Several milk jugs filled with a mixture of water and red food dye surrounded a Speedway table on Wednesday as students emptied blood bags full of the mixture into Mason jars for the Banned Blood Drive.
The blood drive was organized as a statement against blood donation restrictions enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, such as making males who have had sexual contact with another male adhere to a waiting period before donating. Students were able to metaphorically donate blood by pouring a 350 mL premeasured mixture of red food coloring and water into a large container.
Ian McEntee, Liberal Arts Council member, co-hosted the first drive of this type at UT to protest what he said are unnecessary blood donation regulations.
“These rules imply that queer-identifying people all have HIV or they all have AIDS or they all have some form of sexually transmitted disease,” McEntee said. “It’s a gross, outdated and barbaric assumption. It makes you feel like you’re being banned because you’re dirty.”
McEntee, a humanities and sociology junior, was not allowed to donate after he received a blood transfusion due to an FDA-enforced 12-month wait. The FDA also requires anyone with new piercings to adhere to a waiting period before donating blood, according to its website.
Events such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016 and the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, two weeks ago motivate people to donate blood to indirectly help the victims, McEntee said.
“After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, a lot of queer men were like ‘This is directly affecting my community, I want to help any way I can,” McEntee said. “These rules make it harder for the LBGTQ community to contribute.”
Fatima Wahid, government and sustainability studies sophomore and event co-host, said some people believe the FDA rules are reasonable.
“Some people walk away saying that they don’t agree with our protest, and some people stay to get their point across,” Wahid said. “People take issue with our stance on the FDA rule about men having sex with other men.”
As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, 160 people had participated, and a petition to change these FDA rules had gained 200 signatures.
“It has come to my understanding that the FDA and any government organization is not all good, and so anything to prompt them to reevaluate things in the best interest of the public, I’m all for it,” undeclared freshman Corey Morgan said.