LAKEVIEW — Banners promoting Chicago’s North Side LGBTQ enclave as Boystown have been removed following months of efforts to formally ditch the nickname for not being inclusive of women and nonbinary people.
The Boystown banners, hung from lamp posts along the strip of North Halsted Street from Belmont Avenue to Irving Park Road, were replaced over the weekend. The new banners were installed Friday, branding the area as “Northalsted, Chicago’s Proudest Neighborhood.”
The change comes several months after business leaders from the Northalsted Business Alliance, the neighborhood’s local chamber of commerce, announced they would stop using the Boystown name in their marketing materials.
Devlyn Camp, a local nonbinary activist and podcast producer, praised the banners coming down as a “symbolic step.” But Camp said more progress is needed to make the neighborhood truly welcoming for all LGBTQ people.
“This is a great first step, but let’s see some more work done to keep improving on the neighborhood,” Camp said. “The Northalsted Business Alliance hasn’t released any other actions that they plan to take in their businesses to actually make them more welcoming to trans and queer people of color as employees or customers.”
That work should include completing the diversity and inclusion training the board members started but never finished in February 2020, as well as diversifying the Northalsted Business Alliance’s board, which is comprised of all white men except for two members who are Black and South Asian, Camp said.
“Overall, what what would be most helpful is if they release a list changes they pledge to make and a date by which they’ll be effective,” Camp said. “That will show us that they’re actually doing something and help with accountability.”
Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood has grappled with several highly publicized instances of racism or other discrimination in the neighborhood in recent years, including in 2019 when Progress Bar attempted to implement a ban on rap music and costume store Beatnix was selling a Confederate flag vest.
Amid broader social justice movements last year, thousands of protesters marched through the neighborhood during the drag queen-led Drag March for Change, where they demanded an end to racism and discrimination within the neighborhood. A follow-up march is planned for June 13. A Lincoln Park racial justice group has launched an effort to grade several area nonprofits on how equitable they are for Black queer people.
Representatives from the Northalsted Business Alliance did not immediately return requests for comment.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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