Latest On Outvoices
Illinois has long been at the forefront of the battle over LGBTQ rights in the United States - Illinois became the first U.S. state to repeal its sodomy laws in 1962 (though it's not all been uphill as 1963 laws against wearing clothing of the opposite sex demonstrate. Last Tuesday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker continued that legacy, signing four bills into law at the Center on Halsted. As a package, these laws address access to fertility treatment, gender markers on marriage certificates, and the criminalization of HIV, marking a major victory for the LGBTQ+ rights in the state.
LGBTQ+ rights in access to infertility treatments
One of the laws Pritzker signed explicitly bars discrimination in coverage for the “diagnosis and treatment of infertility" on the basis of age, gender, gender identity and other factors. This will help to ensure the state's residents’ ability to “live the fullest lives as their truest selves” and will directly work to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals aren't excluded from such benefits.
“Beginning Jan. 1, Illinois will chart a new path forward with more inclusive, gender neutral language in our insurance code that offers meaningful discrimination protections for accessing these treatments,” Pritzker said, according to a report in the Chicago Sun Times. “Already fertility journeys can be deeply expensive personal and emotional, and I’m very proud to sign a law that removes a part of that burden for the would-be parents of Illinois.”
Marriage certificates aligned to advances in LGBTQ rights
LGBTQ rights have come a long way since Illinois decriminalized homosexual activity - including of course legalizing same-sex marriage. But the needs of transgender individuals for legal documents that match their gender identity has long been neglected. Pritzker signed two laws that work to close this LGBTQ rights gap.
One of the bills establishes a means for state residents to correct, or remove, gender identifying language on their marriage certificate - this allows those who transition to correct gender information on such documents - or for non-binary or other individuals to remove gender markers.
The other bill establishes the process whereby county clerks issue a new marriage certificate when they receive documentation that someone has legally changed their name. Individually or in combination, these changes allow transgender and other individuals to ensure that their official government documents reflect their gender identity.
Decriminalizing HIV is an LGBTQ rights issue often overlooked
HIV criminalization isn't just an LGBTQ rights issue, but it certainly is one - not least because HIV criminalization laws in the 38 states that had them were often motivated by the stigma placed on those with HIV and the virus's association with MSM (men who have sex with men). By signing this bill into law, Pritzker allowed Illinois to become only the second state in the nation to repeal its HIV criminalization laws.
Timothy Jackson, director of government relations for AIDS Foundation Chicago, was a driving force behind state Rep. Carol Ammons’ effort in the House to repeal the HIV criminalization law, which had been on the books since 1989. The repeal is effective immediately.
Illinois has now just the second of the 38 states in nation with such laws to take this step - following Texas which repealed its criminalization laws in 1994. This is an important step because HIV-criminalization fuel's stigma and discourages individuals at risk from being tested. If someone is unaware of their status, their activities are not criminal. HIV-related discrimination and criminalization “act as barriers to the state’s goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030” - the important rationale behind this shift.
“Research has shown these laws don’t decrease infection rates, but they do increase stigma,” Pritzker said. “It’s high time we treat HIV as we do other treatable, transmissible diseases.”
These steps close the rights gap in some key, but narrow areas. Moving forward, even progressive states have many steps to implement to move toward achieving some measure of equality. What do you think should be Illinois lawmakers' next targets for improving the lives of LGBTQ citizens?
Update: According to the Ray Boltz website, the Christian musician is now retired and living in Florida with his husband. Read on to learn more about Ray Boltz, his music career, his family, and why he decided to come out. In 2010 his album True won Album of the Year at the OUTMusic Awards.
During the course of 15 years in the Contemporary Christian Music Industry, Ray Boltz acquired three Dove Awards, two gold albums, one gold video, 12 number one singles, and sold more than 4 million units of product. Then, he decided to let the world know he's gay.
Why now? Why, after 30 years of marriage, four children, and a career most Christian artists only dream about, would Boltz step boldly out of the closet?
Growing Up in Indiana
In order to understand his actions, it is important to understand Boltz’s background. He grew up in a small town in Indiana with his parents, an older brother, a younger sister, and a younger brother who passed away three months after being born.
He went to public schools and attended a small one-room Methodist church. But even during these young formative years, Boltz would find ways to express his musical ability aside from taking piano and guitar lessons and singing special music at church.
“I was always writing songs…even as a little kid," Boltz said. "I would lay around in the back yard, stare up at the sky and write songs. I loved doing that.”
