Transgender man upset by blood agency’s screening policy which considers him female

A transgender man is calling for Canadian Blood Services to change its screening policy when dealing with trans donors.

Jack Biamonte donated blood five times over the past year. Two weeks ago he had an embarrassing experience after he revealed his recent hysterectomy surgery to staff.

Staff, unaware Biamonte was a female-to-male transgender individual, asked him 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.

“It was just reinforced, ‘You were born female; we have to consider you female,’ ” Biamonte 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 Biamonte will have to respond to those questions every time he gives blood, he said.

Staff were just as uncomfortable as he was, Biamonte 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 says donor criteria are “based on the best available scientific evidence” that must be approved by its regulator, Health Canada. (CBC)

Canadian Blood Services would not comment on Biamonte’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.  

Biamonte 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,” Biamonte 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.”

Biamonte says the experience soured his willingness to give blood, but he’ll continue while pressuring Canadian Blood Services to adjust their policy.

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

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