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13 July 2011, 4:00 pm 22 Comments

Reading Boystown

Submission by Randall Jenson, creator and director of the new documentary series 50Faggots, which follows the lives of ten self-identified effeminate gay men in America. He lives in Chicago, Illinois and has previously been involved with About Face Youth Theatre, Lambda Legal and was a program facilitator and coordinator for homeless and at-risk young people at the Broadway Youth Center. He has been engaged with diverse queer communities since seventeen years old. In 2003, he was a speaker profiled at the National ACLU Membership Conference in Washington D.C, featured on The Oprah Show’s “Growing Up Gay” episode in 2006, awarded the “Youth Impact Award” by the National Youth Advocacy Coalition in 2007. Recently, his work with 50Faggots was recognized by the Association for Queer Anthropology in 2010. In his free time, he likes to travel, catch-up with his friends over Pho and occasionally goes out, dressed up, as a blue drag queen.


I try to play by the rules:  make nice, keep my mouth shut, and only let close friends see my discomfort when my “so-over-this” expressions surface after spending time in this neighborhood. I worry that after this article posts, I may not be able to experience this same sort of covert behavior. Perhaps it’s time for me to use the voice I’ve been silencing for too long. Last Wednesday was the notorious Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting, generously marketed to the Boystown community as a “town hall” forum (which I did not attend.) I didn’t want to hear the same arguments I’ve heard so many times before, as different factions of our community sling caca-cakes at one another. Because actually talking about the roots of why we’re struggling to keep each other safe and loved may be too difficult; self-examination sucks. Luckily for me, I work with a team of super committed gay men who went to this meeting to listen, film some necessary examples of our communities’ fractions, and amidst all the hate, still showcase the creative places gay men cruise. The issue: the Boystown community is blaming violence in the area on homeless gay youth and people of color. Now I’ve tried hard to avoid being drawn into these discussions, in part because they are pointless and non-productive and in part because as a documentarian my job is to observe. But as a former homeless gay youth and a person of color, I can no longer keep silent. So I’m gonna rant because I’m feeling full. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There have been many, many events leading up to this past Wednesday’s forum. Boystown residents have reported being harassed, mugged and attacked by a general consensus of street youth hanging out on Halsted late at-night. The Boystown neighborhood believes that they are a haven for members of our LGBTQ community. But for many youth on the margins and people of color, it is not. In late May, infamous “drag-queen” and black face comedian, Shirley Q. Liquor, was booked and marketed for a 2-night event by a local club, only being canceled after intense protesting.  Most recently, a video was captured by two gay men showing a large street fight by a majority of Black men attacking each other in what some described as a “gang-related” incident (which later turned out not to be true.) This fight resulted in one young man being stabbed multiple times. Since its inception, I’ve seen a lot of hateful comments on the Facebook group “Take Back Boystown,” a forum ostensibly designed to get people talking about how to deal with an increase in crime in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this has become a place where people feel comfortable voicing uncensored bigotry. I’m glad this group exists because I believe in free speech, even when the views shared might be viewed as offensive. While still problematic, it beats the past ways that gays-bash-other-gays on YouTube, Twitter or anonymous chat rooms.  So on this forum, the primarily white, middle class residents of the Boystown community have blamed recent violence in the area on an uncritically generalized mass of poor and black bodies.

I can relate to the intense, paralytic fear that some residents of Boystown may have experienced while watching this type of bottled-up rage explode on the streets of Halsted. I remember when I was living in a shelter in St. Louis, witnessing two girls go at it, full force, fighting in our community kitchen. One smashed the other’s head with a glass coffee pot, while the other went for a knife.  And it all had to do with a fight over Denny’s!  It can be overwhelming; and in quick-flashes of violence, difficult to negotiate your own safety, as well as help others under attack. But I don’t know what frustrates me more? Scapegoating by the wealthy, purposely close-minded gay men or apathy by the few people of color who are noted “standout” exceptions in this community. And believe me, the latter know it. Their journey is almost more difficult to watch then the larger culture of cultivated stupidity and shellacked, hyperbolic masculinity (gift-wrapped in Rainbow phallic tourism with a Gaga bow.)

