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Examining the Past, Present, and Future of Chicago’s First Gay Neighborhood

Pride month is one full of both celebration and commemoration for the LGBT+ community. Every June, cities around the world hold pride festivals and parades to honor the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – the 1969 protests that are often considered the launching point of the modern gay rights movement. Many pride activities are held in LGBT+ neighborhoods, including in Chicago’s Boystown – first-ever gay neighborhood that was officially recognized by a large city. Following the conclusion of this year’s pride, reflecting on how Boystown was created offers insight into the neighborhood’s unique history – and the challenges and opportunities it faces as it looks to the future.

Chicago’s Boystown was officially recognized as the city’s gay district in 1997, though the neighborhood was rich with LGBT+ history for many years prior. Notably, the modern-day Boystown neighborhood resulted after the LGBT+ community was pushed out of other neighborhoods in Chicago in the 1960s, WBEZ reported. As Tracy Baim, a gay historian and founder of the Windy City Times, described to the outlet, “in the ‘60s gay communities were scattered around the city, with many of the communities … centered around downtown, River North, and Tower Town in the mid part of the last century.” Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood, including the Lake View communities of Triangle Neighbors and Belmont Harbor, was also home to many members of the city’s LGBT+ community in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Encyclopedia of Chicago noted. However, “slowly, as rents went up and other things happened, the community was forced out,” Baim reported.

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And let’s be honest, that’s pretty darn gay.