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Boystown: Petition demands Chicago’s world famous LGBT+ neighborhood changes its name

Boystown: Petition demands Chicago’s world famous LGBT+ neighborhood changes its name

  • ‘The Boystown nickname began in the 1990s as a joke’ but now ‘deters many LGBTQ people’.
Sign for Boystown in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Chicago’s Boystown is famous around the LGBT+ world, but now a new petition says it should change its name.

Campaigners claim the male name of the US city’s LGBT+ neighborhood encourages sexism, transphobia and even racism.

Indeed, they say the Northalsted Business Alliance have made the problem worse by adding ‘For the boys’ signs this summer.

So far a little over 1,000 people have signed a petition saying they too think the name should change.

Petition creator Delvyn Camp writes:

‘The Boystown nickname began in the 1990s as a joke and it is now a marketing tool used by the Northalsted Business Alliance, and perpetuates the existing social issues that deter many LGBTQ people from the neighborhood.

‘Many of our transgender siblings must visit the Center on Halsted to utilize necessary resources. Many of them have experienced transphobia in the North Halsted area.

‘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.’

‘Only the beginning of the many changes needed’

The area has a long LGBT+ history and hosted one of the world’s first ever Prides in 1971.

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 been named ‘the world’s best gay neighborhood’.

But there may be a change in the air. Some Chicagoans want to see their LGBT+ neighborhood become more than just a commercial ‘scene’ primarily targeting 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

While the petition doesn’t specify what other changes its organizers want, it does conclude:

‘This is only the beginning of the many changes needed in the North Halsted area.’

Meanwhile Mary Hallerduff who signed the petition commented:

‘It’s past time to make this neighborhood safe and welcoming for black and trans family! Black trans lives matter!’

Moreover, Zamantha Henriquez, another signatory, added:

‘Though I doubt anyone cares about lesbians, I’ve had many experiences of misogynistic and hurtful slurs said to me by gay men when I have been out in this neighborhood.

‘They refuse to accept any queer identies but there own in a city with beautiful diversity. This must change. Bars must begin catering to all sexualities and genders.

‘Fuck gay white boys thinking there are the most oppressed group and most deserving of their own space.’

GSN has invited the Northalsted Business Alliance to comment.

UPDATE: Business association promises action

Northalsted Business Alliance has now replied to GSN. It will consider the Boystown name and commit to diversity efforts.

It said: The Boystown nickname has been in colloquial use by the community since the early days of the Pride movement, identifying the area as a place of acceptance during times when it was much less safe to be out as LGBTQ+.

In 1997, Boystown was officially recognized by the City of Chicago as an LGBTQ+ neighborhood, a first of its kind proclamation. The rainbow pylons / Legacy Project memorial now have Chicago landmark recognition. And the rainbow crosswalks include transgender flag recognition.

In recent years, NBA has used Boystown in marketing to promote the area and its long LGBTQ+ history.

As our culture progresses, NBA will collaborate on how to cultivate a welcoming environment for all. NBA will begin outreach to the businesses and neighbors for important perspective on a proposed name change.

This process will occur over the next few months. “Chicago’s Proudest Neighborhood”, a slogan previously used by the NBA, will be used as we reach out to the residents, patrons, and the business community in a spirit of collaboration.’

Moreover, the organization said it was training board members and association members in how to confront racial and gender biases.

NBA President Ramesh Ariyanayakam added:

While these first steps are in no way exhaustive of all efforts we will undertake, they are a start. In the midst of much change, we are actively listening to what the community is telling us.

We consider this an opportunity for positive growth and understanding in our relationships with neighbors, businesses and the community at-large.’