Not everyone participates in Boystown culture. One particular social justice organization, Gender Just, came under particular scrutiny for their tactics on challenging the community. For those who aren’t familiar with Gender Just, they are an active member-led organization that aims to embrace a progressive, multicultural platform. But yet I worry about power-dynamics and disparate agendas from some of the lead organizers who work with these young people (and to give credit where it’s due, there are still many courageous young members who do their work with integrity.) At the CAPS meeting, Gender Just’s young activists were dismissed and their concerns trivialized by older men in the community. Someone wrote on the aforementioned Facebook group’s wall, “Young people need to earn their respect, they can’t demand it” and proceeded to call them brats. I whole-heartedly disagree with many of these men, who felt inconvenienced by the consequences of chronic socio-economic inequality in their neighborhood, who came to the meeting with their minds made up and trivialized other experiences and perspectives. The fact that these young people’s voices were not even welcomed, but also actively denied by some in attendance at this town hall meeting, is both disheartening and abusive. I challenge our older generations of gay men to be mentors to this community. I ask you each to set an example on what it means to be a man of dignity and respect. You don’t bully a younger person, walking into an already acidic environment where some of the other gay men and police in that room have actively been perpetrators of physical and sexual violence, as well as fear into their lives, and demand that THEY are the ones who shut up and sit down. While Boystown residents can escape life struggles through expensive therapy sessions, martini bars and accessible programming catered to their lifestyle, many of these young people can’t.

c. Wikimedia Commons

Some of the gay youth being blamed for “ruining” Boystown have survived a lot in order to “loiter” outside the Center on Halsted (Chicago’s LGBTQA community center.) They may have made it out of the cycle-of-abuse or homelessness that escalates in many poor and ethnic communities or they still get caught in it. I recognize these young people. I understand why many of the Black ball kids on the corner cat-call at me to “WERK!” when I pass them on my outings to film my cast members in Boystown. I appreciate a homeless youth’s need to snap and vogue down the street, and sometimes into traffic, and call me a “Bitch!” when it appears I’m doing something right (or not.) And I try not to be intimidated by their loud, sassy nature. I try to feel both empathetic to and empowered by it. I try to be reminded of where I’ve come from. But I also understand that a lot of gay men in Boystown don’t get them and many are unwilling to even try. For as much phobia that exists within this community, isn’t it ironic how many white gay men have willingly appropriated drag and black vernacular? Take note “boys:” Cultural creativity cannot be captured, instead it must be earned. So I want to start a new rule – if you aren’t interested in being around a fag, queen or ball kid, don’t go prancing up and down Halsted Street drunk, shouting that you’re going to “kiki” with your friends at frat-boy Thursdays. Or asking what’s the latest “t” about the local bar. Or “gagging” over your suburban girlfriend’s new shoes. Barf.

There are certain things you need to know to really be accepted as part of this community. The little details and intricacies of a specific culture, such as where to go and who to talk to, are important. For instance, a true Boystown resident will know that for as much partying and debauchery can happen on Friday and Saturday nights, the real event is stumbling back out shit-faced for “Sunday Fundays” in a pinnacle of merriment and messiness. And even better, there’s no having to avoid the swarm of black bodies on the street from the nights before, unless of course, they are being asked to host the local brunch happy-hour for your amusement. Then they’re fierce! For a community and culture that is in love with the “foursquare” application, and reminding everyone… at any moment…where you are, I understand that it’s hard to check in a homeless young person when they can’t afford an iPhone and their residence isn’t on the map.

