Blood Drive

The Situation

As the training coordinator at my organization of young idealists, I have the responsibility of filling our Leadership Development half-days with programming every Friday. It’s done wonders for me, creatively, and I’ve had the opportunity to coach corps members through leading their own bits of programming as well. I’ve given space to just about every corps member that asked. Up until about a week ago.

One of our corps members e-mailed me with an innovative idea. Why not hold a blood drive at City Year on a Friday morning? We could open it up to the public, he suggested. It would encourage idealism, optimism, and potentially save lives in the process.

Why not?

I knew that this was a great organizing opportunity for this corps member. He would need to make arrangements with the Red Cross, build relationships with their outreach people, and coordinate logistics for the blood drive. He could publicize the event and get City Year more exposure in a different circle.

And why not?

In theory, this is a great idea. As a leadership development person with the mission of making young people aware of their own power, I should love it. But I don’t. Here’s why.

The Red Cross determines its donor eligibility on outdated assumptions made by the FDA about whose blood is safe to donate. If you have ever tried donating blood before, you know that there are certain questions that, when answered in the affirmative, immediately disqualify you from donating blood. Here is an non-exhaustive list of the questions I take issue with for considering this blood drive:

For men: Have you had sex, even once, with another male since 1977?

For women: Within the last 12 months, have you had a male sex partner who had sex with another male, even once, since 1977?

How audacious. Remember those Facebook groups you could belong to: “Blondes have the most fun.” “Brunettes have the most fun.” “Jewish girls who have two rabbits and live in Leadville, Colorado have the most fun.” Then came along the tongue-in-cheek, “People who have the most fun, have the most fun” group.

Well guess what? Same tongue-in-cheek logic applies here. Men who have sex with men don’t have HIV. Women who have sex with men who have sex with men don’t have HIV. People who have HIV have HIV. Let’s just get that straight.

What I Know

According to, “HIV tests currently in use are highly accurate, but still cannot detect HIV 100% of the time.” Well, good thing they supplement that shoddy scientific testing with the completely 100% accurate method of asking people who they’ve slept with! (By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that the answers provided on the FDA’s page are backed by a few studies conducted no later than 2005!) And I suppose we can expect the same amount of truthfulness and accuracy about sexual practices that we commonly find at your typical frat party.  

And yeah. I have friends who have lied on this question because they are passionate about donating blood and know that they are HIV negative.

There’s a part of me that wants to let this blood drive happen – I want this corps member to initiate and execute his unprecedented and good-willed ideas for programming. I even want to help him do it. But can I, in this case? How can I allow my organization to partner with another organization that discriminates against me and others like me?


While it may be true that HIV disproportionately affects MSM populations, it is also true that HIV disproportionately affects African American and Latino populations. What would we call an FDA ban on African American or Latino blood? It is further true that HIV in America is most prevalent in Washington DC. What would it look like if the FDA banned the blood of people living in our nation’s capital?

If my National Service organization were to hold a blood drive, effectively it would discriminate against a protected population (albeit, minimally protected). We would implicitly be endorsing these policies. This situation is oddly reminiscent of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – “okay, gay men can serve the country in this way, but only if they aren’t sexually active.”

The Red Cross’s policy is founded in the FDA’s baseless fears, debunked at least 20 years ago by HIV researchers. Why hasn’t the policy changed? Make no mistake about it: this is not about health anymore. It’s about fear. And we have a special word to describe policies that are made based on fear of homosexual people.

Want more?

You can read more about this issue inBad Blood: Crisis in the American Red Cross by Judith Reitman.


Big Questions: Pro-Life Edition

If pregnant women are obligated to carry a fetus to term to preserve an innocent human life, at personal cost to the woman, why aren’t all men and women required to donate their tissues and organs to save innocent lives?

I mean, what’s the difference between those two situations? In both the case of a fetus and a dying patient, one could argue that an entire innocent human life is at stake. Why is only the pregnant woman obligated to preserve the human life at cost to herself? And why are healthy people not obligated to do so when the opportunity arises?

Intuitive or Sensory?

A Vast Chasm Between Two Brains

The most vast difference between two peoples’ personality types is indicated by one of these letters: N or S.

