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  • Writer's pictureZachary Blair

New Town to Boystown: Gay Men and Lesbians in the Gayborhood

As the writing continues, I thought I should post this article published in 1983 in the Chicago Tribune titled, "Dollars, votes promote gay power." The article opens up with a description of gay life at Broadway and Clark Street and includes a timely reference to "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (I hope you are watching Feud). This intersection was, for a relatively brief timespan, known as the center of Chicago's gay ghetto. Just a few blocks south of present-day Boystown, this area was then known as New Town. This article provides some clues into how political, economic, and cultural forces shaped the present-day gay neighborhood. If you want to know more about what I've uncovered, you'll have to read my dissertation.

Some thoughts:

"Flourishing for men, wilting for women."

Fast forward to 2017 and Chicago's lesbian businesses have almost entirely disappeared. The handful of lesbian-owned bars and businesses that were once open along Clark Street in Andersonville have almost all closed. At the same time, Boystown's gay businesses continue to open (and close and open again), even though for the last decade gay bars have been theorized to be in their final years. Breaking attendance records at each annual Gay Pride Parade suggests that post-gay subjectivities (or post-queer, as some have suggested) have had a dappled affect (at best) on dismantling local gay culture.

"The fulcrum of the homosexual cultural renaissance is the economic and political surge."

This statement reminded me of watching President Obama's victory speech at Sidetrack on North Halsted Street, which was at that time one of the most lucrative gay bars in the nation. Obama directly addressed LGBT people in his speech, marking the first time a president had ever done so. People in the bar were crying with their teary eyes glued to the televisions. With gay marriage becoming legal and so many other political battles won over gay rights in the past decade, it will be interesting to see what happens under President Trump - both in terms of Boystown (locally) and gay culture (broadly defined).



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