My real concern is about how our community defines violence and who we label as criminals. Boystown residents are scared for their lives, but many of them have instant access to safety. For instance, has anyone spoke about the fact that this highly-circulated video of the public Boystown stabbing was shot on a small camera, by the owners standing on their private balcony. They weren’t in any harm’s way. But if you read most news reports, it would seem that the residents of Boystown were under direct attack. While robberies and muggings occur, a majority of the fighting is not only black on black, but gay on gay crime. I reluctantly share that  a lot of illegal activity happens all the time in Boystown (and in most gay spaces in general.) Who is able to get away with it is a different story, and there’s a big difference on the types of bodies policed. I know folks who do drugs or solicit sex at the bars and host, open-door, post-Pride bareback orgies (without disclosing their status) in the comfort of their Halsted residences. And you know what – I’m really not hating. While these activities are just as illegal, I support individuals making their own decisions, and at times their own coins, on how they feel they need to – so long as it’s mutually honest, respectful, safe and hopefully approaching it with harm-reduction. I’ve seen too much to try and pretend otherwise. But if you take these same behaviors and put them on the dark or poor bodies in the nightclub, or much “worse,” on the street, the police are called immediately and an influx of “criminal activity” is reported in Boystown. An unspoken rule perhaps should be made clear: “If it’s on the streets, they’re calling the police.” So residents, if this is what you wanted, well congratulations –you’re going to get it. If we didn’t learn anything from Stonewall, get ready to be launched back into a more heavily policed community and please don’t be angry when your own activities are warranted for suspicion.

Is it sad when you already feel like a war veteran of your own community? I’m not even 30 yet! When I came out, sodomy was still illegal, Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) just began to pop up in the most progressive high schools across the country, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) wasn’t the least interested in advocating for the-hot-to-touch marriage issues that they’ve now tried to lay claim to. I was a wayward teenager who found my niche in the local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.) I became inspired to make a small difference when I saw over 30 timid, diverse hands raised at the local queer youth group meeting after being asked the question, “How many of you at some point or another have been kicked out for being gay?” I had recently come out of the closet, been kicked out of by my family and then my first high school (an all-guy Jesuit private school.) I was alone, scared and hated myself. Very Catholic, I know.

I’m concerned about the ways compassion and empathy are extended to certain members of our community and not others. Perhaps it’s because so many older gay men still have a deeply-embedded chip on their shoulder, assuming that because they had it really rough when they came out young (or didn’t come out at all until much later,) young people now should have to “deal with it” too.  If we want to talk about making it get better, we need to start with rebuilding our own communities. What happened at the CAPS meeting, with particular residents shouting “Get a job!” to silence young people or “booing” at a homeless man when he tried to share his experience was, quite simply, bullying. We’re a community that isn’t quite sure how to love ourselves, much less others. Perhaps with money and comfort comes a more calloused exterior, a refusal to empathize with others in order to remove ourselves from the pain we see around us. And, please note, shouting that you “Already gave $30,000” to the Center on Halsted doesn’t set you apart as a caring individual – it only makes you look like an asshole. So, whichever old, wealthy queen thought that was cute to yell – shame on you. And where’s your receipt? Let me be clear, no one, ever, deserves to be hurt or assaulted, especially in their own community. In an ideal world, we would all be safe and away from harm’s way. But it is ridiculous to assume any community is ever fully safe, especially one where consumerism is an integral part to our survival.

 


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22 Comments »

  • Aaron said:

    Favorite line: “If we didn’t learn anything from Stonewall, get ready to be launched back into a more heavily policed community and please don’t be angry when your own activities are warranted for suspicion.”

  • Paul said:

    This very well written article unfortunately spills a lot of ink while condensing the entire point of the outrage and the subsequent “Take Back Boystown” Facebook group into one short sentence: “Let me be clear, no one, ever, deserves to be hurt or assaulted, especially in their own community.”

    That is the point.

    Social justice issues are important. Make no mistake: most of the people I know who have joined the page are liberal democrats. They care about these issues. But let’s be frank: social justice issues have been with us since the dawn of mankind. If Mr. Jenson wishes to heal the world’s ills, kudos to him. In the meantime, the rest of us would like to walk down the street without getting knifed.

    Mr. Jenson rails against the bars, Sunday Funday, sex parties, drugs, FourSquare, and other aspects of what he believes are the predominant aspects of gay culture in Chicago. Again, this has what to do with people getting stabbed?

