The Time to "Take Back Boystown" is Now…











By Erin O’Neal

(Disclaimer: I am speaking on behalf of myself and not the whole of The Qu. If you would like to hear from any of our contributors on this subject, I recommend contacting them directly for comment.)

In a shocking move, The North Halsted Business Alliance(NHBA) has announced that it has hired uniformed and armed security forces to “enhance security” in the Boystown neighborhood. A private security force, made up of off duty police officers, will patrol Halsted Street between Barry to the south, and Irving Park on the north in what they claim is an attempt to “provide a fun and safe environment for residents and patrons.”


Tensions have been high in Boystown since the opening of the Center on Halsted in 2007. The Center provides an array of services for members of the LGBTQ community and their allies, particularly younger ones. Youth from all over the city take refuge at the Center, often coming from as far as the South and West sides, as they have no place to go in their own neighborhoods.Some residents, patrons and business owners in Boystown claim the Center attracts an unruly and dangerous group of people from outside the area and insist that it has largely contributed to an upswing in crime in the neighborhood.


These tensions exploded after a stabbing that occurred late one night in the summer of 2011 and the Take Back Boystown Facebook group was founded. The group claims to exist for the purpose of “…bringing awareness of the activities, a forum for pictures, articles, videos of things you have seen happen in the neighborhood and a venue for suggestions, ideas and thoughts on how we can preserve what we have and go back to the safe fun neighborhood Boystown is known for.”What has frequently resulted though has been a collection of racist and transphobic comments being made by Boystown’s largely white, upper middle class residents and patrons.
Boystown has long been a destination for LGBTQ youth from not only Chicago but also around the country as a space where, for the first time in their lives, they can be open with who they are. The feeling is exhilarating as it is liberating. Traditionally, the support of Boystown was limited to the nightlife culture, which has always included its fair share of debauchery and drug use. Until the Center on Halsted opened, there were few programs for LGBTQ youth outside of partying and social climbing. Drug use and prostitution have always been present in Boystown, as is the case in most large, urban LGBTQ communities. To claim that unsavory elements have only recently appeared in the neighborhood due to the opening of a place offering alternatives to bar culture is suspect at best.


What is the real reason for this sudden need of armed protection from our LGBTQ youth? Why are private businesses paying public servants in their off time to protect the interests of the NHBA? Who is this security force accountable to? What are their procedures and who has reviewed and agreed to them? There have been no shootings in Boystown, yet this security force is implementing the use of bullet-proof vests. It encourages the aesthetic of a Police State and if any community is aware of the power of theatre in the political realm, it should be ours.Why is the NHBA sending this message and more importantly, why do some residents and patrons prefer the idea of a police state to one of inclusion for all?I think it is time to take back Boystown from the self-interests of local businesses at the expense of the greater LGBTQ community. If our community were being attacked by hate-groups and bashed in the street with no response from the police, I could understand taking such drastic measures. However, I will not stand by as supposed allies and community businesses hire enforcement thugs against our own people.


I am calling for a boycott against all members of the North Halsted Business Alliance and of the North Halsted Market Days. The NHBA is putting our community at risk for their own financial gain and operating with racist, classist and transphobic motives. It is imperative that members of the greater queer community of Chicago meet as soon as possible to organize a protest in Boystown and create groups to monitor the actions of the NHBA’s private security firm to create awareness and accountability by an outside party.?The youth in our community are not the enemy and we cannot sit silently by as they are treated as such. We need to fight for inclusion in Boystown, not policing.
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18 comments on “The Time to "Take Back Boystown" is Now…
  1. Joshua Stark says:

    Hells yea!, im thinking a march and an elected person to loiter outside of the entrances telling where that suggested donation really goes, lets get gender just and gender queer chicago on board

  2. Davey says:

    You mention Center on Halsted here and frame them as a haven for LGBTQ youth but I think it’s fair to say they haven’t exactly been pioneers of restorative justice themselves when they’ve had issues with their patrons. Gender Just released a statement about it today and it’s been a hot topic for quite a while now:

    The lack of transparency from their leadership is disheartening to me. Why not list the community partners you’re working with in your restorative justice initiative?

    I think it’s also helpful to actually name all the businesses affiliated with the NHBA. The owners of practically every major bar and nightclub in boystown seem to be on the board.

    • ErinQu says:

      Hi Davey,

      I agree that the Center on Halsted isn’t perfect and should also be addressed. My concern in this instance is an immediate threat. Very simply put, I am very fearful that someone will be hurt and would like if we as a community can ban together and put our collective foot down that this type of action cannot and will not be tolerated.

      There are 186 business listed here. You also can check the store front of anyone in the neighborhood for a Northalsted Business Association member sticker.

      The business that are board members of the association are listed here:

      D.S. Tequila Company
      I.D., Inc.
      The Gourmet Grape
      Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club
      The Chicago Diner
      Knecht Chiropractic Clinic
      Halsted’s Bar & Grill
      The Leigh Gallery
      Roscoe’s Tavern

  3. Out of Touch says:

    You are so out of touch it blows my mind. They have been providing nightly security for 3 summers now.

  4. anon says:

    You people realize this has been in place for the last 3 years every summer. This isn’t something new!! Wake up!

  5. tonyqu says:

    I’m not sure how them doing it for the past 3 summers makes it right, and if that is the case and people are still complaining then it obviously isn’t working.

