Here is the reply I received to my letter to Canadian Blood Services. I am including the complete text. I am not sure why their letter included the *asterisk sign when they used the word “trans”. I wonder if the writer lifted text from another document, and did not include the footnotes.
Thank you for your email and for taking the time to reach out to us.
In August 2016, Canadian Blood Services implemented a new screening process and eligibility criteria for trans* donors. These criteria are the first step in developing national criteria for trans* donors. We will be working with stakeholders, including members of the trans* community, to improve how Canadian Blood Services interacts with trans* Canadians who wish to donate blood. We are also working on updating our computer system so that donated blood components can be processed to reduce the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) without donors having to be identified as female.
As of May, 2017 and as a result of the “2016 Summary Report – Consultations with Trans and Gender Non-binary Communities” Canadian Blood Services has implemented a training program for front-line staff with a 2018 rollout to ensure trans and gender non-binary individuals are treated respectfully.
We are grateful for the feedback we receive from donors and partners, which allows us to continuously improve how we engage with all Canadians. We understand that the pace of change is frustrating.
Donors will be asked the relevant questions for their sex attributed at birth and will be accepted or deferred based on these criteria. For example, trans* females will be asked whether they had sex with a male, and if the response is yes, they would be deferred for one year after their last sexual contact.
Given the complexity of screening donors according to both their sex attributed at birth and their affirmed gender, donors are instead deferred from donating blood for one year after their surgery. As the longest deferral period for sexual partner risk is one year, donors will be screened in their affirmed gender one year after their surgery. For donors with female sex attributed at birth, a code will be added to the donor’s file to decrease the risk of TRALI.
TRALI is a rare but potentially fatal complication that can occur in recipients after transfusion. Donors who have had a past pregnancy, including miscarriages and abortions, are more likely to have antibodies present in the liquid portion of their blood (plasma) that may cause TRALI in a recipient. To reduce this risk, we process blood donations from ALL donors coded as female in our computer system differently from donations from donors coded as male. The plasma from female donors is used to produce products such as immune globulin, instead of being transfused directly to patients. It is therefore important for us to know whether the donor’s sex identified at birth was female, so that their blood donation can be processed to reduce the risk of TRALI.
In May 2017, Canadian Blood Services released the 2016 Summary Report: Consultations with Trans and Gender Non-binary Communities”. This report summarizes themes that emerged from two in-person consultations that were held with trans and gender non-binary individuals in Vancouver on November 17, 2016, and in Toronto on December 8, 2016. Thought leaders in the trans and gender non-binary communities helped us plan this stakeholder consultation.
These consultations helped us identify that frontline staff is an important immediate priority for this community. Canadian Blood Services will implement a training program for front-line staff to ensure trans and gender non-binary individuals are treated respectfully. Planning is underway and we expect it will be developed and ready for rollout in 2018.
We will also explore how to modify clinic processes to allow individuals to select the gender with which they identify, while ensuring we have access to the information we need.
Canadian Blood Services
Customer Service Representative
National Contact Centre
My thoughts about this reply from Canadian Blood Services
- The person screening me did not have, or at least did not share with me, any information about TRALI.
- The response from Canadian Blood Services did not acknowledge, or address the fact that the question of my sex was raised in the secondary screening, after I had already answered all the risk-related questions, and in which I answered all the questions about my sexual activity.
- Since I was asked about my sex in the second quarter of 2019, it would seem the roll out of a new protocol has not actually happened.
- I will continue to donate blood as often as I can, especially since learning that because of TRALI, all blood from female donors is diverted for the production of blood products, and is not transfused to patients in need.