N stands for the Intuitive preference (the I was already taken by Introverts!) and the S stands for the Sensory preference.

When I read the description for an intuitive, I knew right away that it was describing me. It was a part of my personality that I could never quite define – but I instantly realized which of my acquaintances were “like me” and which were definitely not “like me.”

Finally, here was the distinction I had been looking for! I can try to describe for you the differences between an intuitive and a sensor, but, alas, the limitations of my intuitive-ness might call for outside sources.


Sensors are concerned with the here and now. They live in the present, and have real clarity about what is happening around them. They pay close attention to what information is coming in through their senses. This all sounds very “zen,” but it was how it was described to me, so I thought I’d start out with it.

How I’ll describe it to you is with examples. Sensors tend to be good at, or at least enjoy, athletics, dancing, and the fine arts. They’re just more aware of what their bodies, and other people’s bodies, are doing at the present moment.

They know how a situation looks and sounds. Musician sensors know what will sound great, and how to manipulate their body to make that sound. Roller derby-playing sensors know where their teammates are at all times and understand how to move their body to hit a skater at just the right moment.

They’re also great with details.  Since they’re paying attention to the here and now, they tend to remember where they put things like their keys or wallet. They notice the shoddy paint job in the house you’ve lived in all year (Huh! Well look at that!). They can list the kinds of things they’ll need to bring to have a successful picnic. They’d rather deal with facts than (your crazy) theories. They don’t trust (my) intuitive foresight and they don’t understand why I can’t seem to just follow the damn taco casserole recipe like it says.


Intuitives are big-picture people. They see patterns and frameworks. They live in the future, and are most interested in the possibilities associated with the future. They’re paying attention to the connections their mind is making to the world around them, and making inferences about “what it all means.” If anyone in your life has ever accused you of making a big deal out of nothing, then your accuser is a sensor, and you are an intuitive.

Here are some examples. Intuitives revel in metaphors, puzzles, and stories. Most of your school’s chess club were probably intuitives: they can spot patterns of movement on the board and intuit 2, 3, or 4 moves into the future.

They understand what’s going on around them by relating it to an allegory – they might do this either consciously or sub-consciously. They’re the people who will most likely take a personal problem or current event, and try to explain that its root cause is society!

S: “Why are all of these high-profile Republican women so… dumb-sounding?”

N: “Well, the Republican party still operates within a patriarchal value system, but criticisms of this system from the left-of-center have pushed them to highlight the women of their party. However, the heads of the GOP still don’t take women seriously, so they basically just choose to publicize the pretty, talking ornaments that attract attention but aren’t actually expected to contribute to intelligent debate. They know Sarah Palin is a joke. That’s the point of Sarah Palin.”

Intuitives are visionaries – they always have the goal in mind before – sometimes at the expense of – the details.

N: “This picnic is going to be great! The kids can play football, we can grill out, we’ll spend some real quality time together!”

S: “Did you bring the football? How about the tongs? I checked the weather, and it looks like rain, too.”

N: “Ohh… huh.”

(It’s a lot easier for me to illustrate an intuitive’s thought process. Honestly I have no idea what sensors are thinking about. If you have a clue, let me know in the comments!)

The INTP’s Thouroughly Devastating Analysis

I have to admit – and yes, I know I am biased – when I think of a leader, I automatically think of an N. To me, a leader unites her team under a common vision, a common mission. Visions and missions by definition live in the future – the distant future. It takes an intuitive to keep tasks on-track with the team’s eyes on the ultimate objective.

This is not to say that all Ns make great leaders. In fact, the shortcomings of Ns can cause folks to lose faith in the vision very quickly. Under an underdeveloped N leader, a team can dissolve pretty easily.

Visionaries see the world’s possibilities, and not always its practicalities. Sometimes an N’s idea is too idealistic, too grandiose, and not congruent with the available human and material resources. It might not even be a good idea. Even if the idea is realistic and grounded in reality, an N may lose interest after the initial vision. The fun part, for an N, isn’t seeing his idea implemented perfectly: it’s coming up with the idea itself. Once the idea starts to take shape, possibilities become narrowed; the creative process is no longer applicable, and the N moves on to the next big idea.

