It is time to retire Boystown, says a new petition.
As of the time of this article's publication, almost 1,000 people had signed a Change.org form demanding that Chicago's LGBTQ+ neighborhood adopt a more inclusive nickname.
Devlyn Camp, an activist and creator of the petition, noted how the Northalsted Business Alliance's marketing of the neighborhood as "Boystown" with "for the boys" signage, which unfurled this summer, contributes to a culture of systemic sexism, transphobia, and racism among the area's predominantly white-owned businesses.
"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," Camp wrote. "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. One form of bigotry perpetuates others."
"Many of our transgender siblings must visit the Center on Halsted to utilize necessary resources," the petition continued. "Many of them have experienced transphobia in the North Halsted area. Our LGBTQ siblings of color looking for inclusive bars have been met with racism. Many women frequenting and working in North Halsted businesses have been met with sexism."
Many who signed the petition echoed their own personal experiences with feeling excluded due to the nickname. "As a full-bodied, gender non-binary individual, I have never felt safe in this 'safe space,'" wrote Nicholas Matos. "This toxically-masculine, no-fats-no-femmes danger zone needs a queer-eye-for-the-gay-white-guy makeover and pronto!"
Added Marshal Temple, "It’s time to grow. It’s time to change."
The petition noted how, among LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in the United States like the Castro, Greenwich Village, and West Hollywood, Chicago's has "the only gendered nickname." It did not propose an alternative, although signers debated changing the nickname to reflect its location, rather than a demographic.