    Even his point about the filming of the now-famous stabbing incident misses the point: the men who filmed the crime own a house on that street. They pay hefty property taxes for that home. They walk down that street daily. The author makes it sound like because they have a balcony, the violence didn’t and shouldn’t concern them. This is absurd. It is their neighborhood.

    Words like “their” and “our” are easy to jump on and rail against. But ask yourself: to whom does any neighborhood belong? Answer: its residents and those who go there to support local businesses. I don’t think anyone has a problem with disadvantaged youth loitering because they find Boystown to be safe and accepting. I think everyone has a problem when people begin breaking laws–from noise ordinances to mugging people.

    Undoubtedly, the world view of a once-homeless youth is going to vary from that of a taxpaying, home-owning citizen of the community. Mr. Jenson is to be commended on his accomplishments given what are odds that many of the rest of us would have been unable to overcome. But surely someone who writes as well as he does must realize that while his social justice goals are noble, there is no requirement to “mentor” the youth of the city, as he challenges older gays to do. There is, however, a requirement not to break criminal statutes.

    Mr. Jenson, you hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, you did it in one sentence in the last paragraph: “Let me be clear, no one, ever, deserves to be hurt or assaulted, especially in their own community.” That is what “Take Back Boystown” stands for. Let’s focus on personal safety and then worry about perfecting the world.

  • AFriend said:

    Your GenderJust friends came to the meeting with their minds made up that everyone that lives in boystown who is white are “racist and priveleged” Thats why they held a news conference before the meeting ever even started and tried to make this a race issue!

    You werent at the meeting because you claim you didn’t want to hear the same old bitching…oh I get it you would rather sit behind your keyboard and bitch verses actually participating in coming up with a proactive solution. JustGender was the group that started yelling and booing people right from the start of the meeting…had you been there you would have seen that.

    As for the “old wealthy queen” that you called an asshole hes a friend of mine and has given more time/money to the center then probably all of your JustGender friends combined so you might want to get your facts before you start name calling someone you don’t even know…I didnt hear him naming calling at the meeting even though a JustGender person called him a stupid queer…Yeah really civil.

    Oh yeah and his comment was 30 MILLION dollars not 30,000. you would have known that but that’s right you weren’t there.

    You want a receipt? Its sitting at the corner of Halsted/Waveland and its the Center on Halsted!

  • Lucky said:

    OMG, Randall Jenson! You totally hit the nail on the head with what you wrote, and I thank you for sharing that. As I was reading this, I can vividly remember five years ago when we did a play with AFYT on queer homelessness and the struggles youth had to go through to get the services they needed, only to have the door slammed in their faces. I was so naive because I didn’t really experience it nor did I knew that there was homeless youth, and I thought that the LGBT community was welcoming with open arms.

    Now, here we are in 2011, it’s the same thing, only the LGBT community have gone sadly plastic, there is racism, classism, money being wasted on the wrong stuff when there can be better uses for it, such as giving back to the community or opening a homeless shelter for queer youth. Whatever happened to community? And if there is any, do they even know how to use a restorative justice method to end the violence in Boystown? Five years ago, I was a naive, shy queer eighteen year old kid, thinking that Skittles was an acquired taste, now I’m 23, and I’m throwing that candy back because the taste had become sour.

    But once again, thank you for sharing!

  • Hmm said:

    Your pretty smart sounding, but so stupid. Your GenderJust friends are a bunch of punks with no respect. They started with the boos and name calling. Maybe you should of gone for yourself. Your facts are all wrong, now your very well written story sounds really dumb. Sorry

  • Jay Borchert said:

