Boys club

Petition demands ‘Boystown’ in Chicago change its name to be more inclusive

A banner in Chicago's Boystown (Photo: Shutterstock)
A street banner in Chicago’s Boystown (Photo: Shutterstock)

One of the most famous LGBTQ neighborhoods in the U.S. is Boystown in Chicago. The area is home to numerous LGBTQ businesses, including the Center on Halsted, one of the biggest LGBTQ centers in the world.

Related: Remembering heroes on Chicago’s amazing Legacy Walk

‘Boystown’ was a nickname that the area earned in the late 80s and early 90s. It became so common that it was formally adopted by the Northalsted Business Alliance, and adorns banners around the area. In 1997, then Chicago Mayor Richard Daley affirmed the area (Halsted Street from Grace Street to Belmont Avenue) as the first official gay neighborhood in the U.S.

However, there are now moves afoot to potentially rename the district. Late last month, a petition was launched to find a new name.

The petition’s author, Devlyn Camp, says that unlike other LGBTQ districts, such as The Castro in San Francisco, ‘Boystown’ is the only gendered queer district name in the U.S. As such, it could be regarded as unwelcoming for some in the LGBTQ community.

Camp also highlights trans people experiencing transphobia, women experiencing sexism, and LGBTQ people of color experiencing racism in Boystown: all reasons for the Northalsted Business Alliance to do whatever it can to make the district as welcoming and supportive as possible for all those on the LGBTQ spectrum.

At the time of writing, the petition has gained 1,351 of its target 1,500 signatures.

As interest in the petition has grown, the Northalsted Business Alliance issued a statement in response. It says it’s reaching out to local businesses and organizations to garner views on the idea.

The Chicago Tribune says the Alliance has written to its member to gain their “important perspective” on the notion of changing the name.

“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.”

Camp, who is non-binary, told the Chicago Tribune, “We need something on our marketing, on our flags, that says what you should expect in this neighborhood. And what you should expect is queer people from all different intersections of queer identity. Not just gay men.”

Two of the pylon’s on Chicago’s LGBT Legacy Walk – which is also found in Boystown
Two of the pylon’s on Chicago’s LGBT Legacy Walk – which is also found in Boystown (Photo: The Legacy Project)

Camp has offered Legacy Way as an alternative suggestion, to match the area’s Legacy Walk. Joe Lewis, the co-chair of the newly formed Chicago Black Drag Council, offered suggestions such as Queerville, Rainbow Way and New Town.

Among those signing the petition, others have suggested Pridestown, Queertown and Q-Town.

Related: A Chicago cop called a protestor a “f****t.” The mayor is a lesbian & she’s not having it.