BOYSTOWN — Is it time to retire “Boystown”?
Some LGBTQ community members are calling on the famous Chicago gayborhood to drop its gendered nickname, claiming it perpetuates sexism and other discrimination in the neighborhood.
A recent petition, created by local queer activist Devlyn Camp, has received more than 1,300 signatures in support of the name change, and now the Northalsted Business Alliance is looking for a new name for the area.
Community members can fill out the survey here. It will be open for 60 days.
The move comes as many organizations are looking to become more inclusive. Recent protests and activism have sought to draw attention to anti-Black racism and transphobia in Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community.
NBA President Ramesh Ariyanayakam emphasized that as inclusivity becomes more of a focus, it’s important to listen to community members about what changes are needed.
“As culture and language change and develop over time, we must listen to the community to support inclusivity, this survey is a step towards gaining valuable insight. Our process focuses on active listening and engagement.”
The strip of Halsted from Belmont Avenue to Grace Street became known as Boystown by the ’90s and was named after a weekly column that appeared in the Chicago gay newspaper Outlines, according to a WBEZ feature on the neighborhood. In 1997, Mayor Richard M. Daley officially recognized Boystown as Chicago’s gay district — the first ever such designation in the country, according to the Sun-Times — and the name stuck.
The petition points to neighborhoods like the Castro and West Hollywood in California or Greenwich Village in New York as examples of LGBTQ enclaves named after their location.
If the business alliance went ahead with a name change, it would apply to the city designation as well as promotional neighborhood materials.
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