In The U.S., Gay Men Couldn't Donate Blood Until 2015
Say you're a healthy man (a stretch, we know), and you're willing to donate blood to those who are in desperate need of a transfusion. You consume pretty much nothing but purified water and air for 24 hours, get a good night's sleep, and then proudly walk into the donation center with your sleeve rolled up, ready to face down your primal fear of needles to save a life and maybe score a free cookie. The doctor asks you some simple questions about what genitals you may have interacted with recently, and suddenly you're being shown the door.
What the heck happened?
The FDA has a longstanding restriction that prevents men from donating blood if they've ever had sex with other men. The rule dates back to 1983, when AIDS was still new and scary and called "a gay plague." But we're much more educated on AIDS and same-gender sex these days, so the FDA finally loosened its restrictions ... in 2015. All men can now donate blood! Uh, as long as they haven't slept with another man in the last 12 months. Sorry, guy in intensive care with a severe gunshot wound, but if you think about it, a year can really fly by, right?
Given that blood shortages are a continual pressing concern, discriminating against a good chunk of the population seems counterproductive. The FDA's stance is that it's all about safety, that 12 months ensures that if someone were unknowingly HIV positive, it would still show up in screenings. Makes sense, right? But straight people who have slept around all year are still welcome to donate, while gay men in healthy monogamous relationships are turned away. Meanwhile, Italy has performed individual risk assessments on donors instead of relying on blanket bans since 2001, and they haven't seen any increase in HIV infections. So maybe we shouldn't be making non-straight men choose between doing a good deed and enjoying sex this year, especially since we all know what we'd choose.
In France, Trans People Were Forced To Get Sterilized Until 2016
Legally requiring people to get sterilized sounds like a sci-fi dystopia, but for transgender people in France, it was a dark reality all the way up until October of 2016. Before then, French trans people who wanted to change their legal name and sex had to first obtain proof that they'd been permanently and irreversibly sterilized.
France wasn't alone in being behind the times. Germany only dropped its sterilization requirements in 2011, Sweden did it in 2012, and Norway waited until 2014. And all of those countries are ahead of an eye-watering 22 European states that still have mandatory sterilization laws on the books, including some places you wouldn't expect, like Finland and Switzerland. In the 1970s, Sweden became the first country to allow people to legally redefine their gender, but also declared those same people mentally ill and unfit to reproduce. In fact, being diagnosed with a mental illness is still a requirement to transition in some countries, which we're sure gets people queuing right up.