The neighborhood known as Boystown in Chicago, Illinois may be soon getting a new name. The eastern Lake View neighborhood has been known as home to many of Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community since the early ‘70s.
The actual name ‘Boystown’ had been used as the neighborhood’s nickname since the late ‘80s/ early ‘90s due to the area’s demographic being, for the most part, predominantly male. The name went official in 1997 when then Chicago mayor Richard Daley affirmed the section of Halsted Street from Grace Street to Belmont Avenue as the first official gay neighborhood in the United States.
A petition posted to change.org two weeks ago by Devlyn Camp, activist and writer/ host of the podcast A Queer Serial, called for the Northalsted Business Alliance to stop using ‘Boystown’ to promote the Chicago LGBTQ+ neighborhood.
In the petition, Camp stated:
“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.”
Camp also detailed instances of transphobia, racism, and sexism have occurred in the North Halsted area and included links to back up his claims. The petition, as of Friday, July 10, had received over 1.100 signatures.
However, a petition opposing the name change was posted to change.org as well on July 8 by Blake Taylor stating the Boystown name is “not meant to be sexist or racist. It’s being a victim of the new change culture that has nothing to do with the fact that Boystown itself has always been welcoming to everyone.”
Northalsted Business Alliance responded to Camp’s petition stating:
“The Northalsted Business Alliance Board will meet this week. While this topic will be an important part of the discussions it is unlikely that there will be full clarity on changing the Boystown brand from this first conversation. Over the coming months, we will engage our businesses and the neighborhood at-large in the process of how to move ahead as an inclusive and welcoming neighborhood for all.”