Part 1: My Life in Boystown

As most of you know I live in a very unique neighborhood in Chicago, called Boystown. Since it’s so unique, my life here and the experiences that I have here are also quite unique to the majority of the rest of the country (world). I figured I would start an ongoing series of random posts that detail experiences that I have here in Boystown, that probably don’t happen anywhere else. I’ll start by giving you a more thorough understanding of the neighborhood itself:

Boystown, Chicago

Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood is located on the Northside of the city, within the broader Lakeview neighborhood, right on Lake Michigan and about four blocks away from the world famous Wrigley Field – home of the Chicago Cubs. 

Boystown is also proud to be America’s first official governmentally recognized gay neighborhood. 

The name Boystown was a nickname for the neighborhood back in the late 80s and early 90s while it was being gentrified from a low-income African-American area, by a number of gay investors (who started to gentrify the neighborhood around some old LGBT establishments already in the neighborhood. That is why so many LGBT people then started to move here. Not only was it becoming suuuuper nice, but also very LGBT specific). Starting in 1998 Mayor Daley, the City of Chicago and a few heavy private investors unloaded up to $50 million in fully updating Boystown into one of the world’s premier LGBT neighborhoods, which included the installation of lighted rainbow poles throughout the neighborhood (the above picture). It was that same year that Boytsown became the neighborhood’s officially recognized name.

The neighborhood is shaped like a football, and runs parallel on Halsted Street and Broadway. Boystown offers the country’s, if not the world’s, most thoroughly impressive strip of LGBT entertainment: boasting 60 different LGBT specific bars, restaurants, nightclubs and a variety of LGBT specialty shops - including the second largest LGBT Center in the country, sex shops and Gaymart (yes, you read that right…not K-Mart, Gaymart).

Demographically, its one square mile radius has 79.5% White, 8.72% Hispanic, 5.42% Asian, 4.42% Black, and 1.95% Other. Depending on what site you go to, there are anywhere between 100,00 and 500,00 people who live in this area. I like to take the medium, so I tell people there are about 350,000 folks here. Of those 350,000 people, also depending on what site you go to, up to 89% of Boystown’s population are out LGBTs.

Boystown is not only the center of gay life in Chicago, but one of the main destinations for the LGBT community throughout the country, and world, as well. This has been my neighborhood for the past 10 years, and I’m looking forward to telling you all about the interesting things that happen in my life here.

PS – You should move here and live next to us. That would be awesome.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Stephanie

    I already live here! and I love it!

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Me and you, and you and me! :) The more the merrier. This neighborhood, and The Marin Foundation, wouldn’t be the same without you Steph.

  • Mrs T

    The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce says that there are 90,000 people in Lakeview. Chicago has about 3,000,000 people & 50 political wards, which means an average of 60,000 folks per ward. LV has all or most of the 44th ward, where I live. It also has some of the 46th & another one or 2. Maybe there are 100,000 to 500,000 GLBTs in Chicago? That doesn’t diminish the importance of the neighborhood, though. I also love it!
    Yes, there are lots of businesses geared primarily to LGBTs. We welcome blog readers to come & see this unique neighborhood! Over the years, the GLBT area has slowly moved more north. The property values/taxes in the south area were going up too fast! I’m assuming that’s why the more northern area of LV & S. Uptown were developed.
    ((HUGS))to you, Andrew! I’m looking forward to reading more.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      I haven’t come across those Lakeview Chamber of Commerce stats! Thanks. Did you get those on-line or a pamphlet or something?

      • Mrs T

        I think it was on a map of LV that they gave me.
        Their office is at Lincoln/Belmont/Ashland at the beginning of the 1600 block of Belmont. I’m sure they can help with various stats.
        Maybe the NortHalsed C of C can help, too.

        How are you feeling tonight?

  • Nathalie A

    thanks so much for posting this! i’m really looking forward to reading this series. i appreciate getting to get a glimpse of your life, learn from your experience and just know more about what living in a lgbt community can be like. i went to a women’s college in a gay friendly town (northampton, ma), but it was more female friendly- lesbian focused (probably because the majority are queer women). i’ll like to contrast and compare- see what nuances there may be for a less female focused gay town.
    thanks so much for blogging. your commitment to that alone is impressive, in addition to the commitment and struggle to live your life as a living testimony of God’s love and truth.

    much love!

    nathalie

  • Lilly

    i loved northampton too, and lived in chicago for awhile. and smith college is just the best. went there for a little while, and it was clearly the best lesbian experience ever. i recommend all lesbians get a chance to be in such a woman positive and lesbian positive easter college. personally, northampton was a far better place for lesbians, and boystown, well the name just doesn’t cut it with me. west hollywood is boystown too, and still racist if you are non-white gay man, and pretty iffy in terms of lesbian business development. it would be great to have 50 million dollars invested in lesbian small businesses, so i’m moving back to northampton after i finish up a few jobs here. teh castro was very lesbian unfriendly for most of the 70s and a good part of the 90s, and i liked oakland much better, and it has a very long term active lesbian community there, many great lesbian activist traditions, and cheaper housing, always an issue with lesbians it seems. what is life like for lesbians in chicago? well, it’s a pretty good town overall, but i found boystown pretty discriminatory and not all that lesbian friendly. we got bad service with gay wait staff, pretty bad service in male bars… i just wouldn’t want to live there compared to oakland or northampton.

  • Mrs T

    Lilly: There is another neighborhood in Chicago called Andersonville, as it was once a Swedish area. It has become quite lesbian friendly & is very charming for a few blocks(approx 5200-5600 N Clark).
    Until this year, I did not like or use the term “Boystown” as I thought it to be derisive. I assumed it was called that by those who made fun of gays as the original Boystown was an orphanage in Nebraska? founded by a Father Flanagan. But derisive terms get mainstreamed, so I guess they wear the name proudly.
    There are also small LGBT enclaves other places in Chicago & even some suburbs. I hope your next visit is more enjoyable!


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