B.C. donor with ‘X’ gender calls out Canadian Blood Services for refusing donation
Editor’s note: The pronouns they and their are used for the subject of this story at that person’s request and in accordance with CBC style.
A British Columbian who recently changed their legal gender to an “X” is filing a human rights complaint because they weren’t allowed to donate blood.
JT Beck, who uses the pronouns they/them, says Canadian Blood Services (CBS) in Surrey refused to let them donate blood in June after staff discovered the new gender on Beck’s ID.
“My reaction was a little bit of disbelief,” Beck said. “It was probably the most overt discrimination I’ve ever experienced in my life related to gender.”
Beck, 47, thinks of gender as a spectrum. They place themselves toward the male end of that spectrum, but they don’t strictly see themselves as male.
Beck is also a regular blood donor, and says they have donated at the Surrey location every three months for the past year.
Nothing about Beck’s health status or sexual orientation has changed, they say — just Beck’s legal gender on their driver’s licence, birth certificate and passport, which all have recently changed to mark Beck’s gender as “X.”
The provincial and federal governments recently started to allow the gender status. The province says 39 B.C. Services Cards with an X have been produced to date, and another 22 are pending.
Lawyer Adrienne Smith, who will be representing Beck at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, says many organizations have yet to catch up.
“We’ve known from the start that this roll-out of the new gender-neutral [marker] has been poorly integrated with other British Columbia records, particularly health care and education,” Smith said.
Beck says staff at the Canadian Blood Services where they tried to donate blood in June didn’t follow the agency’s own guidelines for dealing with trans and non-binary people who donate blood.
Beck hopes the human rights complaint will change that.
‘It just got very tense’
Canadian Blood Services says its information technology systems can’t accommodate an X gender at this time.
However, the organization says it does allow trans and non-binary people to donate blood, as long as they disclose their sex assigned at birth so they can screen for appropriate risks and not contaminate the country’s blood supply.
For example, women who have been pregnant require additional testing because they’re more likely to have antibodies in their plasma, and men who have sex with men have to be abstinent for at least three months to donate because of additional risk of HIV/AIDS.
But Beck says that’s what they did. Beck’s sex assigned at birth was already on file, and Beck says they asked blood services staff to continue processing the blood donation record as female.
Beck says a manager said keeping Beck’s female gender on file would be “a lie.”
“It just got very tense,” Beck said. “It felt very, very wrong at the time and very much more so now that I know more about their own policies.”
Beck says the exchange ended after staff insisted on a signed consent form to disclose all medical records. Beck was asked to leave after refusing to sign.
Protected human rights
Canadian Blood Services says it can’t disclose any details about the incident because of privacy reasons.
Spokesperson Marcelo Dominguez reiterated the policy to disclose sex assigned at birth and invited Beck to submit feedback.
Beck says it’s been more than a month since the incident occurred, and they have yet to hear from anyone at CBS.
Beck, who used to work as a midwife and recently graduated from law school, hopes that filing a complaint at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will prompt the blood service to follow its own policies.
“They need to allow gender expression and gender identity, which are both protected human rights,” they said.
Smith, Beck’s lawyer, says one of the outcomes they’ll be seeking at the tribunal will likely be training so staff better understand the policy. Beck and their lawyers have six months from the time of the incident to file the complaint.