A Washington museum will exhibit a sculpture that uses the blood of nine gay, bisexual and transgender men to protest the federal ban on blood donations from men who have sex with other men.
The American University Museum will showcase Jordan Eagles' sculpture, entitled “Jordan Eagles: Blood Mirror,” in an exhibit opening Sept. 12. The artwork includes blood donations encased in resin.
Blood for the exhibit came from nine accomplished people who are banned from donating blood. Eagles is known for using blood in his artwork.
Showcasing blood in an exhibit may sound gruesome to some, but the piece is “quite elegant and beautiful,” Museum Director Jack Rasmussen said. The artwork is a three-sided rectangle that will allow visitors to step inside it. The idea is that viewers can see themselves reflected through the blood in the sculpture.
The museum is staging the exhibit as a protest of the ongoing federal policy.
“It was kind of shocking to hear that in this day and age we're still stigmatizing people because of their sexual preference. It just seemed kind of outrageous,” Rasmussen said. “So this is kind of a way of drawing attention to what is no longer really acceptable -- that you can discriminate against people by virtue of their sexual orientation. That's all this is.”
Donated blood is tested for safety and to detect diseases, yet blood from a gay person is treated differently, Rasmussen said.
Blood donors for the sculpture include the Rev. John Moody, an 88-year-old gay, Episcopal priest; Kelsey Louie, the CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, a leading provider of HIV and AIDS prevention and care; and former Army Capt. Anthony Woods who served two tours in Iraq and was discharged under the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy before he was reinstated in 2014. Other donors include an LGBT activist from Nigeria who received political asylum in the United States and a transgender man who is married to another transgender man.
Another sculpture will feature blood bags, collection tubes and other medical equipment used during the blood donation process. Eagles also collaborated with fashion designer Jonny Cota who created a flag made from material soaked in the blood of the nine donors.
The Food and Drug Administration instituted a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis. This year, the FDA proposed an updated policy allowing donations from gay men who have not had sex with another man in the last year.
Opponents say the updated policy requires gay men to remain celibate, while heterosexuals are not held to the same standard, regardless of their risk for contracting HIV.