    Randall makes a good-faith effort at sorting through one of Boystown’s social problems; a problem which, in essence, is really about Chicago as a whole. Historically Chicago has been the most heavily segregated city in the country. The black-white divide between the south side and north side, despite diversity in some neighborhoods, remains salient in 2011. Unfortunately this divide too often represents not only a racial and cultural divide but a stark divide in community resources, employment, schools, infrastructure, transportation options, police protection and police surveillance. Gay kids have it tough all over. However, the structural inequalities on the south side and other less advantaged areas of the city make it even tougher for gay kids in these areas to have a decent upbringing. Historical, structural disadvantage and racism which play out in the social geography are easy to see. Kids see and feel these inequalities on a daily basis. It is the responsibility of thinking adults to recognize the problems created by these glaring inequalities and to realize that work needs to be done to alleviate them. Acting out and criminal behaviors which these kids display are derived from social strains wherein some people simply don’t have access to the opportunities that the majority does. Therefore they make do in life through other less normative methods. Defiance theory also suggests that people are pissed about these inequalities and act upon this historical frustration of opportunity and defy the normative social order, sometimes with violence.

    Our gay kids see this lack of opportunity and see very few people working to diminish it. They see too many mainstream gay men and women, of all races, as too concerned with consumer culture and not concerned with the social disadvantages which prevail citywide. They are angry at home and they are angry when they come up north. At times venturing to the north side is for fun, a place where they can be their gay selves. At other times, they may come north out of frustration on the south side and vent on those who they believe are not helping the situation; those who they believe could be of assistance if they would choose to recognize all community members and not just those with six figure incomes.

    To be sure, acting out is unhealthy and oftentimes illegal. However, it is understandable in this context. It is the responsibility of those with resources, not only money but common sense and decency, to make all areas welcoming to our gay kids. It is also our responsibility to let all community members know that illegal acts, particularly violence, can result in jail, prison, and sometimes even disability or death. People who violate these shared social norms against violence have to face the penalty, whether the violence occurs on the south side or the north side and this must be made clear in a healthy way. A healthy way in this instance would be an avenue that lets these kids know that if they think it is bad here, it is even worse in jail and that the inequality they experience now will be much worse with a criminal record. These are the facts. We need to take an honest inventory of our city and our gay community and confront the social problems we see head on with common sense and inclusivity. We are all a part of that sometimes silly rainbow, made up of a diversity of colors, cultures and voices. Let’s take care of our own wherever they live in order to make our entire community a safer, healthier environment and make racism and homophobia relics of the past.

    Jay Borchert is a PhD Student in Sociology and Social Demography at the University of Michigan. 7 of his last 15 years were spent incarcerated in Illinois jails and prisons. Upon release, he earned his BA, Summa cum Laude at DePaul University in 2010, while living on the south side. He studies race and criminology in Ann Arbor, but Chi-town remains in his heart.

  • Jay said:

    Randall makes a good-faith effort at sorting through one of Boystown’s social problems; a problem which, in essence, is really about Chicago as a whole. Historically Chicago has been the most heavily segregated city in the country. The black-white divide between the south side and north side, despite diversity in some neighborhoods, remains salient in 2011. Unfortunately this divide too often represents not only a racial and cultural divide but a stark divide in community resources, employment, schools, infrastructure, transportation options, police protection and police surveillance. Gay kids have it tough all over. However, the structural inequalities on the south side and other less advantaged areas of the city make it even tougher for gay kids in these areas to have a decent upbringing. Historical, structural disadvantage and racism which play out in the social geography are easy to see. Kids see and feel these inequalities on a daily basis. It is the responsibility of thinking adults to recognize the problems created by these glaring inequalities and to realize that work needs to be done to alleviate them. Acting out and criminal behaviors which these kids display are derived from social strains wherein some people simply don’t have access to the opportunities that the majority does. Therefore they make do in life through other less normative methods. Defiance theory also suggests that people are pissed about these inequalities and act upon this historical frustration of opportunity and defy the normative social order, sometimes with violence.

    Our gay kids see this lack of opportunity and see very few people working to diminish it. They see too many mainstream gay men and women, of all races, as too concerned with consumer culture and not concerned with the social disadvantages which prevail citywide. They are angry at home and they are angry when they come up north. At times venturing to the north side is for fun, a place where they can be their gay selves. At other times, they may come north out of frustration on the south side and vent on those who they believe are not helping the situation; those who they believe could be of assistance if they would choose to recognize all community members and not just those with six figure incomes.

