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Chicago’s queer neighbourhood Boystown changes its name to be more inclusive to women and non-binary people

Josh Milton September 24, 2020
A Boystown Chicago banner hangs along Cornelia Avenue in the Boystown Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

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

Chicago’s Boystown will now be simply known as Northalsted, in a move billed by officials as one that embraces a more inclusive future.

Boystown banners will be torn down from the beloved queer village and replaced with ones beaming “Chicago’s Proudest Neighbourhood”, killing off a 30-year-old name that, campaigners say, has excluded queer women and non-binary people.

According to a statement released Wednesday (September 23) by the Northalsted Business Alliance, the local chamber of commerce conducted a survey of more than 7,900 people to collect insight on the name change.

Around 58 per cent of survey-takers said they were in favour of keeping the Boystown name, while around two in 10 said the moniker made them feel unwelcomed, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The Northalsted Business Alliance first announced the petition in July.

Jen Gordon, the alliance’s spokesperson, said that even if a “small percentage” of respondents said they felt unwelcomed, then the “Boystown” name is “not something we should be using to promote the neighbourhood.”

“It definitely felt like we should be doing something about it,” he said.

‘This is progress’: Black trans leaders welcome the end of Chicago’s Boystown. 

The Boystown name change followed a turbulent tussle between business-owners and the local trans community.

“Systemic transphobia, racism, and sexism have plagued our neighbourhood for decades, read a petition posted over the summer.

“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’.”

As the streets and avenues of Chicago packed with thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters in June, emboldened campaigners claimed that they were routinely denied jobs at Boystown nightclubs and bars because they are Black.

“This is progress,” petition co-author Devlyn Camp said following the announcement.

“I think it’s fantastic that they’re acknowledging the need for change.

“My question now is, how will the Northalsted Business Alliance continue to implement systemic change that reflects this – specifically inside their own businesses?”

More: black lives matter, Boystown, Chicago, Illinois, non-binary, Trans

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