Sometimes being busy is a good problem to have. I say this because the last few months for me and the gang at Hagerstown Hopes have been nothing but busy. Now that we’ve established a presence in the community, we’ve been asked to participate in, contribute to, and partner with more organizations than I can think of without making a list and scrolling through my ever-growing inbox of emails. At a certain point I realized that the world really is changing quickly and that we no longer have to ask to be included because others want to include us. This is great news because it means that our work is, well, working. The world is becoming more inclusive, more accepting, and more affirming of differences.

That’s why I’m concerned about recent events. I’d gotten so swept up in the warm glow of acceptance and inclusion that I maybe overestimated how well we are actually regarded by society. Now I’m second-guessing myself because, while individual attitudes may be changing, we’re still being adversely affected by a number of problematic policies that exclude and even ignore members of our community. We’re making progress, but the work is far from over.

It started with a news article about a local blood bank. Their supply of life-saving blood is dangerously low and donors are needed. The problem is that an antiquated policy does not allow men who have had sex with men to donate blood. Technically donation is possible, but it requires a year of celibacy. The concern, of course, is that men who have had sex with men may be HIV-positive and spread the virus to the recipient of a blood transfusion. The problem is that this policy stigmatizes men who have sex with men and excludes us, thereby reinforcing a number of negative stereotypes. After all, anyone can be HIV-positive, regardless of who they sleep with. This policy, which clearly is in need of revision, serves to exclude and only harms those in need of a life-saving transfusion. If anyone can be HIV-positive, shouldn’t processes and policies be updated to maximize the number of eligible donors needed to save lives?

We’re also seeing exclusion in conversations and policies surrounding abortion. The word “woman” is often used in these policies, referring to those seeking abortion services. It seems that policymakers have forgotten (or don’t know) that trans men can (and do) become pregnant. There’s an extra, more insidious layer to this issue because by only using the word “woman,” policy makers reinforce the gender binary and completely disregard gender identity and gender expression. They’re saying that trans men aren’t “real” men because they have a uterus (or “duderus,” one of my new favorite affirming words). I can’t help but think this is intentional. After all, a lot of effort has gone into creating trans-excluding policies; it makes sense that trans men would be excluded from policies that also affect them, especially when these policies are created by straight, cisgender men who don’t even know how pregnancy works.

The primary purpose of policy is to regulate and control behavior. As our community knows, policy can also be used to discriminate, segregate, and limit our rights. That’s because policies are always a reflection of values, and values have a way of changing over time. This puts our community in a paradoxical position: we have achieved partial, but not full, equality for our community. We have won many battles to be included in policy, and these victories deserve to be celebrated. That doesn’t mean the work is over, though. Until all policies are inclusive of all members of our community and reflect our rights, needs, and personal autonomy, we must remain vigilant. We must do the work. Let’s get busy.

Author Profile

Brian George Hose
Brian George Hose
Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.