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Students protest blood donor restrictions for gay men

Approximately 10 students stood near the steps of Wilson Library and formed a caution-tape heart around a body bag.

Sophomore Christian Haig organized the protest and said it was part of a project for his sculpture class.

“The point was to just let people know that institutionalized homophobia doesn’t end in North Carolina with same-sex marriage’s legalization and to show that this policy is actually doing a lot of harm,” Haig said.

Although they remained silent for most of the protest, Haig and his group answered questions when people stopped and engaged with them.

“At least part of the reason as to why people were so curious is that we covered ourselves in caution tape with red scarves around our faces,” he said.

Keenan Brown, a sophomore French and dramatic arts major who was part of the protest, said most people who asked them about it had no idea the policies existed.

“This isn’t something people know about,” he said. “When I tell people about this legislation they don’t believe me.”

Brown has Type O negative blood, a universal donor. He has known people who have died because they couldn’t get blood transfusions.

“I want to be able to help them, but I can’t and that is a terrible feeling,” Brown said.

The protest took place on the spot often occupied by Gary Birdsong, and Brown said they had prepared for him to be there.

“We were kind of hoping he would be out there,” Brown said. “It would have made things even more interesting.”

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing its policy that deferred men from blood donations if they had had sex with other men since 1977. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a December 2014 press release that the FDA will draft new guidance by the end of 2015.

Brown said he’s concerned about how the policies have affected the LGBT community.

“I have a friend who recently came out to me and a few friends, and he went to donate blood but they told him he couldn’t,” Brown said. “That really affected how comfortable he was with being honest about who he is, and no one should feel that.”

Josh Hyzy, a UNC senior, was also part of the protest and said it encouraged him to learn more about the issue.

“We’re fighting all these organizations and acronyms that are making these laws and it’s hard to do anything as just one person,” Hyzy said.

Brown said he also read about the issue before the protest and learning about it motivated him to protest.

“We covered ourselves in caution tape because these policies say we’re dangerous,” Brown said. “But people need to know that we’re not.”

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