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Beyond boys: Chicago’s LGBT+ Boystown asks if it should change its name

Beyond boys: Chicago’s LGBT+ Boystown asks if it should change its name

  • Chicago’s world-famous Boystown is asking if a new name would make more LGBT+ people feel welcome.
Sign for Boystown in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Chicago’s world-famous LGBT+ district – Boystown – is considering changing its name to be more inclusive.

It comes after campaigners started a petition demanding a name change three weeks ago. So far, over 1,440 people have signed.

The petitioners criticize the Northalsted Business Alliance, which promotes the area around the world. They say the name ‘perpetuates the existing social issues that deter many LGBTQ people from the neighborhood’.

But the business association told GSN it would look again at the Boystown name and commit to diversity efforts.

Now it is consulting businesses in the neighborhood and the wider community. It says its survey is the first step in collecting feedback about a possible name change

If they choose to change the name, it goes beyond just marketing the area to tourists.

Boyztown started as a joke nickname. However, in 1997, The City of Chicago officially recognized Boyztown as an LGBT+ neighborhood – a first of its kind proclamation. The name would have to change on everything from road signs to Google Maps.

How Boystown became a worldwide LGBT+ brand

The area has a long LGBT+ history and hosted one of the world’s first ever Prides.

In more recent years it has helped make Chicago and Illinois a worldwide destination for LGBT+ travelers. Boystown appears on countless articles suggesting LGBT+ ‘must visit’ destinations and it has even won a ‘world’s best gay neighborhood’ title.

However, some Chicagoans want to see their LGBT+ neighborhood become more than just a commercial ‘scene’. And they say the current name and business primarily targets gay men.

Indeed, this June Boystown hosted an LGBT+ Black Lives Matter march. During the event, several speakers talked about their problems visiting Boystown where some feel unwelcome because of their race.

Marching for black and LGBT+ lives in Boystown, Chicago.
Marching for black and LGBT+ lives in Boystown, Chicago. Mark Twitter

The petition demanding a name change doesn’t state what the new name should be.

But petition creator Delvyn Camp writes:

‘Our LGBTQ siblings of color looking for inclusive bars have been met with racism. Many women frequenting and working in North Halsted businesses have been met with sexism.’

And he adds a name change is ‘only the beginning of the many changes needed in the North Halsted area.’

Northalsted Business Alliance President Ramesh Ariyanayakam is now encouraging people to take part in the survey, adding:

‘As culture and language change and develop over time, we must listen to the community to support inclusivity, this survey is a step towards gaining valuable insight. Our process focuses on active listening and engagement.’