Boystown is the rainbow-tinted neighborhood of Chicago that’s roughly situated between Belmont to the south, Irving Park to the north, Lakeshore Drive to the east, and Clark to the west in the Lakeview area of Chicago. From the 1950s through the late 1970s, gay bars would sprout in various hot spots around Chicago like mercurial little mushrooms and flourish for about five years…but would then be stomped out by the City and police harassment when they became too vibrant and established. Gays would then typically move north, further away from downtown, to take over derelict and almost abandoned neighborhoods to gentrify them alongside the clubs that replaced ones the police shut down. The institutional harassment of gays by the Democrats running Chicago stopped when someone in the party realized that gay men had a lot of disposable income and could fund political campaigns…so Chicago Mayors started allowing gay bars to take root along Halsted in Lakeview…and the gayborhood was born.
There’s another gay hub further north called Andersonville that began establishing itself as a successor to Boystown that ended up not being needed, since Boystown itself was never shut down by the city as other gay ghettos had been trampled in the past. While there’s some gay nightlife activity in Andersonville, the area surrounding it is sketchier than Lakeview and is not as nice as popular as Boystown proper.
Boystown is a great place for a young gay guy to live when he first moves to Chicago…particularly if he wants to meet a lot of people and be able to stumble home from the bars on foot late at night. Once guys age out of the bar scene or meet someone to live with permanently, they tend to leave Boystown for more stable and quiet areas of the city…but no one ever forgets his Boystown years.
Or — in the age of Facebook, YouTube, etc. — is ever allowed to forget them.
Essays on Boystown:
1. Can gay guys be sportsball fans? Do you totally sportsball, bro? One of my biggest discoveries in recent years is just how great guys who are super into sports can be…even if I think watching sportsball is boring as hell. Guys who love the Cubs, in particular, seem to be the nicest and most fun to be around of all. Not sure why this is, but it would have spared me a lot of grief for the last decade if I had figure out this little secret sooner. Skip the stand-and-model bars and hang out in the gay sports bars and be so much happier.