Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood ‘Boystown’ changes its nickname after petition alleges exclusion

Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood ‘Boystown’ changes its nickname after petition alleges exclusion


The famed LGBTQ neighborhood “Boystown” in Chicago is changing its nickname after an online petition claimed it wasn’t inclusive of women, gender nonbinary individuals and people of color.

The Northalsted Business Alliance announced last week that it would no longer use “Boystown” in marketing after an activist wrote in an online petition that the neighborhood’s street signs were a reminder that it is “for the boys.” 

It will now be advertised as Northalsted, with the slogan “Chicago’s Proudest Neighborhood.”

“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,” activist Devlyn Camp wrote in the petition.

“Many of our transgender siblings … 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,” wrote Camp, who is gender nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.

The petition came after Black speakers at the Drag March for Change in June, during Black Lives Matter protests, said they were denied jobs at nightclubs and bars in Boystown because of their race, The Chicago Tribune reported.

“I’ve worked in the neighborhood for years, and I’ve seen firsthand how people are treated in the North Halsted area, particularly transgender people of color, particularly women,” Camp told the newspaper.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 14: Crowds carry signs during a march in support of Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives in Boystown on June 14, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests erupted across the nation after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th. (Photo by Natasha Moustache/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775523272 ORIG FILE ID: 1249757323
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JUNE 14: Crowds carry signs during a march in support of Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives in Boystown on June 14, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests erupted across the nation after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th. (Photo by Natasha Moustache/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775523272 ORIG FILE ID: 1249757323

In response to the petition, the alliance launched an eight-week online survey to gather community input, according to its website.

Of the 7,890 surveyed, 20% said they felt unwelcomed by the moniker, while 58% favored keeping the “Boystown” name. 

“It definitely felt like we should be doing something about it,” Northalsted Business Alliance spokesperson Jen Gordon told The Tribune.

Gordon added, “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 1997, former Mayor Richard M. Daley recognized Boystown, on Chicago’s North Side, as the city’s gay district, according to NPR affiliate WBEZ 91.5. Last year, the Chicago City Council recognized the neighborhood’s rainbow pylons and Legacy Project as a landmark.

The name change was a “necessary first step forward toward inclusivity,” Camp told them, the LGBTQ publication at Conde Nast. But it isn’t enough, Camp said.

“[The Northalsted Business Alliance] promised to hold diversity and inclusion training for their business owners, and announced in a press release this summer that they had held training, but they neglected to mention that the board canceled 3 out of 4 seminars with Praxis Group,” Camp said in a statement.

“Let’s hope changing the neighborhood name isn’t just another performative gesture.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chicago’s ‘Boystown,’ famed LGBTQ neighborhood, changes its nickname

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