“When I was young, I also knew who I was attracted to. But anytime I thought about it, it always came with a lot of guilt. I didn’t know any gay people where I lived and never saw it on television. So I listened to what the church told me about homosexuality. And that is, that it was wrong. But if I truly gave my heart to Christ, I could get victory over anything. I just needed to serve the Lord, and He would take care of it.”
That was the mindset that would affect every thought and every action Boltz would have.
Boltz attended college at Ball State University and graduated with a major in marketing and a minor in radio and television. While he was in college, he married Carol, who would be his wife for 30 years. During his college days, he began singing in a variety of churches and associations. This eventually led to him going full-time in contemporary Christian music in 1986.
But when Boltz stepped boldly out of the closet only a few months ago, some of his fans might have felt deceived. After all, Boltz has been blessed with a beautiful family and a successful career that put him on a national and international platform to proclaim the 'good news of Christ.' Yet all that time, Boltz was hiding the fact that he was gay.
I wish I could take people into where I was…to walk a mile in my shoes," Boltz said. "I set out to deceive no one. I believed with all my heart if I prayed enough, if I believed enough, if I read the Bible enough, if I sought counsel enough, if I fasted enough, then these feelings and thoughts would go away. I spent my entire adult life fighting and struggling that way. I don’t think that is deceptive at all. If anything, I was the one who was deceived…by well-meaning people who said it could be overcome.”
Deciding to Come Out
Boltz read every book he could find on the topic, and outside of a Christian counselor, told no one about his struggle.
"After 30 years of trying to overcome this, I finally realized this would never change," Boltz said. "Being gay is not something I do, it is who I am.”
Another counselor Ray was seeing felt he needed to be completely honest about who he is. So one night, Ray was sitting with his family. They knew he had been depressed for quite some time but had no idea what was going on.
His family asked, “Dad, what’s wrong?”
Finally, after years of devastating struggle, Boltz said, “I’m gay.”
“I had never said these words to anyone, outside of a counselor," he said. "But I felt if I couldn’t tell my family, the people closest to me, who could I tell?” It was an emotionally overwhelming time as a family, but a time that would strengthen them as a whole.
“Each member of my family, all four children, and my wife, came to me individually saying they loved me, they cared about me, they accepted me,” Boltz said.
Boltz and Carol separated and eventually divorced realizing that healing needed to occur on many levels for both of them.
“We still love each other," Boltz said. "We talk every day. But we both knew it would be healthier if we separated.”
Ray Boltz on His Faith, Sexuality, and Gay Marriage
And now, four years later, Boltz has made more of a public statement about his faith and sexuality. Why now? Why, after coming out to his family four years ago, would Boltz feel the need to come out in a public way?
Boltz said when he came out to his family, he inadvertently put them in the closet.
“I had a good marriage," Boltz said. "People never suspected there were any problems. So if my kids were asked why we separated, they couldn’t be honest. By coming out publicly, they could be honest and authentic.”
Since coming out to his family, Boltz spent much of his time visiting a variety of Metropolitan Community Churches and other gay-affirming churches.
“These churches were no different from the churches I had sung in for the past 30 years," Boltz said. "They were seeking to worship God in a way they see fit.” They eventually began asking him to sing.
“I knew if I was going to do that, then I had to be completely honest and authentic about my life," Boltz said.
Since coming out publicly, Boltz said his faith has deepened.
“I have come to a point in my faith where it is okay to question things…I don’t want to believe something just because culture says I should believe it," he said. "This is reflected in my songwriting as well. It isn’t wrong to express doubt. Our faith can grow through doubt.”
Though Boltz has overcome the barrier to authentic happiness, many in the Christian music industry are likely still hiding the fact that they are gay out of fear of losing their career, or simply not being able to reconcile their faith and sexuality.
“I can’t be a poster child for people to come out," Boltz said. "But I can say everyone needs people in their lives they can be honest with.”
Boltz said that he plans to continue writing and singing songs in the future. Now he'll be able to share fully who he is and what he believes.
"I think being partnered is a possibility, but what I’m learning is that before you can be happy with anybody else, you have to be happy with yourself and I’m finally coming to that place,” Boltz said.
Find out more about Ray Boltz's music by visiting his shopify site.
So how do we talk about transgender issues (even if you're not transgender)? There are three main things to remember when discussing transgender issues today, so before getting into the meat and potatoes of it all, let's keep these things in mind:
- It is not a political discussion, it is a human rights discussion.
- There is a rich history rooted in transgender rights that must be considered when discussing these issues.
- Humanization should always be at the forefront of the conversation.
