travel

Chicago's 'Boystown' LGBTQ neighbourhood to change 'gendered' name

'Systemic transphobia, racism, and sexism have plagued our neighborhood for decades' a Change.org petition says

2020-09-25

Chicago's Boystown, one of the world's most famous LGBTQ neighbourhoods, is officially changing its name after a diversity and inclusion survey of 7,900 people.

The survey was preceded by a Change.org petition that described that name as "gendered" and a perpetuation of "bigotry".

Research by Northalsted Business Alliance (NBA) - a non-profit chamber of commerce for a section of the Lake View community area repping over 100 local businesses - found that 58% of people were satisfied with the male-skewed name Boystown.

However, the chamber decided this was not enough to keep the title, saying on its website: "To acknowledge and welcome all members of the LGBTQ+ community, the chamber will discontinue using the name Boystown in marketing and revert to the long standing name Northalsted."

"Chicago's Proudest Neighborhood"

Boystown will now be known as Northalsted for marketing and designation purposes, and banners bearing the name Boystown are to be removed. The area will continue using the "Chicago's Proudest Neighborhood" slogan.

"It definitely felt like we should be doing something about it,” said Gordon (as per the Chicago Tribune). “If [the name Boystown] was making even a small percentage of people feel uncomfortable, it’s not something we should be using to promote the neighborhood."

In a landing page for the original survey, the NBA said: "LGBTQ+ communities have come a long way - with more progress yet to go, especially for LGBTQ+ people of color, transgender, non-binary, and queer communities.

"As culture and language change over time, questions have been raised whether in today’s landscape, the name Boystown supports a message of diversity and inclusivity, or if it reinforces bias and discrimination.

"We invite you to participate in the survey below to help us move forward with respect to 1) marketing and 2) city designation of our community widely known as Boystown."

"Transphobia, racism, and sexism have plagued our neighborhood"

The aforementioned Change.org petition by local activist Devlyn Camp urging the name change has amassed almost 1,500 signatures and explains: "The Castro, Greenwich Village, West Hollywood, and many more LGBTQ neighborhoods exist for all intersections of queer identity. Chicago's is the only gendered nickname.

"Systemic transphobia, racism, and sexism have plagued our neighborhood for decades."

Camp added: "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. 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. One form of bigotry perpetuates others."

"A necessary first step forward toward inclusivity"

"The announcement is a necessary first step forward toward inclusivity," Camp told GoPride.com. "How will the NBA continue to implement systemic changes that reflect this, specifically in their own businesses?"

In an op-ed for them. about the petition posted earlier this year, Camp wrote: "When I first applied for a serving job at a restaurant in Boystown in 2012, it was because I presumed it to be the safest place for me. As a white gay man, it was — until I began a gender transition. Then the slurs on the street came fast and frequently. My circle of friends diversified, and I began to notice the abuse my trans and queer siblings of color experienced daily in our workplaces. We expected to be safe along the Legacy Walk, but any guests of North Halsted who don’t stop to read the plaques will simply see banners waving above welcoming them to a district that is seemingly full of boys."

(Top photo: Antwon McMullen/iStock)