‘Boys­town’ neigh­bor­hood nick­name sparks du­el­ing on­line pe­ti­tions

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JADE YAN, STAFF RE­PORTER jyan@sun­times.com | @jadelu­ci­ayan

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.”

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