On September 11th, after both twin towers were hit, I called my buddy Peter to find out what was happening. Peter lived in lower Manhattan at the time and my little paper in Midland was like every other news organization trying to make sense of the madness. Peter’s partner Masood got on the line and gave us some good, solid quotes about what he was witnessing.
That wasn’t the first time I asked Peter for help. Nor would it be the last. I had already known him for 14 years and trusted him as a journalist, photographer and friend. He and I met at the exact same time Marci and I met at the now defunct Ann Arbor News. I remember a conversation, which in retrospect is hilarious. I told Peter I was interested in Marci and hopefully he wouldn’t mind if I continued trying to get into her good graces.
Peter didn’t mind at all. I found out later through a great multi-page, handwritten letter that he was gay.
Back then it wasn’t as easy to be “out.” These days it hardly seems to be an issue. The ABC Family network has gay teen characters and my daughters know several openly lesbian or homosexual kids in middle school and high school.
But there are still places and institutions where it’s not easy being gay in this country. Apparently one of those places is the bone marrow donor program. Peter, who gave me that bright clown wig, who I’ve counted on for almost two dozen years, who is nothing but amazing, was rejected due to sexual orientation. He tried to donate but they told him they were concerned about HIV. Peter doesn’t have HIV. Lots of straight folks have HIV, however.
I feel rotten about that. The marrow program will be one of the factors that cures me. It will make sure leukemia stays far away and doesn’t rear its ugly head after two or twenty years. But I take issue with their selection process. Why can’t they just screen Peter’s test like they do everyone else’s. If people are being excluded, doesn’t it just naturally follow potential recipients are losing out?
I’m not on a crusade here. I’m just a guy hopefully recovering from cancer who thinks a lot more people could benefit if the gene pool were expanded. I’m no clinician or researcher and I certainly don’t understand actuarial tables. If someone wants to selflessly give of themselves, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?
Maybe I should be silent and not cause waves. I wouldn’t want the program’s upper echelon to catch wind of my friend’s rejection or my feelings of injustice. I need their marrow. It would be reckless or feckless to openly ask for an explanation like they can do down in the Comments section below.
I guess I’m just not the silent type.