‘Boystown’ neighborhood nickname sparks dueling online petitions
An online petition battle is brewing over whether to stop using the nickname “Boystown” for Chicago’s eastern Lake View neighborhood.
It started two weeks ago, with Devlyn Camp’s petition to stop using the nickname because, according to the petition, it’s “one form of bigotry [that] perpetuates others.”
The petition, which reached its goal of 1,000 signatures by Thursday evening, argues that the nickname started as “a joke” but now is “a marketing tool used by the Northalsted Business Alliance.”
LGBTQ activists Camp and Jen Freitag say the business alliance, which organizes LGBTQ events such as Pride Fest, uses the nickname to appeal to gay men in a way that excludes lesbian, nonbinary, transgender and intersex people.
“I’ve seen lesbian friends told in gay bars, ‘Why are you here, this our neighborhood’ by gay men, and this is because we have signs in our street [that say Boystown],” said Camp. “The ‘Boystown’ signs lead people to assume the neighborhood is set up for the boys.”
And so “even though [the name change is] a symbolic change, it represents a lot of other issues that we need to address,” said Camp, adding that includes racism and transphobia from North Halsted businesses.
A competing “Keep Boystown!” petition started Wednesday declared the name is “not meant to be sexist or racist.” It had 75 signatures by Thursday evening, with a goal of 100.
Brad Balof, a board member of the Northalsted Business Alliance, said he’s “excited to explore the idea of coming up with a name that is more inclusive,” though he can’t speak for the entire board.
The most challenging part, according to Balof, will be picking a new name that “honors the LGBTQ history of the neighborhood as well as expands its inclusivity.” Balof also said the name “Boystown” has spread internationally, and so getting “everyone to change is going to be a much bigger endeavor.”