According to a decision made by business leaders this week, Boystown is no more.
Since the 1990s, Chicago's largest LGBTQ+ neighborhood has taken on the name Boystown. It's been used in marketing materials, is posted on banners, and is a term known nationally. But Wednesday, in a decision sparked by a petition that began circulating June, the name will be abandoned in marketing for the area.
According to the petition, which was circulating via a Change.org link and has attracted 1,505 signatures at the time of publication, Boystown "is the only gendered nickname" of a queer neighborhood.
"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," the petition reads. "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."
"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," it continued. "This is only the beginning of the many changes needed in the North Halsted area."
As a result of the petition, the Business Alliance circulated a survey online about the issue. 1,580 respondents said they felt unwelcome by the name. Now, the alliance has decided to do away with it in favor of Northalsted.
Throwing out Boystown is a minority opinion according to evidence. An opposing "Keep Boystown!" petition on Change.org boasts 2,059 signatures. The business alliance's survey of 7,900 people showed that 4,582 wanted to keep the name — that number translates to 58% while those who felt unwelcome was 20%. Still, it is the name of a community and all should feel welcome, not just half.
“It definitely felt like we should be doing something about it,” Northalsted Business Alliance spokesperson Jen Gordon told Chicago Tribune. “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 neighborhood.”
There is no indication of whether city planners will follow the decision but the Business Alliance will remove the Boystown banners.