban in favour of a one year deferral last week, Canadian Blood Services is now mulling a similar change.

Canada’s permanent deferral on blood donations from men who have had sex with another man—even once—has never been scientifically sound; on top of that, the ban has been increasingly difficult to defend as more and more countries shed the practice. CBS has gone through several revisitations of the issue, but they always ended up being more theatrics than science, opting for the status quo. Somehow, though, I think this time will be different. Heck, even Russia, which is pretty darn anti-gay, has ended their lifetime ban on gay donors.

The identically cautious adoption of a one-year deferral is based on the rationale that particularly dangerous contaminants, such as HIV and hepatitis B, are undetectable for a period of time. Since all blood donations are tested for blood-borne contaminants, a period of a few months is really all that’s necessary, but donor clinics want to be especially vigilant, so a 12 month buffer makes sense.

And yet, I still find this change problematic.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, the problem isn’t the length of the ban (although forever was clearly a bit excessive), but rather the question that triggers it. This question essentially singles out sexual orientation instead of sexual behavior, treating many safe donors as risky, and many risky donors as safe. Monogamous gay couples, for example, are still effectively banned by the questionnaire, while a straight man that has unprotected sex with hundreds of partners is treated like an ideal donor, despite being a far greater risk.

This problem shouldn’t be difficult to resolve. The question could be replaced with something along the lines of: “Have you had more than one sexual partner in the last year?” followed by “Has your sexual partner had more than one sexual partner in the last year?” Answering yes to either could trigger the deferral without singling out sexual orientation and would likely even improve the quality of the blood supply by catching risky straight donors in addition to gay ones.

But, hey, these things are slow, so I’ll take ending the ban as a baby step in the right direction. Kinda.

UK Kinda Almost Lifts Gay Blood Ban

September 9th, 2011

A vampire lunges through a doorway while a man remarks: "Wait... It's been a full year already? Well this is just great."

The United Kingdom has removed its lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men, replacing it with a one year deferral since the last time a donor has had sex with someone of the same gender.

So, yeah—essentially, nothing has changed.

Well, I suppose at the very least it’s an acknowledgement that the lifetime ban (which Canada still has, incidentally) was never scientifically sound. Nonetheless, I wish that questionnaires would stop singling out gay men and simply ask about risky sexual practices for everyone. This can include the number of sexual partners, whether or not the donor has unprotected sex, is non-monogamous, etc.

In western nations, gay men undeniably have a higher incidence of STDs, but heterosexuals are far from immune; in fact, the fastest growing HIV demographic in Canada is young heterosexual women, accounting for a quarter of all new infections. I have no reason to doubt the situation is similar in the UK, yet monogamous gay couples are deferred for a year every time they have sex, even if both partners have been tested—simply because they’re gay. Silly.

Ontario Catholic School Bans Rainbows

June 8th, 2011

And as a symbol of his covenant to never again flood the earth, God summoned to the sky a beautiful rainb---IRREDUCIBLY COMPLEX BACTERIAL FLAGELLUM. THE END.

An unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario has been forbidden from displaying any rainbows at their information booth.

The school board had already banned official Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support groups to help reduce incidences of bullying—in their schools (thus the “unofficial” nature of this group), but apparently that didn’t go far enough. “They said rainbows were associated with Pride,” Leanne Iskander, who founded the GSA, told Xtra this week. “There’s so many other things a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”

Nevertheless, the group managed to sneak in some hidden rainbows by baking cupcakes with batter in all of the rainbow’s colours. They weren’t allowed to donate the proceeds to GLBT charities like LGBT Youth Line, mind you. Instead they were forced to choose a Catholic charity. (Thankfully not Exodus, an “ex-gay” organisation which is still a registered charity in Canada, cough sign-the-petition cough, cough.)

At any rate, congratulations to Leanne and the amazing GSA! Despite the artificial and ridiculous hurdles being tossed in your way by a terrified school board, you guys rock. Keep it up!

Catholic School Boards Introduce Decoy GSAs

April 8th, 2011

A SIDE Space meeting room has a giant bear trap in the middle of the floor.

Catholic schools in Ontario are continuing to fight gay-straight alliances from forming, despite pleas from students to allow them.

GSAs are an effective means of reducing homophobic bullying, improving student safety and decreasing the number of gay teen suicides. For this reason, the Ontario Ministry of Education has strongly recommended that all publicly funded schools include GSAs if the students request one. This recommendation is meant to include the Catholic school system which, despite being a religious organisation, is still publicly funded.

