LGBTQ+ Donors

This page is intended to explain the regulations as they relate to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Gender non-conforming (LGBTQ+ or LGBT) individuals. This page is supported by the American Red Cross LGBTQ+ Team Member Resource Group.

American Red Cross Values

  • The top priority of the American Red Cross is the safety of our volunteer blood donors and the patients in need of lifesaving blood products.

  • The Red Cross goal is for all eligible donors to have a successful blood donation. Our employees and volunteers are trained to be sensitive to the needs of all potential blood donors, and this is especially true if an individual is deferred for any reason.

  • The Red Cross believes all potential blood donors should be treated with fairness, equality and respect, and that accurate donor histories and medically supported donor deferral criteria are critical to the continued safety of blood transfusion.

  • The Red Cross understands that there is a difference between biological sex and gender. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance, “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products” states, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.”

 

Policy and Process Information

Blood Donor Eligibility

All blood donors are required to meet FDA eligibility criteria to donate blood, every time. These eligibility criteria apply to all U.S. blood collection organizations.

Only an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time. However, less than 10 percent of that eligible population actually donates each year.

The gender-specific donation criteria and questions on the health history questionnaire are designed to ensure that the blood collection process is as safe as possible for the donors as well as for the recipients of blood. Learn more about blood donation eligibility.

Health History Screening

During the pre-donation health history screening, the Red Cross uses a questionnaire that is developed by the blood industry’s professional organization, AABB, and approved by the FDA to assess an individual’s health history.

Health history questions are based on past and current behavior risks (for example: travel, medication, sexual activity, etc.) Sexual activity questions are based on specific behaviors, not on sexual orientation.

The words, “have sexual contact with” and “sex” are used in some of the questions, and apply to any sexual activities (vaginal, oral, or anal), regardless of whether a condom was used during the activity.

Men who have sex with men (MSM)

The FDA guidance “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products” states, “Defer for 12 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months.” All U.S. blood collection organizations must follow this federal requirement.

Based on several years of research and recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the FDA’s decision to change the blood donation policy for men who have had sex with other men (MSM) from a lifetime deferral to 12-month deferral is consistent with other selection criteria that are used to safeguard the blood supply from equivalent risks. At present, there are insufficient scientific data available to determine whether it is safe to rely only on individual behavioral risk factors when determining donation eligibility. The Red Cross continues to work with the FDA and our blood industry partners to gather additional scientific risk data to assist the FDA in determining if further changes are warranted in the future.

A first time donor, whose last MSM contact was greater than 12 months ago, may be eligible to donate blood. The Red Cross encourages individuals to learn more about MSM blood donation criteria and blood donation eligibility.

Women who have sex with women

There is no deferral for a woman who has had sex with another woman, and the individual may be eligible to donate blood. The Red Cross encourages individuals to learn more about blood donation eligibility.

Transgender Donors

The FDA revised guidance states, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.” This change allows blood donors to register with the gender in which they identify. The Red Cross will no longer ask donors to answer both male and female questions when attempting to donate. There is no deferral associated with being transgender, and eligibility will be based upon the criteria associated with the gender the donor has reported. See additional blood donation eligibility criteria.

Red Cross staff members are required to verbally confirm demographic information, including gender, with all presenting donors. This step helps ensure donor safety and accuracy of records. If Red Cross records have the incorrect gender, presenting donors may ask staff members to make the change upon registration. Individuals do not need to tell staff that they are transgender.

Individuals with specific questions about eligibility can contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276.  

Intersex Donors

The FDA revised guidance states, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.” The FDA requires the Red Cross to have donors select either male or female. Individuals do not need to tell staff that they are intersex.

Individuals who identify as gender non-conforming/
genderqueer/gender fluid/agender or non-binary

The Red Cross values all potential blood donors and understands that selecting either male or female may not align with how some individuals identify. The Red Cross also knows that there is a difference between biological sex and gender. The FDA revised guidance states, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.” The FDA requires the Red Cross to have donors select either male or female.

Asexual Donors

Individuals who do not have sex with another person may be eligible to donate blood. Learn more about blood donation eligibility.

 

Questions and Answers

If I have been deferred for MSM, when will I be able to donate blood?

Individuals who have been deferred for MSM in the past may initiate donor reinstatement as early as January 2017 by contacting the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276. Individuals who have been deferred for MSM in the past may begin receiving phone calls to schedule donation appointments as early as January 2017. First time donors may be eligible to donate blood. Learn more about blood donation eligibility.

Can I show up and donate blood if I have been deferred for MSM?

No. Individuals will need to call the Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 to confirm their eligibility before coming to donate. Individuals who have been deferred for MSM in the past may initiate donor reinstatement as early as January 2017 by contacting the Donor and Client Support Center. Red Cross staff members at blood drives do not have access to remove previous deferrals from donor records.

How can I be removed from the blood donation call list?

Please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to be removed from the blood donation call list.

I am in an MSM monogamous relationship, can I donate blood?

No. The FDA revised guidance states, “Defer for 12 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months.” All U.S. blood collection organizations must follow this federal requirement.

I am a man who has sex with another man; do I really have to be celibate for 12 months before giving blood?

Yes. The FDA revised guidance states, “Defer for 12 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months.” All U.S. blood collection organizations must follow this federal requirement.

I am a man who has not had sex with another man in more than 12 months, can I donate blood?

Men who have not had sex with another man in more than 12 months are not deferred by the MSM guidance and may be eligible to donate blood. If an individual has been previously deferred from donating blood, that individual will need to call the Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 to confirm eligibility before coming to donate.

I am a trans man, and I have been eligible to donate because my assigned sex at birth was female. However, I have had sex with another man. Can I donate blood?

Individuals who identify as male and have had sex with another man within the past 12 months will be deferred under the MSM policy. Learn more about MSM blood donation criteria. Further questions may be directed to the Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276.

I am a trans woman, and I have not been eligible to donate because my assigned sex at birth was male, and I had sex with a man. Can I donate blood?

Individuals who identify as female and have sex with a man, may be eligible to donate blood, if all other blood donation eligibility criteria are applicable. If an individual was previously deferred from donating blood due to MSM, that person will need to call the Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 to confirm eligibility before coming to donate.  Additional eligibility questions may also be answered through the Donor and Client Support Center.

Don’t you test every unit of blood?

Yes. The Red Cross tests each unit of donated blood for a number of infectious diseases. While testing has greatly improved, it is not 100 percent effective at detecting infectious diseases in donors with very early infection. The FDA selected the 12-month deferral to provide adequate time for the detection of infected individuals. Learn more about blood donation screening tests.

What can I do to help if I am not eligible to donate blood?

There are many ways to help the Red Cross. Individuals can encourage someone donate in their place, become a blood volunteer, host a blood drive, start a SleevesUp campaign and much more. Learn more about volunteer opportunities.

 

Helpful Resources

FDA Revised Guidance on HIV Transmission

CDC data on HIV

CDC HIV data in different populations