Campaigners demand Chicago rename ‘Boystown’ gay village to be more inclusive amid transphobia, racism and sexism allegations

A Boystown Chicago banner hangs along Cornelia Avenue in the Boystown Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

In weeks to come, those half-drunkenly ordering taxis to Chicago’s queer neighbourhood won’t be typing in Boystown, but rather “Queerville”, “New Town”, or “Spectrumville”.

Around 1,200 people have signed a petition calling for local leaders and business owners to stop using the nickname for the city’s Lake View neighbourhood.

Non-binary petitioner Devly Camp is calling on the Northalsted Business Alliance to rebrand to better reflect the city’s diverse LGBT+ community, long dogged, activists say, by sexism, racism and transphobia.

Introduced two weeks ago, Camp described the ways in which the all-male board does not reflect the community.

Marketing campaigns spearheaded by the alliance – such as a sign saying the area is “for the boys”, Camp said, promote a culture where queer, white, cis men are prioritised.

Now, business leaders are beginning the process of considering the name change. The Northalsted Business Alliance said in a statement its committee will begin outreach with the goal of gaining “important perspective” on how to handle the name change, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago’s Boystown to be renamed after string of sexist, racist, transphobic incidents, says campaigner.

Alliance representatives told the outlet that seminars on racial and gender biases are being organised for board members.

“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 neighbourhood moves forward as an inclusive and welcoming neighbourhood for all,” the statement said.

Protesters hold signs during the Pride Without Prejudice march in Boystown on June 28, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)

Protesters hold signs during the Pride Without Prejudice march in Boystown on June 28, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)

Camp claimed in the petition that “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’s something I’ve been passionate about for a long time,” they told the outlet.

“I’ve worked in the neighbourhood for years, and I’ve seen firsthand how people are treated in the North Halsted area, particularly transgender people of colour, particularly women.

(Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)

“I’ve been out with friends who are lesbians, and they’ve been told by gay men in the bars: ‘Why are you here? This isn’t your neighbourhood’.”

They added that gay men pelted trans women with “horrible names”.
“We need something on our marketing, on our flags, that says what you should expect in this neighbourhood,” Camp said.

“And what you should expect is queer people from all different intersections of queer identity. Not just gay men.”

Moreover, speakers at the Drag March for Change, which drew thousands of Black Lives Matter demonstrators in June, decried Boystown business for denying queer, trans people of colour jobs or steady paycheques.