  6. joeyqu says:

    Hello Anons,

    We would love to continue a dialogue with you two. The only issue is that you have left no information or proof to back up your claim. Secondly this is an op-ed and contains personal views and ideas about the situation, therefore the length of these people being hired in the area is irrelevant. We are not the only media sources to cover this, but multiple sources also have looked into this recent hiring. NHBA and other business owners have made recent statements about the new hiring, which you can find below. We invite you to send us an op-ed of your own to

    We welcome your concerns, ideas and dialogue, but as being part of the small community of LGBTQ media, its very disheartening to hear us being called out of touch. We may be many things, but we pride ourselves in being involved in LGBTQ issues, as well as those in our community.

    -The Qu
    Personal note: We encourage everyone to wake up and realize the issues of LGBTQ youth homelessness is an issue our community should hold on the forefront of activism. I believe that out country and community can do better to take care of our people and provide better healthcare, education and resources for all. I also believe that policing youth and the homeless is counteractive and creates no solution to the actual issue.


  7. kevin says:

    Crime in Lakeview has prompted the businesses, already part of an association, to provide additional security at night. You seem offended at the very existence of these people. (And the idea that security people shouldn’t wear bullet proof vests because nobody has been shot is just plain silly). Why exactly are you opposed philosophically? This feels like a reasonable (and 3 year long) response to concerns about safety. I personally know 3 people who have been subject to attacks. If those people could have avoided attacks because there were people patrolling the street, great, right? Your article is really just a retread of last summer’s debate about “take back boystown.” There are legitimate issues there that still haven’t been resolved, not the least of which are racism, inclusion, and homelessness. But unless there is evidence that the security patrols are being racist, or that they were hired to target trans or black queer youth, or that they are interacting in a way with youth to intimidate them, or that the security patrols are somehow increasing queer youth homelessness by … I don’t know how, this whole article just doesn’t make sense. I suppose you could have made an argument about resource allocation – that the private money should be spent elsewhere on things more important than helping to deter the attacks. But you don’t. You just argue against patrols and the reaction you are getting, and will get, is a result of the illogical argument. I hope you reconsider what you’re saying rewrite it, and resubmit it. I’d like to read something that maybe uses the patrols as a jumping off point for a broader conversation, not an article that calls for a boycott against businesses that seem to be simply creating a safe environment for their customers.

    • ErinQu says:

      Hi Kevin,
      I am concerned that private business are hiring their own forces to patrol public streets. Does that not seem troubling at the least? I could understand if we were talking about private property, but we’re not, we’re talking about a neighborhood. This raises a lot of valid questions, and I hope more than what I brought up.

      Who do you think are the targets of this increased security? And what standards are these security forces operating under? To whose review do they come under in the wake of an incident? I don’t think these are unreasonable questions to be asking.

  8. Erik says:

    i agree – just because it’s been in place for years (and begs the question, is it helping) doesn’t mean it’s right, or should continue.

    this article has more perspective.

  9. Erik says:

    @ kevin. your perspective is one of privilege. your unwillingness to see the direct racial connection between the private security being hired, and the “safety” issue is telling. since you don’t have to worry about being racially profiled, you perceive the security team as “friendly” or “helping.”

  10. Staci says:

    I for one agree wholeheartedly with this piece.

    To the two anons whose main concern seems to be that The Qu didn’t address this issue earlier, I’d like to point out that a great number of people were not aware that this policing was happening until now, myself included. I don’t see how it’s helpful to attack someone trying to bring light to the situation simply because they didn’t have information that you seem to have sooner. The more people who know, the better.

    If, in fact, these security patrols have been happening for the last 3 years, then we should be more outraged than ever because they are obviously not working. I think our community needs to be concerned that the NHBA is throwing money at ineffective (and dangerous) methods to combat crime when that money could obviously be better spent. Why would they not use the money to get to the root of the problem? The homeless queer youth who are being used as scapegoats in this situation need help. The money being used for armed guards would be better spent helping The Crib or investing in programs for these kids. The NHBA has its priorities completely wrong. And if this is what the NHBA board votes to allocate its money toward, then I think a boycott is indeed in order.

    Honestly, though, I think the length of time that these methods have been employed is of less importance than the fact that they’re being employed at all. I also think the questions raised in this piece are very valid. This so-called solution is unnecessary and dangerous and we as a community need to stand up and say no. There are obviously other voices in the community that agree so we need to start working together. I think a boycott is a good place to start.

  11. Jeff Edwards says:


    Thanks for this spot-on statement.


  12. anon2 says:

    Amen Kevin!

    Racial profiling is obviously wrong. Statistic profiling at midnight when it’s dark and crimes are more likely to occur… is not racist.

    The Center on Halsted does a lot of great things.
    Patrolling a street to keep customers and residents safe is a GENEROUS gift from the NHBA.

    Like Kevin said, you’re basically saying Police = Evil. And crime = Not so bad as long as it involves poor young black transgered people. Police on the street doesn’t mean poor black transgered youth are going be targeted. It means that people will have to be less worried about being targeted.

  13. Jb says:

    Coming from someone who was beat the shit out of in a gay neighborhood over an empty wallet full of only credict cards by 4 youths gay or not gay don’t know. Off duty security is a good thing. Also they are off duty officers. They will react in the same way the on duty officers would. Until it has happened to you, you don’t know what it’s like and you’d appreciate someone there to help. Youth whatever, walk the streets but you know right from wrong. The businesses want to protect their patrons and that is just.

  14. […] this summer, the North Halstead Business Alliance made a bold and criticized move when they hired a uniformed police force to patrol the streets at night.  Of course, all of these maneuvers have […]

  15. […] this summer, the North Halstead Business Alliance made a bold and criticized move when they hired a uniformed police force to patrol the streets at night.  Of course, all of these maneuvers have […]

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