Beginning on June 17th, the vibrant LGBTQ community in the Tri-State area will kick off Cincinnati Pride, a week-long celebration of diversity, acceptance and equality that is now in its 43rd year. For many participants, this festive series of events provides an opportunity to reaffirm their stance on issues that are close to their heart, such as equality, social change and commitment to making a positive difference in their community. One of the most vital issues to reinforce along these lines is the importance of organ donation, but unfortunately it can often go overlooked due to a lack of clarity regarding how members of the LGBTQ community can contribute to this life-saving cause.
LGBTQ Can Donate Too: Andrew Banacki’s Story
In August of 2014, Ohio resident Andrew Banacki was traveling to Cleveland to participate in the Gay Games along with his fellow teammates on the Ohio Splash LGBT swim team. Upon hearing the news that one of his good friends was thinking about donating one of his kidneys to a stranger in need of a kidney transplant, Banacki began to entertain the idea of donating one of his own kidneys in the same manner. Little did he know that it would only be a few months later that his own father would need a life-saving kidney transplant.
As fate would have it, Banacki’s father, Phillip, sustained a serious injury due to a fall on a family vacation, and the muscle relaxers that had been prescribed to him ended up causing serious harm to his kidneys. After several rounds of hospital visits, doctors made a harrowing discovery: Phillip’s kidneys were only functioning at nine percent. Although he was placed on the waiting list, his prospects looked bleak, and the doctors projected a wait time of five years for a suitable match to be found.
Andrew initially thought about getting tested to see if he was a match, but was discouraged early on by a friend who told him that he would probably not be allowed to donate because of his sexual orientation. This is an unfortunate myth that has plagued the LGBTQ community, because in actuality, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has instituted no such exclusion for organ donation.
The only exception is that individuals who have tested positive for HIV are not currently allowed to donate organs, but policy changes are being considered that would allow people who are HIV-positive to donate organs to other individuals with HIV.
As the clock kept ticking, Andrew’s father’s condition continued to worsen, prompting Andrew to forgo the advice of his friend and get tested anyway. According to Andrew, his sexual orientation was never brought up at all during the testing and donation process. In his own words, “Not one doctor asked if I was gay.” Andrew did end up being a match for his ailing father, and after two surgeries, the transplant was successfully completed.
Andrew’s amazing story is a salient example of the importance of having the right information about organ donation. There are many people in the LGBTQ community who are more than willing to register as donors, and the need is too great for something as trivial as inaccurate information to get in the way.
If you’re part of the LGBTQ community and you’ve been concerned about whether or not you can become an organ donor, don’t be – your participation is welcome, and it is also necessary in order to further the all-important cause of saving lives.