Understanding that outright bans on GSAs generate bad press, however, Catholic schools have begun adopting a new strategy to avoid acknowledging their GLBT students. When requested by students to allow the formation of a GSA, these schools launch a replacement club: One that teaches about all kinds of tolerance and diversity instead of focusing on gay issues.

Gosh that sounds just lovely and—RUN, KIDS! It’s a trap!

You see, rather than accept the most effective means to increase student safety for GLBT students, these ostensibly inclusive groups just re-enforce the discrimination that makes gay students feel so isolated in the first place.

At a GSA meeting in Mississauga, for example, the school’s principal entered unexpectedly and drew a big umbrella on the chalkboard to indicate that their club will have to talk about issues that affect everyone instead of homophobia, effectively silencing the entire school’s GLBT student body. Separately, and more troublingly, training documents for the Halton Catholic School Board’s new GSA replacement called “SIDE spaces,” declares that “gay is not an identity,” and that gay students are “immoral and sinful.”

Most of these kinds of stories aren’t even making it to the media. I’ve now received several emails from students across the country who have had their requests for a GSA turned down. An email I received just yesterday from an Ontario student highlights exactly the same sort of ineffective replacement club that these schools are foisting upon students to silence them:

Our school’s nun decided to be our [GSA] leader, but we had to change the name of the group to be inclusive of all aspects of discrimination.

Project CAT (Project Creating Awareness Together) was what our GSA became. That would have been totally fine with me, had it not been obvious that we weren’t to speak too much about homophobia in the group.

SIDE spaces, Project CAT, and large umbrellas. I could be greatly mistaken here, but something tells me this isn’t quite what the students had in mind when they requested the formation of a GSA.

The good news, though, is that students are fighting for safety, visibility, and inclusion. I like the way that Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the program director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, put it: “This issue is not going away,” she told the Halton Catholic School Board during their April 5th board meeting. “Students are empowered. Students know their rights. Students want gay-positive groups in their schools, and they will fight for them.”

Students are already proving Noa right. So, if you’re hoping to get a GSA formed in your school, keep fighting for it! Government organisations such as the Ontario Ministry of Education is on your side, and as long as you guys know your rights and keep up the pressure, these schools will eventually have to comply with their recommendations if they want to keep their public funding.

New Gay Blood Ban Case Heads To Court

April 1st, 2011

First, a quick announcement: Since the launch of this site in 2006, you’ve no doubt noticed a gradual change in my illustration style. While I’ve been pleased with the artistic direction that my illustrations have taken over the past several years, I feel that they have lost a certain charm of the originals. That is why, starting today, I am returning to—and keeping—my original illustration style. Additionally, to keep the site’s look consistent, I will be removing and re-drawing all of my illustrations from the last few years. This is a pretty exciting project, so I hope you’re as pleased as I am!

Update, April 2: For anyone who doesn’t like to check calendars on a regular basis: Yes, this announcement—and the accompanying terrible illustration—was an April Fools joke. The rest of the post is real though, so good luck to Mr. Lomaga with his blood ban case!

A terrible illustration.

If you’re a gay man in Canada and have had sex even once since 1977, you are permanently banned from donating blood in the country. If you’re surprised by this, you likely haven’t tried donating blood for a very, very long time. This policy has been on the books for about thirty years now, despite having organisations like the Red Cross come out against it.

Nonetheless, Canadian Blood Services has rested stubbornly with the policy. The organisation even launched a successful court case against Kyle Freeman, a gay man, for having donated blood against the organisation’s policy two years ago. While that case ultimately ruled in favour of CBS because they were not a government organisation and therefore not subject to Canada’s charter of rights, the policy is about to be tested again.

Adrian Lomaga, a Montréal student, is challenging the gay blood ban policy of Héma-Québec (which is more likely to be ruled as a government organisation) on April 4. In response, Héma-Québec is suing Health Canada (clearly a government organisation), saying that if they lose this case, it’s the fault of their parent organisation for forcing the policy on them.

I’ve always been confused by the gay blood ban. Defining the exclusion group as haphazardly as “gay men” is likely considerably more harmful to the blood supply than other proposed alternatives. For one, it perpetuates the myth that all gay men have tainted blood. On top of that, it fails to catch heterosexuals who may engage in far riskier sexual practices than a monogamous gay man. A wiser system would shift the focus on the number of partners a donor has, as well as whether or not the donor engages in risky sexual practices—such as not using condoms. HIV and other blood-borne infectants don’t care about the gender of their host, after all.