Before going into any conversation, no matter who it's with, try to keep these things in mind before you say something that may be inappropriate, misguided, or just plain wrong. Even those with the best intentions can mess up; remember that it is always ok to admit when you do not know something or when you are wrong. That being said, let's get into it.
Transgender bathroom bills
So whether you choose to become a transgender activist or if you just want to be a better ally, this easy talking point will generally keep you in line and on the safe side of conversations while still putting forth the effort to encourage and better represent transgender rights.
Easy, all-around approach: This will work for almost all transgender issues and expand on the previous three rules; firstly, trans issues are not a debate. When discussing with someone, do not indulge in hypotheticals and always remember that transgender people are the exact same as anyone else, with the exact same feelings. Keeping this in mind, let's use the bathroom bill as an example. When discussing this issue, one should humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation. How does one employ this, though? Here is an example of how the conversation may go.
Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restroom, they will rape my daughters.
So this statement is clearly based on reactionary conversation perpetuated by anti-transgender ideals. This means that the person probably has a misconception of the history and oppression of transgender people. They also show concern for their family, which is a step towards humanization, despite the misconception. Here would be an appropriate response that helps to humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation.
Person 2: I don't want men in the women's restroom, either, which is why we need to make sure people who identify as women are using the women's restroom. There has never been a documented case where a transgender person has raped either a man or woman in a public restroom. And by forcing people to use a restroom that does not match their gender identity, it is promoting violence, as there is a strong history of physical violence against transgender people.
By only saying about three sentences, you are able to do the previous steps while discussing the issue in a civil manner without opening it up to debate. The key to this is to keep it short and sweet, stating both the truth and an ally's stance to support the transgender community. It's critical to make sure that what you say is backed with confidence, though, which is why this second approach is more encouraged as it gives the person speaking more confidence in their opinion.
The second approach: backed by facts and history, is the exact same as before, but this approach leaves the other person with more questions about their stance and gives them something to consider. Before going into this approach, however, it is important to keep in mind that you are not debating the existence of trans people, nor are you trying to change someone's mind. That is not the goal; the goal is simply to get your opinion across in a way that honors both the trans community and their ideas. Let's take the same example as before but add the new sentiments.
Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restrooms, they will rape my daughters.
Person 2: There has never been a documented case of a transgender person raping anyone in a public restroom, and the only published cases of such were proven to be false. Further, when people say things like this, they are perpetuating violence against transgender people, which has historically (and still does) oppressed and insight further physical violence against them. And honestly, the most common reason there is this stance is because the person typically does not know a trans person and may not even know a person who does know a trans person. But the truth is, they probably do. The probability is more likely that the transgender people around them are just not comfortable enough in the environment to come out and speak up about their gender identity. And yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is quite sad that some people's opinion does not invite civil discussion but instead incites violence.
This approach is more confrontational, which requires more confidence when using it in a conversation, but it still holds true to all of the previous rules and sentiments. It adds truth based on history, which is an important aspect of trans rights as it reminds people of where we were/ where we are currently with human rights. These ideas can be transferred to most all trans issues and will honor the transgender movement and your allyship. The last thing to keep in mind is the person or reason you are standing up for/with trans rights. The passion -the compassion will shine through in conversation if you keep your reasoning close to heart. Whether it is because of a transgender friend, family member, or just because of your moral values, if you put your emotions into your reasoning, it will create more compelling statements, especially if the statement is well versed with the facts.
Tips to Remember When Discussing Transgender Issues
- Transgender issues are not political, they are human rights issues
- There is a rich history behind transgender issues
- Humanize transgender people through our words and ideas and don't forget to include:
- 3(b). The facts
- 3(c).The confidence
- 3(d). The inspiration behind the support for transgender rights
- On Transgender Day of Visibility, meet six community members ... ›
- This Transgender in Sports Event Tackles Big Issues - OutVoices ›
- Helpful Resources for the Trans Community in Kansas City ... ›
- Transgender people more likely to face food insufficiency - OutVoices ›
- Lee Hatcher - OutVoices ›
- Transgender Representation in Media - OutVoices ›
- Minding Your Health - Tips for Being an Ally to Transgender People ... ›
Are you always wondering what to watch right now? These are some of the best LGBTQ+ movies streaming on Amazon Prime and available for rent on Amazon right now, and for good reason. They range from LGBTQ historical settings to romance to LGBTQ+ pure camp.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime
Sook-hee is a pickpocket living in Japanese-occupied Korea and is hired by a con man to be the maid of heiress Lady Hideko and convince her to marry him. Hideko has been living under the tyranny of her uncle Kouzuki and desires to leave. While both women have reasons and ways to deceive each other, many plot twists will guide them to a path of satisfaction. This movie is an erotic, historical, psychological thriller, set beautifully in occupied Korea, that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It has won Best Film Not in the English Language at the 71st British Academy Film Festival and was directed by Park Chan-wook.
