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What's Up With Boystown?

"In the heart of Lakeview, the soul of Boystown is roiled," Laura Washington wrote this week for the Sun-Times amid a flurry of commentary about the neighborhood.

"Over the July 4 weekend, a midnight street brawl among a dozen or so young people hospitalized a 25-year-old man and fed fear and outrage among community residents and business owners. It was the third violent attack in the area in recent weeks, according to news reports.

"It's been a long time coming. For years, the neighborhood has been plagued by security concerns, racial antipathies, transgender intolerance, economic divides, business consequences, political gamesmanship and dysfunctional behaviors."


"Gay bars had been open along North Clark Street and Diversey Avenue since the 1960s. But by the summer of 1975, North Halsted Street in the area now known as Boystown, had its first gay bar, according to the Northalsted Business Alliance," Dawn Turner Trice writes for the Tribune.

"Renee Jackson said that 36 years later, when she walks down North Halsted through the crowds of black youths who gather outside the area's stores and gay bars, she understands that many of these teens hang out in Boystown because they don't feel comfortable being openly gay in their own communities."


"'I don't come by myself when I come to Boys Town,' 21-year-old Joshua McCool said last week at a press conference outside of Inter-American Magnet School. He stood in front of a multiracial phalanx of activists who one by one complained about the treatment they'd received in the neighborhood. McCool, who's black, called the area 'white boys' town.' He and the other speakers, members of the LGBT youth group Gender JUST, said they feel racially profiled when they visit the neighborhood," Sam Worley reports for the Reader.

"Chicago Police Department statistics indicate that in the 23rd district - which includes Boys Town as well as parts of Uptown and Lincoln Park - crime has increased the last five years. But in eight categories tracked by the CPD including robbery, aggravated assault and battery, burglary, and theft, the rates are lower than they were a decade ago. Crime rates also dipped slightly between January and May of this year.

"Since May, however, some widely publicized violent crimes, including robberies and at least two stabbings, have alarmed residents. A man was beaten and stabbed in a melee on Halsted Street just before midnight on Sunday, July 3, and the incident was captured on video and posted online."


"Some are pointing fingers at Boystown's Center on Halsted - a social service agency - and particularly its young clientele," Odette Yousef reports for WBEZ.

"Late last week, Chicago Police announced an arrest. A man from Hammond, Indiana. Others are likely to follow. But before anything was known about the attackers, rumblings began, mostly online, that gay youth from other neighborhoods were committing these crimes."


"At the CAPS meeting on July 6, the majority in attendance were white gay men. Some of these men shouted 'get a job' to homeless youth, who were calling on the community to provide services instead of demanding increased policing. According to the Department of Labor, 13.9 million people are reportedly unemployed. The same white men berating the LGBT young people should think about how difficult it is for a young trans woman of color to acquire a job and what it is like to face hatred every day - they should applaud her for her resilience in the face of intersectional oppression," Avi Rudnick writes for the Windy City Times.

"LGBTQ young people are drawn to Boystown for services and a (false) promise of diversity. The limited services available for LGBTQ people primarily exist on the North Side, which is a historical problem in Chicago. Services are limited on the West and South sides, from the lack of a hospital with a Level One trauma center on the South Side to the abysmal public-transit system. Additionally, there are no after-hours, all-ages venues; a lack of adequate mental health services; and no shelter for young people in Boystown."


"When Antonio Jones walks down Halsted Street in Boystown, he feels more at home here than he did in his old Garfield Park neighborhood, where he used to worry about thugs attacking him for being bisexual," Trice wrote in 2009.

"But all is not bliss for Jones in Boystown either. That's because the 21-year-old college student, who often travels down Halsted wearing baggy pants and a dark coat, knows that - in an ironic twist - some residents now view him as a thug."


"Boystown ceased being a primarily gay residential area more than a decade ago, even before the rainbow Pylons were installed. In fact, those pylons were criticized by some as unnecessary in 1998, when they were announced, because the area had become so straight even back then," Windy City Media Group publisher Tracy Baim writes.

"What Boystown is in 2011 is a heavily LGBT destination entertainment area. It needs to be treated as such. No one 'owns' Boystown, and we will all benefit by treating each other not as 'us' vs. 'them,' or 'outsiders' vs. 'insiders.'

"The question still remains unanswered: Can we all get along?"


Comments welcome.


Posted on July 15, 2011

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