So, good luck to Adrian Lomaga! May you soon have large needles inserted into your veins, and your blood removed in large quantities!

Not One GSA Available In Ontario Catholic Schools

March 11th, 2011

Giant Squid Association

None of the 29 Catholic schools in Ontario have a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar support program for gay youth, according to an investigation by Xtra.

GSAs are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a means of offering support to gay students, who are frequently victimized by homophobic bullying. The publicly-funded Catholic school boards, however, have chosen to ignore this recommendation along with the needs of their students.

While school board officials deny there is a ban, some were very clear as to whether a GSA would be allowed to form in their district. “The answer would be no,” declared the superintendent of education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board.

Well, that sounds an awful lot like a ban to me.

Julien McArdle—a young activist from Gloucester, Ontario—agrees. He started an online petition earlier this month to help catch the attention of school board officials and turn up the pressure.

Good!

And if that doesn’t work, students can always request the formation of Greek Salad Aficionado clubs. Only 48% of the bishops find feta cheese morally offensive.

Texas School Blocks GSA By Turfing All School Clubs

March 4th, 2011

A guy wearing an "Everything's Bigot in Texas" shirt.

Flour Bluff Intermediate School—a high school in Corpus Christi, Texas—has shut down all its extracurricular clubs after a student requested the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, a peer support group that encourages tolerance and anti-bullying initiatives.

The insane move, which has effectively terminated otherwise unrelated clubs such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was taken by the school administration as a means of banning GSAs without penalty from the Equal Access Act, which would have required the school to provide equal opportunities for student-run clubs, “regardless of their religious, political, and philosophical leanings.”

Well, I guess banning all extracurricular clubs is one way to ensure equality, Texas style!

Catholic School Board Bans Gay-Straight Alliances

January 10th, 2011

A student suggests a new club, the "God-Loving Blackboard Teamsters," GLBT.

Gay-Straight Alliances—student-run support groups—are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the American Psychological Association to provide visible support to gay youth, encourage safer schools, and help curb recent gay teen suicides. The Halton Catholic School District School Board isn’t too fond of them, however. They’ve forbidden the formation of GSAs in their schools.

Alice Anne LeMay, chair of the Catholic school board, explained the ban bluntly: “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she told the press. “If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied.”

Wow, eh?

I wonder, what must it be like to play word associations with Ms. LeMay?

Me: Gay.
LeMay: Hitler!
Me: Rainbow.
LeMay: Holocaust!
Me: Same-sex mar—
LeMay: (bursts into song) It’s Springtiiiime for Hiiitler and Geeermany!

All this aside… To the students in the Halton Catholic School District, I’m sorry to hear about your exceptionally stupid administration, but things will improve. Keep up the good fight; you’re not alone.

Canada May Allow Gay Blood Donors

May 26th, 2010

A group of doctors has come forward in support of lifting Canadian Blood Services’ permanent deferral of gay men donating blood. In a medical paper published in yesterday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, several doctors submitted that the ban is unscientific, harmful and must be reconsidered. A step in the right direction, if Canadian Blood Services takes notice.

In Canada, all potential blood donors must fill out a questionnaire before getting in the chair. Any man who answers yes to a question asking if he has had sex with another man—even once—since the 1970s is permanently barred from donating.

Canada has been facing a blood shortage, and while the safety of the blood supply is more important than the right of any individual to donate, the questionnaire is flawed; it filters potential donors based purely on who they are, not through any scientific risk analysis. This not only turns away healthy gay donors and fails to catch unhealthy heterosexual ones,  but also perpetuates the myth that all gay men are inherently dangerous. Replacing the question with one that, instead, filters potential donors based on a history of risky behaviour irrespective of their gender would solve these issues.

Hopefully Canadian Blood Services will take note. And who knows? With more and more medical experts coming out against the ban, maybe one day I, too, will be able to experience the pleasure of having my veins punctured with hollow metal spikes, and watch litres of blood leave my body into bags until I feel woozy.

Sweden To Finally Allow Gay Blood Donors

December 2nd, 2009

These guys are a lot more horrifying in movies than they are close up, aren't they?

