On October 6th, the American University Museum hosted Blood Illuminated, a public program in conjunction with Blood Mirror, an installation by mixed-media artist Jordan Eagles.
With Blood Mirror, a seven-foot tall Plexiglas column encasing the blood of nine men, Eagles seeks to create an open dialogue and effect change around the US Food & Drug Administration’s current discriminatory policy on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The program facilitated this dialogue, inviting 6 panelists to speak with each other the public about the FDA’s discriminatory blood donation policy. The panel included Mark Joseph Stern, a writer for Slate who has been covering the issue since 2013; I. Glenn Cohen, one of the leading experts on the intersection of bioethics and law, and the Faculty Director at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics at Harvard Law School; Scott Schoettes, the HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal; and Kelsey Louie, the CEO at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, who was also a blood donor for Blood Mirror. Two additional Blood Mirror donors were in attendance as well, answering questions: Oliver Anene, an LGBT activist and recipient of political asylum in the US; and Howard Grossman, M.D., Internist at AlphaBetterCare and former Director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, who was also the Medical Supervisor for Blood Mirror.
While the audience seats were filled, one chair was empty next to the panelists labeled for the US FDA. Unfortunately, declined to participate. Key topics discussed included ideal blood policy, bioethics and what it means for the blood ban, and blood donation education in the gay community.
Following the discussion, the Rock Creek Singers of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C. held a special performance on the stairwell of the galleries.
Jordan Eagles also presented a special, luminous one-night-only installation to accompany his Blood Mirror exhibition. The piece, installed in what will soon be the Alper Initiative gallery, projected blood and light onto all surfaces of the gallery, inviting viewers to enter the space and become immersed in the light of gay blood.
Overall the event, along with Eagles’ exhibition, provided an important platform for discussion of this serious issue. We hope that those who attended were able to learn from and engage with the experts on the panel as well as with each other. We thank Mark Joseph Stern, the panel leaders, the Gay Men’s Chorus, Jordan Eagles, and the nine men who donated their blood to the project for working together in various ways to make the event a success.
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