Boystown officials respond to reports of diminishing 'gayborhood'

Tue. August 5, 2014 10:24 AM by Andy Ambrosius

Sociologist says gay neighborhoods, including Chicago's Boystown, are getting straighter.

Chicago, IL - While new research shows Boystown is becoming a more fragmented LGBT community, Lakeview officials say the "gayborhood" is most certainly here to stay.

The analysis is detailed in "There Goes the Gayborhood?" written by suburban Chicago native Amin Ghaziani, now an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. It looks at things like census data, public opinion polls and interviews about Boystown from 1970 to 2010.

His consensus? Gays are leaving Boystown.

"Existing visible gay neighborhoods like Boystown or The Castro (in San Francisco) are in fact deconcentrating," Ghaziani told the Chicago Tribune. "Fewer same-sex households lived in them in 2010 than in 2000. If we stop the conversation there, we might be tempted to conclude that gayborhoods are in danger of disappearing. If people move out, where do they go next?"

Lakeview officials, however, are telling this is one "gayborhood" that's here to stay. Rather than gays leaving Boystown, which is the nation's first officially recognized gay village, leaders at area chambers of commerce and the alderman's office say its simply becoming more inclusive.

Combined with the recent string of equal rights measures like the passing of gay marriage in Illinois, opinions about needing to be gay to live in a gayborhood is shifting.

"We have asked for equality and these changing demographics are a testament to that," Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told "Boystown is welcoming to everyone and we have worked to sustain our neighborhood in terms of LGBT history and identity by creating the new LGBT-friendly senior housing at our former 23rd District Police station and the Center on Halsted, the Midwest's largest LGBT community center. This year Boystown was voted 'The World's Best Gay Neighborhood' by Out Traveler Magazine, and has continued to solidify its reputation as a world class LGBT entertainment area."

And officials with the Northalsted Business Alliance agree, saying Boystown has always been more than just a "gayborhood." The organization's president Ramesh Ariyanayakam says it has always attracted a diverse demographic, but rapidly growing festivals and new gay-themed developments make it hard to believe the gay community is shrinking.

"The LBGT owned businesses, the Center on Halsted, the new LGBT senior development, Pride Parade, Pride Fest, Market Days and more certainly counter the notion of a 'less' gay neighborhood," Ariyanayakam said. "Out Traveler's award naming Boystown the world's best gayborhood, supports the idea the area is still highly relevant and important for the LGBT community at large. The fact that many LGBT businesses and individuals own property that they live and/or conduct business in leaves us in good standing that this is a 'gayborhood' that is here to stay."

Ariyanayakam added that the organization's new Northalsted 2020 Development Plan to be unveiled later this year also enforce keeping Boystown a LGBT burrough. The plan will be a vision for what the future of the LGBT community will be, including new lighting displays, businesses and public initiatives.

As for the East Lakeview neighborhood as a whole, Maureen Martino doesn't see it as becoming less gay, but more inclusive. The East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce Director told that there are no longer these hard lines where the gay neighborhood has to start and end. Rather, it's simply becoming more prideful as a whole.

"I don't believe Lakeview is becoming 'less gay,'" she said. "However, it has become more inclusive. We have made great strides with gay marriage and equal opportunities to erase the proverbial lines where a gay neighborhood starts and ends. It is with great pride Lakeview has always been welcoming for the LGBTQ community and other communities have followed."