Sweden is finally lifting its lifetime ban on gay blood donors, instead implementing a deferral of one year based on responses to questions about sexual practices. The change, which takes place in March, puts Sweden beside several European countries to reverse their gay blood donor bans, a trend applauded by the American Red Cross who called such bans “medically and scientifically unwarranted” in 2007.

Canadian Blood Services, in the meantime, continues to bar all gay men from donating blood for life—even if they’re in long term, monogamous relationships—and goes as far to personally track down and sue anyone suspected of violating the ban.

Meanwhile, straight men who engage in risky sexual practices only receive temporary deferrals. That’s bloody-well unfair, isn’t it?

U.S. Upholds Gay Blood Donor Ban

May 28th, 2007

Blood Bank

Despite a recommendation from the Red Cross, the FDA has refused to lift their ban on gay blood donors.

Like Canada, the United States permanently defers men who have had sex with another man from donating blood. The Red Cross called the ban “medically and scientifically unwarranted,” though the FDA contends a lift on the ban is not worth the risk of introducing HIV-infected blood into the supply.

Canadian Blood Services promised to review their policy this spring, where it’s hoped that the “gay deferral” will be replaced by one based on sexual behaviour rather than orientation. In Canada, the fastest-growing HIV demographic is young heterosexual women, which makes up a quarter of all HIV infections.

Gay Sperm Donor Ban Upheld

January 31st, 2007

Gay sperm ban

Gay men are not allowed to donate sperm, and that’s OK. Well, at least that’s what the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled this month after a woman was denied artificial insemination from a trusted gay friend.

The mother of one, known only as “Susan Doe,” had successfully tried self insemination with the same donor years earlier, but the “second batch” (so to speak) didn’t take, forcing her to seek clinical assistance. Much to her surprise, the clinic refused to process her friend’s sperm, citing a 1977 law forbidding gay men from donating. Nutty!

Anyway, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this whole story is that the no gays law does not apply to donors who have had sex with the recipient before. So, while getting out the ol’ turkey baster won’t exactly exempt you from the law, trying, uh, something different first just might.

So, to the anonymous gay donor: Don’t fret! Hope is not lost! Just, uh, how far are you willing to go to help your friend, exactly? I mean, a straight friend would totally try gay sex to help you in a similar situation, right?

In the meantime, Susan Doe says she’s taking this to the Supreme Court.

Principal Caves; Students Get Gay Club!

January 29th, 2007

It’s 1993

Richmond Hill High School will be getting a Gay Straight Alliance after all! That, according to a great little email I received from Maya, one of the students who was fighting for the support group’s formation:

Well, we had a PTA meeting, some more news coverage, and then the administration gave in. We have a club!

Congratulations, guys!

The principal, Dr. Ivy Chan, had previously forbid the group from operating or distributing posters on school property, citing “entrenched views” for the ban. According to Maya, Dr. Chan attributed her change of heart to a combination of media attention and her desire to keep a good relationship with her students. Aw, what a sweet gal, that one!

Incidentally, my old high school never had a GSA. But, then again, it was a Catholic school. If they had allowed such a group, meetings would have been scheduled in the nitre-encrusted basement, where drops of holy water fall from a latin-enscribed ceiling to purify the souls of the gay. You know, or something…

OK, fine: I wish I had been brave enough to start one. Congratulations again, Richmond Hill!

Principal Bans Gay Support Group

January 15th, 2007

Gay Straight Alliance

Well, chalk up another victory for the folks who just aren’t comfortable with the gays! Ontario’s Richmond Hill High School has forbidden a student-run gay support group, the Gay Straight Alliance, from meeting or distributing posters on school property. The principal, Ms. Ivy Chan, cited “entrenched views” as the reason for the ban, saying “I could go ahead and be politically correct and have one, but a gay straight alliance—some people would be for it, but there would be a lot of parents who would oppose it.”

Well, it’s a good thing that disaster was narrowly avoided! And so eloquently, too. I mean, can you imagine students meeting on school property to discuss such dangerously controversial topics as tolerance? And what if they started spearheading things like safe space initiatives and organize events like the Day of Silence? Kaboom!

Ms. Chan was quick to point out she’s an inclusive person, and that a staff-initiated “Diversity Club” (which has yet to be formed) would “encompass everyone.” Though, naturally, I’d imagine no emphasis on gayness would be allowed.

Parenthetically, Richmond Hill High School has a Women in Leadership Club, a Jewish Culture Club, and eleven other school-sponsored groups. But banning those would be so last generation! Am I right, folks?