Boystown, one of the most popular LGBTQ+ neighbourhoods in Chicago, is changing its name following an online petition that claimed it wasn’t inclusive of women, the non-binary community and people of colour.
The Northalsted Business Alliance announced last week that it will now be known and advertised as Northalsted to be inclusive of all genders, and ‘Boystown’ will be eliminated from all marketing campaigns. The new slogan for Northalsted will be ‘Chicago’s Proudest Neighbourhood’.
Devlyn Camp, a non-binary activist who uses they/them pronouns, wrote in the petition: “The Castro, Greenwich Village, West Hollywood, and many more. LGBTQ neighbourhoods exist for all intersections of queer identity. Chicago’s is the only gendered nickname.
“Systemic transphobia, racism, and sexism have plagued our neighbourhood for decades, and it begins at the top, with the all-male board of the Northalsted Business Alliance. It begins with the BOYSTOWN signs down our street announcing that this neighbourhood is “for the boys,” though the signs hang above our diverse Legacy Walk of several LGBTQ icons in our history.”
Camp said the nickname perpetuates “the existing social issues” that deter many LGBTQ+ people from the neighbourhood, such as the the transgender community, people of colour and women, adding: “One form of bigotry perpetuates others.”
Northalsted Business Alliance also conducted an online survey about the Boystown moniker, which was answered by 7,900 people. 58% wanted to keep the name, while 20% said they felt unwelcome in the neighbourhood because of it.
Northalsted Business Alliance spokesperson Jen Gordon said: “It definitely felt like we should be doing something about it. 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 neighbourhood.”
Following news of the name change announcement, Camp said it’s “progress” and “fantastic that they’re acknowledging the need for change,” before asking: “How will the Northalsted Business Alliance continue to implement systemic change that reflects this – specifically inside their own businesses?”