This is a huge problem for me. I’ve had more larger-than-life ideas than I know what to do with. They’re so exciting at first! Then, as I get working on them, I lose steam. It’s a natural progression for me and many other Ns.

Some of the most intelligent Ns I know end up in an endless mental hurricane of brilliant ideas, unable to root them, and lost in what their parents dub “Dream Land,” who shake their heads and wish silently that he had just gone to medical school like they told him.

Like I said: I can really only speak for the Intuitive’s perspective on this one. I have – seriously – no clue how a sensor thinks. I only recently became even slightly interested in developing my sensory side this year, when I took up painting and roller derby (that’s a story for a whole ‘nother post).

Although I tend to think of Ns as leaders, I can’t imagine an effective N leader without the exquisite attention to detail that a sensor can provide. I’ll go so far as to say that behind every good N leader is a great S lieutenant leader, or a team of S folks keeping the project on the ground and holding elements accountable. Those who work at CY SJ/SV with me can attest to this if I give examples: Our executive director is 100% N; her deputy director is 100% S. Our impact director is a goal-oriented N; his human resources director is a team-oriented S. It couldn’t be so successful without the balance of both mind-sets.

As my favorite INTP, Albert Einstein once said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Ideas can only take you so far – ideas without action just hang, like an over-ripening fruit, and eventually fall to the ground, forgotten. And action can’t happen without nailing the details.

(Linked Post) Change comes from love.

This is a post I wrote for City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley’s official blog. Although I am currently serving as a corps member at this site, anything expressed on asktheintp is my opinion and does not reflect the views of City Year or AmeriCorps. For more information about City Year, visit

On Monday, January 17, 2011, I will proudly serve alongside my teammates to honor the legacy of the greatest American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t say that lightly – he was not just a civil rights leader, not just a charismatic orator, not just a philosopher: he defined a culture. He, a person of color during Jim Crow, Superpower, Vietnam-era America, schooled Americans on the proper way to get things done.

He created a new method for affecting social change in our country.

“NO,” I imagine him saying in his time. “THIS is how we are going to make change in America. We’ll do it non-violently. We’ll do it with dignity and with respect for one another.” There aren’t many countries in the world where that is true.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Strength to Love, 1963

I know that this quotation has much deeper meanings, but truthfully, it is the quotation that got me through my service year.

It was the hardest year of my life. I have never put so much of my soul in any other thing, but what a thing to put my soul into! I gave a year, I changed the world, and still I didn’t feel like I gave enough. That’s why I came back to City Year for round two.

I believe Dr. King would be proud of our corps.

We return day after day to fight injustice, even though it’s hard and tedious and exhausting. We understand that if the solution were easy, we wouldn’t be here. Dr. King believed that change comes not from violence and hate, but from love.

That’s how City Year operates – we love. We give of ourselves. We care. Even when it’s challenging or controversial, our weapon of choice is loving service.

For when you’re in “the middle”

The other day I was jamming to Pandora and had a throwback-to-high-school moment when “The Middle,” came on, by Jimmy Eat World. I was listening to the lyrics and contemplating the things going on in my life right now, and a fresh understanding of the song washed over me. “It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on…. It just takes some time, little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride.” It really spoke to me!

In City Year, we have a culture piece called “Putting Idealism To Work.” PITW is a set of over 100 guidelines and helpful hints to make your year more successful. The message of this song reminded me of PITW #33:

Everything feels like a failure in the middle — keep going!

This insight came to us from Harvard Business School professor, and City Year Board member, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In every planning process there is first a burst of creativity and excitement — and then suddenly it seems as if everything is falling apart. Guess what? You’ve reached the “middle.” Keep working and it will all come together.

If you’re at that spot in your life where you think all your projects are failing, you’re in a rut with your relationships, or your professional plans have fallen through, you might be in the middle. This was me, last year, at this time. The job of my dreams (or so I thought) had been given to someone else. I had no plan for the future and little confidence that I would finish my year of service strong. I wanted to do it, but I was just too down on myself. Nevertheless, with a little time and perseverance, I got out of “the middle.”

If this is you: it’s okay, don’t panic. You’re a fighter – you’ve made it this far and there’s no way you’re going to give up now. You’re way savvier about your life than anyone else and you’ve got your positive can-do. Whatever you want, you’re going to find a way to get it.

