Edmonton

Edmonton man upset by blood agency's screening policy which considers him female

A transgender man wants Canadian Blood Services to change its screening policy for trans individuals after an embarrassing experience.

"It was just reinforced, 'You were born female; we have to consider you female'"

Canadian Blood Services says donor criteria are "based on the best available scientific evidence" that must be approved by its regulator, Health Canada. (CBC)

An Edmonton man with a sex chromosomal condition is calling for Canadian Blood Services to change its screening policy when dealing with people with genetic abnormalities, as well as donors who are non-binary or transgender.

Jack donated blood five times over the past year. Two weeks ago he had an embarrassing experience after he revealed to staff that he recently had surgery to remove uterine cells.

Jack's condition means that he was born male, but with both male and female cells. CBC has agreed to refer to him only by his first name due to harassment.

Staff, unfamiliar with his condition, asked him if he was transgender and if he had genital-reconstruction surgery. When he said no, staff told him he would have to answer questions based on his sex assigned at birth, which they said was female given the presence of uterine cells.

"It was just reinforced, 'You were born female; we have to consider you female,' " Jack said.

Two questions — "Have you had a pregnancy over the past six months?" and "Have you slept with a male who has slept with a male?" — seemed especially pointless, he said.

But Jack will have to respond to those questions every time he gives blood, he said.

Staff were just as uncomfortable as he was, Jack said, and he's certain other trans people would feel the same way.

"A lot of people, that's going to really upset them," he said. "That's going to really trigger them."

Canadian Blood Services would not comment on Jack's experience and directed questions to its website which outlines the eligibility criteria for trans individuals.

The criteria state donors who have genital-reconstruction surgery will be deferred from donating blood for one year, but then would be screened in their new gender. 

Donors who have not had genital-reconstruction surgery are screened by their gender assigned at birth.

That means trans men born female are screened as women and questioned about pregnancies, as donors who have had a pregnancy are more likely to have antibodies in their blood that may cause a rare but potentially fatal complication in a recipient. 

The website says donor criteria are "based on the best available scientific evidence" that must be approved by Health Canada, its regulator. 

Jack only learned of the policy since the screening, which was two weeks ago.

"I feel like if it's better explained people will be more accepting of it," Jack said.

But he disagrees that the policy is based on science. 

"The screening process needs to change. There needs to be more medically pertinent questions that are based on actual fact and not just general bias."

Clarifications

  • CBC News has removed Jack's last name and photo due to harassment he has faced since publication.
    Apr 04, 2022 8:36 AM MT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.

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