Petitions opposing each other over Boystown name

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One of the Legacy Walk memorials on Halsted in Chicago. (Photo from Facebook)

CHICAGO — Two opposing petitions are circulating over the name of Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood.

The petition wanting to change the name, called “Northalsted Business Alliance to Stop Promoting ‘Boystown’ Nickname,” has been circulating for since the cancelled ACTIVATE:CHI march and has 1,378 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

Organized by Devlyn Camp, the petition states Boystown is the only LGBTQ neighborhood to use a gendered name while others such as Houston’s Montrose, Los Angeles’ West Hollywood, and New York’s Greenwich Village, adopted the neighborhoods’ original names. It’s calling on the Northalsted Business Alliance (NBA) to drop Boystown from its marketing materials for the 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 states. “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.”

There have been issues with racism and transphobia along the stretch of North Halsted Avenue for years and the petition organizers included several links to recent issues.

The other petition, simply called “Keep Boystown,” is aimed at the general public instead of the NBA. It was organized by Blake Taylor.

It claims the neighborhood is a “victim of the new change culture that has nothing to do with the fact that Boystown itself has always been welcoming to everyone.”

The petition states that changing the name won’t change anything affecting marginalized communities. “Choose your battles but leave the Boystown name alone,” it stated. As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 737 signatures.

The North Halsted area, just east of Wrigleyville, has been the historic core of the Chicago LGBTQ community since the 1980s. However, in recent years the area has continued to gentrify with many LGBTQ people now living well outside the neighborhood and spending times in other neighborhoods, such as Andersonville and Rogers Park, with growing LGBTQ populations.

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