For 32 years, men who have had sex with another man—even once—have been barred from donating blood. In December 2014, the FDA proposed a revision to this unscientific and discriminatory policy. But rather than lifting the ban altogether—which could save more than a million lives—the FDA chose to modify it. Under the proposed policy, gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood only if they’ve been celibate for a full year.
In response to the FDA’s homophobic blood ban, New York City-based artist Jordan Eagles created a deeply affecting and startlingly beautiful sculpture called Blood Mirror. The artwork is a 7-foot-tall monolith that contains the blood of nine gay or bisexual men. Up close, the viewer can see herself reflected in the preserved blood.
Eagles’ project took more than two years to complete. The donors include a Nigerian LGBTQ now living as a refugee in New York City and a gay army captain who served two terms in Iraq before being discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Filmmaker Leo Herrera captured the creation of Blood Mirror in a short film. The sculpture, Herrera says, “represents homophobia so deep that it infected science itself and spawned a fear of our most precious fluids.”
When I first heard about Eagles’ project, I thought it sounded strange and unpalatable. Then I saw photographs of the sculpture, and I was absolutely floored. Blood Mirror is an ethereal work of art, a striking, immersive, disturbing, and oddly gorgeous sculpture. It would be breathtaking even absent any political dimension. Its critical overtones only make the work more powerful.
The FDA’s proposed modification to the blood ban will be open for public comment until July 14, 2015. Blood Mirror will be on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C., this fall.