The Youth of Color in Boystown Don’t Call Me “Faggot” or “Tranny”

Recently members of Gender JUST protested a “positive loitering” organized by people whose stated aim was to “take back Boystown”. (Full disclosure: Though I was not present at this event, I am a member of Gender JUST.) The reason for the protest was that members of Gender JUST saw it as the latest in a series of efforts to intimidate working class queer and transgender youth of color who come to Boystown. According to Kate Sosin of the Windy City Times several members of the “Take Back Boystown” page have blamed youth of color for recent criminal activity in posts that make claims like the following:

These trannys are bringing their homey G boyfriends into the neighborhood courtesy of The Center on Halsted. You can tell who they are by the way they act.

According to Sosin, Rob Sall, the organizer of the “positive loitering” event, conceded that the Facebook page “is extremely racially charged”. The racist, classist, ageist, cissexist rhetoric is not new. On 2009 September 2 the Windy City Times published a letter by someone identified only as “a concerned Lakeview resident”, who blamed “Center on Halsted youth clients” and “transsexual prostitutes” for Lakeview’s “crime issues”.

What do I have to say about this?

On the day of my first direct action in 2004 it was not youth of color in Boystown who arrested three queer rights activists, kicked one of them, and called him a “faggot”. It was one of the officers policing the pride parade.

It is not youth of color in Boystown who have been making transmisogynistic comments in letters to the editor or on Facebook. It is the people who have been scapegoating them.

I have been sexually assaulted twice in Boystown. I do not have a single young person, a single person of color, or a single transgender person to lay the blame on for either of these incidents.

“Concerned Lakeview residents”, if you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of young people. Stop theatening the safety of people of color. Stop threatening the safety of transgender people. Stop trying to “take back” Boystown from working class queer folks, when Boystown was the community of working class queer folks before the businesses and the middle class gays moved in. If you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of me and my friends.

2011–07-07 Edit: I have substituted the word assaulted for the less accurate term accosted.

7 Responses to The Youth of Color in Boystown Don’t Call Me “Faggot” or “Tranny”

  1. Kirsten says:

    Is Boystown a neighbourhood in Chicago?

    • Veronika says:

      Good question. Lakeview a neighborhood in Chicago. Boystown is a district within the neighborhood. I’m sorry I didn’t think to explain that.

  2. TftInChi says:

    You said this: ‘“Concerned Lakeview residents”, if you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of young people. Stop theatening the safety of people of color. Stop threatening the safety of transgender people. Stop trying to “take back” Boystown from working class queer folks, when Boystown was the community of working class queer folks before the businesses and the middle class gays moved in. If you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of me and my friends.’

    I am a resident of the area and I know absolutely NO ONE who wants to “threaten the safety” of young people. On the contrary, what they want is safety for ALL people in the neighborhood, young, old or whatever color they come. What you need to realize is that the behavior of your friends ends up threatening the residents of the neighborhood. Have you seen the video of the stabbing? Would you feel safe if confronted on the street by that group of people beating and stabbing each other? There is no context that I can imagine in which that behavior is acceptable.

    So please, spare us the ultimatums. I DO respect you and your friends. I don’t want you hurt (or sexually assaulted or harassed, which is a damn shame and you have my sincere empathy). I’ve never wanted you hurt or threatened and saying that you won’t stop threatening area residents until you’re demands are met is extremely counterproductive. It alienates people like me who just want peace in the area.

    You need to earn respect just like everyone else. Unfortunately for you, you don’t earn the respect of the average person by supporting gang-like actions, supporting harassment of residents, issuing ultimatums and calling concerned citizens “racists.” I don’t want you run out of the ‘hood, I just want to co-exist peacefully and in safety. I am not in the minority on this issue.

    And a quick history lesson for you: before LV was a haven for working class LGBT’s, it was a very run-down and dangerous neighborhood populated mostly by families. Before that, it was an affluent suburb. Before that, it was farmland. Point being: neighborhoods change and you can’t stop it. The folks wanting to “take back” the neighborhood want to feel that they, the residents of the area, feel safe and secure in their own neighborhood. Their rhetoric is terrible and the randoms on facebook have ruined their page, but their goal is a noble one. Boystown is full of affluent gay people and families now and high real estate prices have pushed out many LGBT youth and disadvantaged folks. You need to deal with that reality because it isn’t going to change. Threatening people isn’t going to help.

    • Veronika says:

      The paragraph you quoted is not about all area residents. It is about the self-described concerned Lakeview residents (note the quotation marks) who are obviously not concerned with the well-being of young people, trans people, working class people, or people of color—people like the ones who have been throwing racist and cissexist slurs around in the “Take Back Boystown” group on Facebook.

      No one should ever have to happen upon a beating or a stabbing, just as no one should ever be kicked, called a “faggot”, or sexually assaulted for being gender non-conforming (as trans women who encounter Chicago police in Boystown regularly are). This is why I would like to see queer and trans folks working together for a comprehensive solution to violence—not solutions that will make some people feel safer while insuring that others are more likely to be violated.

      And for fuck’s sake, where do you find “ultimatums” in anything I have written? Can a working class trans woman open her mouth without hearing you say that she is “threatening” you? If I yawn in Boystown, will you call the Chicago Police Department and tell them I have violated your right to breathe air unshared by the likes of me?

      Your privileged ass is showing. I would advise you to read one of the resources linked to on the right, Derailing for Dummies, before weighing in on this matter again. Of course, you can also keep waving your ass around. Just don’t think other people will be as impressed with it as you are.

  3. When I hear “concerned citizens” talk about safety, it reminds me of parents who talk about keeping their kids safe from things like premarital sex when really they mean they want greater control of their kids’ lives. I think this is the same thing. It’s an attempt to have greater control over an area that they put under a guise of “safety”.

    • Veronika says:

      I think you are on to something. Last night I attended a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in Boystown. (In theory CAPS is a way for police officers and people in the community to confront crime. I do not see it as being of any use to the people whom the police are not there to serve, but last night I went as a show of solidarity with Gender JUST.) One of the “concerned citizens” there actually proposed a curfew for all people under the age of 21. Another proposed that the police enforce an anti-loitering ordinance. In the US ordinances like this are often used to keep young people of color off the streets; indeed the Supreme Court of the US ruled that the predecessor of this particular ordinance was unconstitutional. So, yes, to a great extent I think this is about controlling kids (and other people), many of whom hang out on the streets in Boystown because their parents kicked them out when they found out they were queer or gender non-conforming.

  4. Kirsten says:

    That’s okay Veronika. That clears it up a lot.

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