Donation and the LGBTQ+ Community
It takes a lot of time, energy, understanding and love to get to a place where you feel comfortable being your whole self. For some, they choose to share and celebrate their whole self on October 11 each year.
A day of unity and respect, today is Coming Out Day. A day meant to celebrate members of the LGBTQ+ communities who choose to come out and publicly share their gender identity.
Today, we are excited to start a conversation about the importance of inclusion and how the LGBTQ+ community can be a part of the gift of life made possible through organ, eye and tissue donation.
Let’s Talk About LGBTQ+ and Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation
We sat down with local members of Casper PRIDE and a professional in the donation and transplantation field to talk about donation and the LGBTQ+ community.
Meet Mallory and Gage, Board members of Casper Pride. Mallory’s journey to support the LGBTQ+ community in Casper, Wyoming started with just wanting to help out, but has quickly become a driving passion and a dedicated desire to help through education. Gage’s journey with Casper Pride started in 2016 when he created an events organization for the queer community called “Out in Wyoming” and his involvement in the community and support of the cause has grown since. Gage and Mallory knew that their local community needed a voice for those who also identify as LGBTQ+.
Now meet Chad, a professional working in the donation and transplantation community in Colorado at Donor Alliance. Chad shared that he identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and has witnessed misconceptions that can accompany that identity and donation and transplantation.
The Donation Discussion
What have you heard about organ, eye and tissue donation in your community?
Gage: I have not heard much, however, I do have some friends whose lives were saved thanks to the donations of others.
Mallory: I have heard a few stories about people getting a transplant, but not much more than that.
Donate Life: It’s so inspiring to hear stories about people in our own communities whose lives were saved because someone said Yes to organ, eye and tissue donation. The decision to donate is a selfless, heroic decision that saves lives and allows the donor’s legacy to live on after death.
Have you heard any myths/statements about donation, things you wonder if they are true or not?
Gage: To my limited knowledge, I have not heard any myths or statements that regard eye and tissue donations.
Mallory: I have not either.
Chad: The myth I have heard is “I cannot donate because I cannot donate blood. Because I am gay, they will not accept my organs.” This is not true and I share the facts with anyone who mentions this myth to me. All who identify as LGBTQ+ can register as an organ donor and potentially save lives with their gift.
Donate Life: Chad is 100% correct. That is a myth! We encourage everyone to learn the facts of donation and dispel the myths they hear in their communities.
Have you heard of restrictions on donation for those who identify as LGBTQ+?
Gage: I have not personally heard of any restrictions when it comes to organ, eye and tissue donations, but blood donation has been a big topic of interest within the Queer community.
Mallory: Same as Gage – I have not heard anything else except about blood donation.
Chad: I usually get asked by my friends that are LGBTQ+ if they can donate because they were under the impression that they could not, being that there is a restriction on donating blood. I continue to share with them that it is a myth and they are able to donate organs, even if they identify as LGBTQ+.
It is also my understanding that gay or homosexual men are not able to donate tissue as per an FDA rule.
Donate Life: Regarding tissue donation, yes, there is currently an FDA rule out for gay or homosexual males. We are required to follow all FDA guidelines for tissue donation when screening potential donors.
However, we’re glad you both brought up the topic of blood donation. We hear this often from those in the LGBTQ+ community. They have heard there is a rule out for homosexual men that prohibits donating blood, and this can discourage LGBTQ+ members from considering donation in general.
We feel it is important for members of the LGBTQ+ community to understand that they can be organ donors and give the gift of life. When just one person has the potential to save up to 8 others through organ donation, it is a powerful decision that LGBTQ+ members can make for themselves and their communities.
Lastly, we encourage everyone to not rule themselves out! Science is continually making advancements in the field of donation and transplantation. For example, the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, commonly known as the HOPE Act, has broadened our ability to save lives. Backed by research, it permits the recovery of HIV positive organs and the transplantation of those organs into HIV positive individuals. Now these individuals, those living with HIV, have hope where they did not before.
Since none of us can predict when our lives will end, we encourage you to say Yes to organ, eye and tissue donation and give hope to those who wait. There are nearly 2,000 of your neighbors and community members who continue to wait for a lifesaving organ transplant and thousands more who wait for tissue and cornea transplants in our region alone.
Are you registered organ, eye and tissue donors?
Gage: I am and have been since I was able to register to be one.
Mallory: I believe so – it’s on your driver license, right? I have the heart on my license.
Donate Life: Yes, the heart on a driver license or state ID is the designated symbol in our region for organ, eye and tissue donation. It means you have said Yes to donation and are signed up on the state organ and tissue donor registry.
Chad: Yes, I am a registered donor. I am passionate about the gift of life and enjoy my job working for an organization whose mission is to save lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.
Have you talked with your family about your donation decision?
Gage: Yes, my family is the reason I am a registered donor. They expressed the importance of becoming a donor and I think that everyone should be one cause what’s to lose.
Mallory: I think I’ve made comments about supporting donation, but do not believe I have had an intentional “sit-down” conversation about being a donor.
Chad: Yes, I am a registered organ, eye and tissue donor, as well, and I have told my family about my decision.
Donate Life: Sharing your decision with family and those closest to you is very important. Many donor families have shared with us how comforting it was in their time of grief knowing that they were honoring their loved ones’ decisions.
Mallory: I love talking about this topic for the LGBTQ+ community. We are very focused on offering education to the LGBTQ+ community on our website, at our events, and internally. I’m guessing other people who identify as LGBTQ+ have the same misconceptions about donation or haven’t even considered it or talked about it.
Donate Life: Agreed! We encourage everyone to sit down with their family and friends and have the discussion about organ, eye and tissue donation. We offer tips about how to start the conversation and how important it is to let your loved ones know what your donation decision is now.
On this day, Coming Out Day, we are proud to share this moment with those coming out publicly and to let you know that sharing how you identify and who you love does not affect your ability to be a hero through organ donation. We see you and you can give the gift of life to help another in need.
Thank you to Gage and Mallory, with Casper PRIDE, and Chad, with Donor Alliance, for joining us at the table to discuss the LGBTQ+ community and organ, eye and tissue donation. We feel that it is through these types of conversations that we can share information and help one another.
If you are ready to register your decision to be an organ eye and tissue donor, don’t wait! Sign up today here.