I was 17-years-old when I signed up with NHS Give Blood – a decision I came to in a sixth form assembly presented by my former headteacher, who declared he owed his life to those selfless enough to become blood donors.
Next month, I will turn 23. And the month after that, I will be making my first ever blood donation. Strangely enough, I have lockdown to thank.
It's difficult to pluck a silver lining out of the coronavirus pandemic. The economy has been hit hard, thousands of people have died, and the threat of a second wave bares its ugly face.
And yet, if it wasn't for months of self-imposed isolation as a result of trying to protect my high-risk parent, there's a great chance I wouldn't have met the eligibility requirements to donate.
This is because, men who have sex with men (MSM) – and women who have sex with MSM – are prohibited from making donations unless they have abstained from oral or anal sex for at least three months: even if they used protection.
The same rules apply to those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have been encouraged to donate their blood plasmas, which will then be transfused to infected patients.
While individual eligibility assessments are being pushed as an effective way to make more blood donation more inclusive, the momentum seems stagnant.
Petitions have failed to gain enough attraction for them to be discussed in parliament, and work from the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group has been delayed due to the pandemic.
Yet now more than ever is the time to enforce change. What does it say about the current rules when it takes a global pandemic and nation-wide lockdown to make giving blood more feasible for queer men?
In my experience, these restrictions served to create an internal battle of viewing sex as a selfish, irresponsible, and self-sabotaging act.
It seems as though I have two bleak options: become a sexless doll and swallow perfectly normal urges, engaging in relationships where sex is viewed as a threat to my purity – or be selfish and refuse to meet outdated requirements.
It reiterates the feelings of shame we first experienced when told we were unable to donate. Unable to help save lives. Unable to do what every other student in that assembly could do without even having to think about sex.
And as happy as I am to be giving blood, there's a bittersweetness in knowing this could very well be the first and last time. Or, that booking another appointment will only be as a result of yet another worldwide crisis.
Male donors are listed as "particularly" wanted on NHS Give Blood's website, which feels almost tormenting, and yet the UK prides itself on having "some of the world’s most progressive rules about who can and can't give blood".
I wonder whether I'm alone in this lockdown-motivated mission to donate blood – or whether the reluctancy to changing the rules has actually convinced us poison really does run through our veins, and we simply cannot live an altruistic life if we're gay.