Health Matters

“Heartstopper’s” Joe Locke Wants This Homophobic Blood Donation Policy to End

On August 13, the Isle of Man held a Pride celebration that featured Heartstopper’s Joe Locke as a speaker. Locke, who is from Douglas on the Isle of Man, delivered an impassioned video speech celebrating the progress that has been made, while pointing out the ways in which discrimination persists.

Locke started out by reflecting on the importance of Pride: “Having a Pride day may seem like a small gesture to some, but for the people who don’t feel comfortable in who they are, seeing a huge amount of people celebrating that part of themselves that society used to ridicule can change lives.”

He added that while Pride is a cause for celebration, it exists solely because of the struggles and sacrifices of the brave activists who came before. The result of that activism has been progress, and Locke listed some notable local examples, saying, “The island has come so far in the last 30 years.” This progress includes the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2016 and the full ban on anti-LGBTQ+ conversion therapy in 2021 (the wider UK currently excludes anti-trans conversion therapy from its ban).

“There is still work to be done,” continued Locke. “The Isle of Man to this day does not allow gay men to donate blood, an archaic rule that was placed into force at the height of the AIDS pandemic. These rules have slowly changed in the UK since then, allowing gay men to donate blood under certain rules. But not on the island.”

Locke concluded his speech by calling on the Isle of Man government to change the outdated law once and for all “and bring the island one step closer on its journey to acceptance.”

Since 2017, the UK currently has a three-month deferral on blood donations from men who have sex with men. Meanwhile, a number of other countries—including France, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, and Bolivia—have scrapped blood donation bans. Locke noted that a consultation was launched in 2014 to look into changing the law, and six years later, this has resulted in no meaningful action.

In the end, Locke’s message amounted to much more than a stirring preamble to the weekend’s events. Shortly after the video went live, the Isle of Man government issued a statement saying that it is now committed to changing the law—a direct result from Locke’s speech. The government is aiming to institute these changes by the first quarter of 2023.

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