Barton Lynch, a 24-year-old Virginia man, recently donated one of his kidneys to protest the Food and Drug Administration's discriminatory policy prohibiting men from from donating blood unless they have refrained from same-sex intimacy for a year.
The Crystal City resident, who works for a consulting firm, went to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and donated the kidney to a complete stranger “so that someone could have their life given back to them,” the Washingtonian reports. Lynch had regularly given blood to honor his father, who was diagnosed with cancer during Lynch’s freshman year of college, but FDA policy prevents him from continuing to make regular donations.
"Not that long ago I started dating guys, which now eliminates me from being able to donate blood," Lynch explains. "So I needed to find a way to give back that wasn’t giving blood. I know the need is there for kidney donations, so it seemed like a no-brainer—how could I not?"
The FDA ruled in 2015 that men who have sex with other men are allowed to give blood, but only after abstaining from sex for a full year. This ruling replaced an outmoded lifetime ban established in 1992. The original 1983 blood ban, instated in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, deemed queer men and trans people as “high risk” donation candidates.
Lynch, who describes his kidney donation as a form of "philanthropic activism," also sent a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in hopes that the FDA will reconsider its guidelines for blood donation.
"Other countries are changing, the technology for detection of HIV has advanced a lot since the ’80s," Lynch continues. "When we are constantly in need for blood, as a society, and you’re excluding an entire category of people for a reason that’s not based in science, it’s crazy to me. The questionnaire you fill out when you give blood doesn’t cover risky behavior, except for the question, ‘Have you had sex with another man?’"
"At this point, I’m just reaching out and trying my best to raise awareness," he says. "I mean, I’m one person but I’m trying to make the noise that I can."
Lynch also notes that as of 2015, gay and bisexual men can now donate bone marrow. "I’m on the registry myself, although I haven’t been called yet. Once I am, however, I will go through with it."