    To be sure, acting out is unhealthy and oftentimes illegal. However, it is understandable in this context. It is the responsibility of those with resources, not only money but common sense and decency, to make all areas welcoming to our gay kids. It is also our responsibility to let all community members know that illegal acts, particularly violence, can result in jail, prison, and sometimes even disability or death. People who violate these shared social norms against violence have to face the penalty, whether the violence occurs on the south side or the north side and this must be made clear in a healthy way. A healthy way in this instance would be an avenue that lets these kids know that if they think it is bad here, it is even worse in jail and that the inequality they experience now will be much worse with a criminal record. These are the facts. We need to take an honest inventory of our city and our gay community and confront the social problems we see head on with common sense and inclusivity. We are all a part of that sometimes silly rainbow, made up of a diversity of colors, cultures and voices. Let’s take care of our own wherever they live in order to make our entire community a safer, healthier environment and make racism and homophobia relics of the past.

    —-
    Jay Borchert is a PhD Student in Sociology and Social Demography at the University of Michigan. 7 of his last 15 years were spent incarcerated in Illinois jails and prisons. Upon release, he earned his BA, Summa cum Laude at DePaul University in 2010, while living on the south side. He studies race and criminology in Ann Arbor, but Chi-town remains in his heart.

  • RiotGRRRL said:

    Randall Jensen you should have went to the meeting! I agree with you, but you need to be in the trenches to have validity in this particular article, especially because you reference the meeting so much. The old guard is scared of this new ANGRY generation. The huge difference between the two groups was summed up in your article. The older set, had to suffer in silence and this generation refuses by any means necessary. This raucous group must be embraced or the will divide and split Boystown. Thats prime real estate conservative homophobes would love to have….

  • Randall Jenson said:

    Thank you all for commenting so far.

    Aaron, I agree. The line you highlighted hits on the heart of an issue I’m questioning – who are we labeling criminal and what types of actions are we considered violent.

    Paul, thank you for your acknowledgements. You still seem to be stuck on this one stabbing and small details surrounding it. A lot more incidents happened before (and have already happened since) this one night. Yes, I will challenge members of our gay communities to understand the points of intersection and identity politics that are bubbling to a boil in a Boystown. Social justice has a direct place in the way we address violence and demand to be safe. And I am uncomfortable when you seem to suggest that only tax-paying residents have a right to demand this safety…

    Which leads me to AFriend. First, it’s Gender Just. Second, I am not affiliated with the organization. Third, pointing out that it was $30million (as opposed to $30,000) only makes him sound even more arrogant. I’m concerned that you (and many) seem to think that at some monetary level, members of our community can opt-out of being socially responsible and caring towards others. I don’t have much to add to what you (and then HMM, and RiotGRRRL share,) stating that I wasn’t there and therefore I (nor anyone who wasn’t at the CAPS circus) have no invested interest, history or experiences with these issues. Simply put, actions speak louder then words, especially when they’re taped. It’s all on video.

    Thank you Lucky for sharing your insight and story. Jay, thanks for pointing out the macro-level issues that help illuminate the entire socio-economic divisions of Chicago neighborhood.

  • Marc said:

    I pretty much agree with you and Jay Borchert comments. I think the situation of kids of color hanging out in Boystown is way overblown by racists. I walk down that street all the time and I never have a problem and you know why? I’m cool like that.

