Isle of Man vows to drop queer blood ban after Heartstopper actor calls out ‘archaic’ rule

Actors Joe Locke and Kit Connor appear as their characters Charlie and Nick from the LGBTQ+ Netflix series Heartstopper. The characters are smiling while sitting close to each other in a photobooth

The Isle of Man will update its discriminatory blood donation rules, its government has said after Manx Heartstopper actor Joe Locke called them out as “archaic”.

Locke spoke via video message at the island’s Isle of Pride celebrations in Douglas on Saturday, demanding that the ban be lifted to “bring the island one step closer on its journey to acceptance”.

While the UK has gradually updated its blood donation laws, the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, retains its AIDS crisis era blanket ban on queer men ever giving blood.

The rule has been under review since a consultation was launched in 2014, but no changes have ever been made.

Following Locke’s comments, however, Isle of Man health minister Lawrie Hooper announced that the rules would be updated.

According to the BBC, Hooper said there was a “willingness” to change the blood donation policy, but that the new rules must be “underpinned by clinical safety”.

Science has rapidly advanced since the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, with simple tests now commonplace to identify whether blood – from either queer or heterosexual people – contains HIV.

Hooper said vaguely that there were “lots of complicated reasons” the rules had not been updated before now, but added that the parliament of the Isle of Man, Tynwald, aimed to make changes by early 2023.

“Ultimately the aim is absolutely to move to that position of equality where the ability of give blood is based on whether or not the blood is safe to be used,” he said.

Joe Locke’s fans praised him for using “his voice to produce real change”, with one Twitter user writing: “His speech triggered Manx government to move to change the blood donation policy. He’s moved the needle on gay rights. And he’s 18.”

Isle of Pride’s James Cherry said the announcement was “fantastic news”, and told the BBC: “It’s good that the Isle of Man government has come out and said we are going to be level with our peers in the UK.”