In a sign of the times, Boystown business leaders have agreed to consider changing the nickname for Chicago’s traditional LGBT neighborhood.
The Chicago Tribune reported Friday: Under pressure from a Change.org petition that complains about the gendered nature of the name Boystown, particularly in the context of local incidents of sexism, racism and transphobia, business leaders in Chicago’s most prominent LGBTQ neighborhood have begun the process of considering a name change. The influential Northalsted Business Alliance board said in a written statement that it had formed a committee to begin outreach to businesses and community members, with the goal of gaining “important perspective” on a possible name change. “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 neighborhood moves forward as an inclusive and welcoming neighborhood for all,” the statement said.
According to the Change.org petition calling for the Boystown nickname to be scrapped, which has garnered more than 1,100 signatures, Chicago is the only city in the U.S. with a gendered nickname for its LGBTQ neighborhood.
“LGBTQ neighborhoods exist for all intersections of queer identity,” the petition states. “Systemic transphobia, racism, and sexism have plagued our neighborhood 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 neighborhood is “for the boys,” though the signs hang above our diverse Legacy Walk of several LGBTQ icons in our history.
“The ‘Boystown’ nickname began in the 1990s as a joke and it is now a marketing tool used by the Northalsted Business Alliance, and perpetuates the existing social issues that deter many LGBTQ people from the neighborhood,” the petition continues. “As we all grow and reconsider our roles in perpetuating bigotry, we ask that this board reflect on the growing number of incidents in our LGBTQ spaces. …
“To promote the inclusion of transgender, nonbinary, lesbian, and intersex individuals, we submit this petition for the Northalsted Business Alliance to simply follow the other LGBTQ neighborhoods across the world by marketing the area based on its location, North Halsted, not the majority gender of those people who sit on the Northalsted Business Alliance board.”
Watch a report from Chicago’s NBC affiliate below.