  • Xernona said:

    This was a great article. Thank you for sharing! I think one of my favorite quotes in the article this one: “And, please note, shouting that you already gave $30,000” to the Center on Halsted doesn’t set you apart as a caring individual – it only makes you look like an asshole. So, whichever old, wealthy queen thought that was cute to yell – shame on you. And where’s your receipt? Let me be clear, no one, ever, deserves to be hurt or assaulted, especially in their own community. ” – I love it! WE as in ALL OF US gay, straight, black, white or queen need to know that it takes much more than money or blame to make a difference. (exits soapbox)

  • David S. Hackett said:

    I thought you posting was extremely articulate and heartfelt. So glad you took some time to put things into perspective and speak from your experiences and not in the heat of the emotional moment. I learned a lot from your viewpoint and we definitely do need more compassion and empathy towards all in our community. I thought Tracy Baim and Keith Ecker wrote some very thoughtful editorials in the last 2 issues of Windy City Times -give them a read if you haven’t already. Suggesting some solutions for the issues helps other to make informed decisions as we continue forward and scapegoating and blaming the violence on just the homeless gay youth and people of color is just way too easy and simplistic and lazy. I will try myself to lead more by example and we do need more mentoring for sure with youth and see firsthand what it is like to be in their shoes. Hopefully when we know better we do better! On a closing note I personally thought the media and social networking sites really added too much fuel to the fire and blew some of these incidents way out of proportion before they got all the facts-which happens all too often. Everyone wants to get their fifteen minutes of fame but not really walk the walk after they have talked the talk. You are the real deal and set the bar higher for other to follow. Well done my friend and I will definitely share this post with others so all viewpoints get their voice heard and not yelled over.

  • Jay Borchert said:

    Just a quick note that the Center on Halsted does not now have, nor has it ever had a $30,000,000 donor. Their own website notes that the entire center cost $20,000,000. This is the kind of nonsense that I’m referring to when I’ve asked people to bring a realistic, honest, and critical eye to important topics like the one at hand. It is worth it for our community to have critical engagement in an inclusive debate that does not privilege one opinion over others by virtue of money alone. We need to appreciate and care for the diversity of culture, opinion, race and all the other beuatiful difference that exists in our community in order to solve our problems. Let’s all try to keep it real!

  • CJ Urban said:

    The cited article is full of glaring holes. I’ll only respond to a few. First, he writes, “The issue: the Boystown community is blaming violence in the area on homeless gay youth and people of color.” – Randall Jenson In actuality, that is not what the Boystown Community is doing. What he calls a “blaming” is really one of many proposals, to explain and clarify the cause of crime. Randall is a criminal apologist, and instead of addressing the underlying problem of crime, he is focusing on some reactions by the community to the crimes. The issue is CRIME and criminal behavior, how to promote public safety, and creating solutions to stop crime. Crime has been exponentially escalating in recent years, since 2007, which coincides as the same year, the Center On Halsted opened doors. The writer, who admits, to not attending the CAPS Meeting, doesn’t understand the nature of a CAPS Meeting, for he refers to it as a town hall meeting. There were no marketing advertisements describing the CAPS Meeting as a town hall meeting. CAPS is not a “town hall meeting” to raise social justice issues. CAPS is a meeting to discuss crime and public safety. The writer self-identifies as a former homeless youth, and a person of color which is fine, but this doesn’t make him more or less an authority on the subject of being able to be “READING BOYSTOWN”. He also contradicts himself, for he first describes Gay white men as Middle Class, then goes on to say that “they” are wealthy. Facebook and the users of facebook censor the Take Back Boystown page, so the claim made by Jenson, that there is “uncensored bigotry on TBB” is wrong? I would really like to ask Jenson, how he thinks the person who lives on the private balcony is supposed to leave their own house to get to the street, when their is violence occurring? I am not surprised that Jenson, doesn’t mention in his self-described “RANT” article, a concern for the 3 individuals affected by KNIFE STABBING. He doesn’t remotely seemed concerned about the identity or the attackers, and he isn’t outraged that many are still free to roam the streets. I would like to ask Jenson, if he knows that the man KNIFE STABBED in the 7-11 parking lot was stabbed by a gang member of P-Stones. Although, I am sure he doesn’t care, for he is the one who has already made up his mind about what is his focus. It is too bad, that he is a recovering Catholic, but it makes no sense to bring it up, or rip on Catholics. And since when did the free speech of booing = bullying? That is a huge stretch. And one last big point, he miss quotes $30,000 instead of $30,000,000, as the final cost to build the Center On Halsted. Oh, yeah, he didn’t attend the meeting, so he would get that wrong. Finally, as Randall Jenson, self proclaims about his usual style of mouth shutting, I think he is best to continue. Keep your mouth shut Randall, for you speak out of turn.