Duration: 144 minutes
Country: South Korea
Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime
Mark is a gay activist living in the ‘80s when he notices that the police have stopped harassing LGBTQ+ people; the target has in fact changed, and now the police have moved on to miners’ strikes. Together with gay and lesbian friends, he arranges a bucket collection to help the miners at the London gay Pride. This movie has won the Queer Palm Award at Cannes in 2014; it has received a standing ovation as well. It is directed by Matthew Warchus and is based on a true story.
Duration: 120 minutes
Photo courtesy of Rai
Chiron lives in Liberty City, Miami, and is bullied by his schoolmates; he is found hiding one day by Juan, a drug dealer, who mentors him from then on. Chiron’s mother, Paula, is a drug addict, and often takes her frustration out on her child, assuming that she knows why he is bullied. It will be Juan to tell Chiron that being gay is nothing wrong, but as Chiron grows up he will have to face harder days than the ones in his childhood. This movie has won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first LGBTQ+, all-Black cast movie to win an Oscar. It is directed by Barry Jenkins.
Duration: 111 minutes
Country: United States
Viola di mare (Purple Sea)
Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime
Angela is a vivacious child in Sicily at the end of the 1800s; her father never wanted a daughter and tries to reform her through beating and controlling. But Angela is in love with Sara, and she will do whatever it takes to spend her life by the side of the woman she loves. This movie is heartbreaking at times, it sad and dramatic but also inspiring. It was nominated for two Nastro Argento Awards. The title refers to a type of fish, the Mediterranean rainbow wrasse, which is born female and turns male as it grows older. It is directed by Donatella Maiorca.
Duration: 105 minutes
But I Am a Cheerleader
But I'm a Cheerleader
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Megan is a high school senior cheerleader who is dating a boy named Jared when her parents and friends start suspecting she is a lesbian, with her being a vegetarian and interested in Melissa Etheridge. They stage an intervention calling ex-gay Mike, who works at a conversion therapy camp called True Directions, where Megan is taken and forced to confront her own sexual orientation. This movie is a camp statement, a funny take on a sad reality, and an invite to embrace oneself. It is directed by Jamie Babbit. It is available for rent on Amazon.
Duration: 85 minutes
Country: United States
Tell It to the Bees
Tell It to the Bees
Photo courtesy of the HotCorn
Lydia has an unsteady marriage and a young son when she becomes closer to the town’s doctor, Jean. Her son and Jean share an interest in common, which is beekeeping, and makes the move easier when Lydia starts staying at Jean’s. But they live in a Scottish village in the 1950s, and their bond is bound to be perceived wrongly. This movie is based on the book with the same title and stars Academy Award winner Anna Paquin. It is directed by Annabel Jankel. It is available for rent on Amazon.
Duration: 106 minutes
Photo courtesy of CarolFilm
Therese is an aspiring photographer, working as a sales clerk in Frankenberg's department store in Manhattan in the 1950s when she meets Carol, an older woman who is going through a divorce and is looking for a Christmas present for her child. The encounter leaves Therese with a pair of Carol’s gloves, which she intends to return, and an attraction towards this woman Therese cannot explain just yet. This movie is an LGBTQ+ cult film, nominated for six Academy Awards, and has been critically acclaimed over the years. It is directed by Todd Haynes. It is available for rent on Amazon.
Duration: 158 minutes
Country: United States
Photo courtesy of Youtube
Ben is a young bisexual man who doesn’t have a steady job or relationship; he is a hypochondriac that repeatedly goes through a set routine with his physician. When he meets Sam, he finally has the opportunity to share his trauma and feel understood. It was called by Indiewire 'A sexy and searching act of gay self-analysis'. It is directed by Matthew Fifer and Kieran Mulcare. It is available for rent on Amazon.
Duration: 93 minutes
Country: United States
Women and Sometimes Men
Women & Sometimes Men
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Sara calls off her engagement with a man when her feelings towards women become impossible to hide. She moves in with a friend and starts dating in the lesbian scene, trying to find a balance between what she’s always known and what her heart wants. This movie is campy and lighthearted. It is directed by Lesley Demetriades.
Duration: 87 minutes
Country: United States