Our Blood Can Save Them considers racial equality and LGBTQI+ equality, and correlates these concepts to those individuals willing to sacrifice and share of themselves in service to their country and to help save lives in their communities. Past racial segregation of blood donations and current discriminatory policies – such as the FDA’s blood ban and the recently-implemented transgender military ban – are not rooted in science and data, and undermine our country’s wellness and preparedness. This work aims to express the wasted potential created by ignoring and discriminating against certain groups, while also recognizing the common humanity in all of us.
A 1943 WWII propaganda poster image was screen-printed, using a pint of donated blood from a transgender, pansexual, active U.S. Service Member. Every drop of his blood was used and, as it ran out, the image gradually fades–expressive of a person or communities being erased by discrimination or indifference.
In the early 1940’s, Dr. Charles R. Drew, a prominent African American surgeon, developed blood storage techniques as part of a successful program to collect blood in New York City hospitals and export the plasma to the Allied forces in Europe during WWII. Dr. Drew eventually resigned his position in protest of racial segregation of blood. This history serves as a starting point to examine crucial science and equality issues through policies of historic prejudice that are still being perpetrated against the LGBTQI+ community today.
The FDA’s discriminatory blood donation policy, instituted in 1983, in an early response to the AIDS crisis and updated in 2015, still bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood unless they are celibate for a full year. There is no celibacy requirement for heterosexuals. A recent UCLA Williams Institute study found that lifting the ban completely could save up to a million lives annually. As new generations are more comfortable identifying as bisexual, pansexual, transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming, requiring a person to identify as male or female or to declare their sexual orientation when donating blood is outdated.
Our Blood Can Save Them premiered in the Keith Haring Bathroom at The Center and at every Housing Works in New York City, World Blood Donor Day, June 14 – August 11, 2019.
Our Blood Can Save Them, 2018
26 x 20” each
screen-printed blood of a transgender, pansexual, active U.S. Service Member on paper
82 x 28 x 3” each
Original 1943 WWII poster, blood bag, residual blood, preserved in resin