  • CJ Urban said:

    The homeowner, Gay White Male and property owner, who went down to the street to break-up the 3rd of July 2011, ATTEMPTED MURDER by KNIFE STABBING, had put his own life at risk. Did this article call him HERO? Well, in my book, the courageous Gay White Male is a hero. The newspapers would never have a headline: White man save black man from angry mob of black men who were trying to kill him, as black women were cheering the attackers from the sidelines.” Did the media report a story of courage, and interjection? Of course not! The media of any size, doesn’t necessarily care about stories of courage, bravery, or about one ethnic group helping out, another ethnic group. It is easier to sensationalize over accusations of so-called ‘racism’, which should be really labelled ethnocentrism, or simply ethnism. It is a shame how many people want to focus on social injustices when it is convenient for their agenda, but when it comes to different ethnic folks, assisting each other bravely it goes unspoken. It is easier to talk about injustice, then to come up with solutions on how to stopsp crime. You can only apologize for so long, before you become the victim of crime.

  • * said:

    Stupid faggot!

  • AFriend said:

    @Jay: You might want to revisit the centers website and read it correctly….under history;

    “2003 Horizons Community Services officially changes its name to Center on Halsted. The silent phase of a $20 million capital campaign is launched. A new Board of Directors for Center on Halsted is formed, tenant agreement with Whole Foods Market for the new center is completed, and all programs are reorganized into three departments—Mental Health, Youth, and Community and Cultural Programming. The State of Illinois awards Illinois First grants totaling $6.5 million for the capital campaign.” etc etc etc…

    so yes the center did cost close to $30,000,000…after you add everything up…so while you say moneys not the issue here…sorry to have to tell you this…but yeah it is, and thats just the way life is….and thats keeping it real.

    And as far as my friends shout out at the meeting He used the word “We” as in our community not “Me”…he never stated what he personally gave because hes not like that….but thats right Randall wanted to name call him a wealthy old queen….wonder how much money Randall donated to the building of the center???

    Everyone should really be careful because guess what…next time that the community needs a fundraiser to help raise money for the programs that the center on halsted and BYC run…people in boystown might not feel so willing to give.

  • The Week As We Read It | Canonball said:

    [...] LGBTQ Youth of Color: Come One Come All to my Neighborhood by Emily Heroy, Gender Across Borders. Recent reactions to a stabbing in Chicago’s infamous gayborhood reveal underlying prejudices and systemic [...]

  • The New Gay » The New Gay Week in Review:: Boner Voyage, Zack! edition said:

    [...] Randall Jenson reads Boystown [...]

  • The New Gay » Politics: Reading Chicago said:

    [...] piece was written in response to Randall Jenson’s “Reading Boystown,” an exploration of the divisions at the heart of Chicago gay life published last Wednesday on [...]

  • TimG said:

    Look, at least you guys in Chicago HAVE a neighborhood to argue over.

    Here in Baltimore and in Washington DC virtually all of the former gay neighborhoods and businesses have disappeared. Huge sections of the DC club/bar scene were demolished to make way for new family-friendly development. One of the oldest G&L bookstores in the country had the rent jacked up so high that they had to close. On the flip side, the gayborhoods in Baltimore suffered the same flight that all city neighborhoods suffered. Crime is so bad in one of the old districts that the city moved the bus stops so people wouldn’t get mugged at night.

    Just remember that boys town could disappear overnight. You have something very special, don’t fuck it up arguing with each other.

  • Lexicon Devil: An Exploration of Language Used on RuPaul’s Drag Race | In Our Words said:

    [...] 2011, when racism and classism flared up and were more visible than ever.  In his self-described read of Boystown  Jenson artfully dressed down the hypocrisies of wealthier gay men fearing and castigating queer [...]