Gay poet writes in his own blood to protest donation ban

Poet RJ Arkhipov uses his own blood as ink in protest at the UK’s “homophobic” blood donation policy.

In an experiment with help from a trusted medical student friend, RJ Arkhipov drew blood to use in an ink pen to write his poetry.

“I came into a realisation then that I couldn’t donate blood because I’m a gay man,” he explained to PinkNews.

“I was unable to and that kind of fed more into the poetry.”

In the UK, gay men are forbidden from donating blood for three months after any sexual encounter. This was only changed from twelve months in November 2017.

Arkhipov added: “Our current policies are still very much based in stigma. The deferrals are quite simply predicated on stereotypical hangovers from the HIV/AIDS crisis of the late 20th century.

“What our polices don’t take into account is that there may be a heterosexual man or woman who is having unprotected sex several times a days with different partners and they still are allowed to donate blood.

“For gay men, you can be in a monogamous relationship, you can be practising safe sex with condoms, with PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) and you’re still unable to donate blood.”

It was whilst living in Paris that he encountered a quote from novelist Ernest Hemingway that helped inspire his project: “There is nothing to writing, all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Using blood as ink (Visceral: the poetry of blood)

Arkhipov explained: “I really liked that, the kind of theatrics of that quote, the drama of it.”

His book, Visceral: the poetry of blood, also addresses this stigma.

“There have been a plethora or reactions, there have been, obviously reactions of abjection,” he said.

“People take this very immediate stance when they see blood, they are disgusted by it they are very disturbed by it.

RJ Arkhipov wrote poems with his own blood (Visceral: the poetry of blood)

“I was very interested in this and during my research for the book I wanted to understand why humans have such an abject reaction to blood.

“Blood can mean many different things for many different people but we all seem to have the same reaction when it’s outside the body.”