Me? Turned out, I got a job that was even more fitting for me, and I’ve had so many more opportunities than I could have hoped for. So, Hey! Don’t write yourself off yet. Do your best; do everything you can, and everything (yes, everything) will be alright!

Introvert or Extrovert?

How Can I Spot an Extrovert/Introvert?

Perhaps the easiest spectrum of personality type to spot in a person is the extrovert/introvert dichotomy. When you hear either word, you probably already have an idea in your head about what it means and where you and your closest friends fall on the spectrum.

Extroversion and Introversion distinguishes between two methods of “energizing” a person. Simply said, Extroverts are re-charged by being around other people, and Introverts are recharged by being alone.

This is not to say that Introverts are necessarily shy or quiet; neither is it to say that extroverts are necessarily outgoing or talkative. Although, many times, these bits are glaringly true.

Allow me to illustrate with a totally real interaction between me (an Introvert, duh) and one of my best friends, Liz (an Extrovert)

Liz: Ugh! This week has been so stressful! I’ve been so busy and have just been so worried about things.

Me: Yeah, me too! This week was so rough!

Liz: I just want to go out, and dance, and hang out with my friends; just…

Me: Oh, really? God, I’m so tired, I don’t think I could do that, I just want to sit at home and…

Literally, at the same time, we both said: …relax!

Extroverts I know do some great thinking; I know this, because they do it all it out loud. In my opinion, a party really can’t get started until the Extroverts have arrived. Most Extroverts would rather hang out with anybody than nobody – even people they don’t particularly like! My friends and I could be talking about how much we can’t stand a particular person, and a couple minutes later, the Extrovert of the group has invited the person over for drinks! Of course, as a bona fide, 100% Angus beef Introvert, I can only understand the mental mechanics of an Extrovert on a theoretical level.

The INTP’s Thoroughly Devastating Analysis

It doesn’t take scientific research to understand that Introverts are the favorite students in the public school system. The structure of our traditional school system facilitates the ideas and accomplishments of introverts, while suppressing extroverts’ natural inclinations to think aloud and bounce ideas off of others. Fellow Introverts will remember how easy it was for us to just quiet down when the teacher asked, and how frustrating it was to watch your outgoing friends get another detention.  I flourished during independent work or reading time – ah, the sweet silence! As an intelligent and insightful student, I could be heard easily by raising my hand or writing an excellent paper. In school, I positively sang!

Yet, Extroverts are favored and privileged in the business world, dominating upper-management and executive positions. No need to wait to be called on in the business world, where the most important medium of communication is raw, unrestricted networking. Meetings are the perfect place for an intelligent extrovert to be heard. The fight for a speaking platform is brutal for someone like me; it’s King of the Mountain.

I experienced this phenomenon the hard way when I transitioned from full-time college student to full-time volunteer at City Year almost two years ago. This switch from the easy classroom favorite to the schmuck left behind was confusing and challenging for me. The proverbial tables had turned and I had to learn all new rules in order to be noticed. You can raise your hand in a meeting, but that action does little to stop others from taking the floor at will.

However, these disadvantages don’t have to cripple you! Be aware of your needs and don’t be afraid to let people know when you need the space to speak. Write everything down. Take one-on-one meetings with the key players in your workplace. Instead of starting your sentences with “Um,” start with “Listen.” Learn how to write a kick-ass e-mail.

A favorite blog of mine is Psychology Today’s Introvert’s Corner; Introverts and Extroverts alike will benefit from learning more about working with each other.

Introverted personalities do have their natural upsides. As an Introvert, you are much more likely to “think before you speak,” which is an invisible, yet invaluable gift. Your thoughts are more carefully constructed and considered before you barf them all over the table before you share them. People are more likely to perceive you as a trusted listener (maybe you that’s true, but maybe you are just collecting all the information you can to come up with a better plan – just kidding!). And, of course, you are not a slave to others! If you find yourself alone for a few hours, you’re good! You’re cruisin’. You can enjoy that time to yourself or squeeze in some much-needed quiet work time. In fact, as I type this now, I’m enjoying my first solitary hour all day – look how productive that was!

What are your experiences as an Extrovert or Introvert? Let me know in the comments!