Curious City on WBEZ: Making Chicago’s Boystown; Political activism and businesses helped shape the city’s gay neighborhood, but there’s a debate about its future

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Curious City: Making Chicago’s Boystown, Political activism and businesses helped shape the city’s gay neighborhood, but there’s a debate about its future.

“Jack Floyd came to Chicago in 2010 to attend Loyola University and when he wanted to go out, he often ended up in the neighborhood called Boystown. “As a gay person, I just started going there with friends to be with other people like myself,” he says.

“Boystown is a gay neighborhood located within the larger Lakeview East area and it’s hard to miss — it’s marked with giant rainbow pillars. Boystown stretches roughly from Belmont Avenue up to Addison Street, and it spans from Halsted Street to Broadway.

“‘There’s this gay neighborhood in Chicago that’s not really like anything else in America, or in the world, so it made me question what kind of forces are at play — whether they be geographical, cultural, demographic — that came together and allowed this neighborhood to become officially recognized as some sort of gay entity and destination,’ Jack says.

“His question for Curious City: ‘What is the history of Boystown? What made it become and gain traction as an LGBTQ neighborhood?’

“The answer is tied to persecution, perseverance, and slow societal change.

“Even though it’s not the only Chicago gay enclave, the neighborhood has played a central role in the LGBTQ community’s struggle for legal equality and social acceptance. It’s been home to many successful businesses and has been at the center of important civil rights battles. But as it has grown, the neighborhood has struggled to be a place where all members of the community feel included.” (WBEZ, 5/7/17)

Hear and read the full story and explore the interactive map at WBEZ Chicago

Curious City: Making Chicago’s Boystown, Political activism and businesses helped shape the city’s gay neighborhood, but there’s a debate about its future, Steven Jackson and Jason Nargis with Photo by Katherine Nagasawa, WBEZ Chicago 91.5, 5/7/17

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