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Will Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood change its name?

Will Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood change its name?
Chicago skylinePhoto: publicity photo

Chicago’s Boystown may get a new name if community activists get their way. The city’s LGBTQ neighborhood is the only one with a gendered name in America.

The name was given to the area by the local business association in the 1990s. The board of the organization, the Northalsted Business Alliance, is all-male.

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The name started as a joke, but as time passed it became the standard name of the neighborhood at a time when gay men dominated the area. Activists say the name Boystown and the makeup of the group prove it still is.

Signs on the area’s streets declare the neighborhood is “for the boys.”

“As we all grow and reconsider our roles in perpetuating bigotry, we ask that this board reflect on the growing number of incidents in our LGBTQ spaces,” a petition to the board reads. “One form of bigotry perpetuates others.”

The area has been plagued with problems with racism and transphobia over the years.

Last year, a gay bar was forced to reverse a racist ban on rap music in an effort to push out Black customers. A recent protest march in solidarity with Black transgender people didn’t have the support of local activists, who said they were being “tokenized” by “white-owned businesses and institutions in Chicago that have historically upheld anti-Blackness and transphobia in the queer and trans community, and across the city.”

“Many of our transgender siblings must visit the Center on Halsted to utilize necessary resources,” the petition continues. “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.”

“North Halsted businesses and their board have tokenized people when it is convenient for their profits or image, while marketing their businesses to gay men only.”

Most American gay areas are named for the neighborhood they’re in, like the Castro, West Hollywood, Greenwich Village, or the Montrose.

Update: Business leaders have agreed to consider changing the name of Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood, Boystown, saying, “This process will likely take a few months, as we listen to the community feedback and engage in broad-based efforts beyond just a possible name change, but a commitment to learning how to ensure the neighborhood moves forward as an inclusive and welcoming neighborhood for all.”

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