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8 comments | Monday, November 30, 2009

Where do you go as an LGBT person of color where you're allowed to be exactly who you are and not fear for your safety? If you live in a major city the answer is most likely your local gay and lesbian center or "gayborhood".

But what if you're black and gay and the world you thought would welcome you as you are turns out to be just as bad as the hostile environment you're trying to escape? This is a problem facing many black Chicago LGBT youth who are retreating from their homophobic neighborhoods on the South and West sides to the heavily gay populated Boystown only to face more obstacles.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

When Antonio Jones walks down Halsted Street in Boystown, he feels more at home here than he did in his old Garfield Park neighborhood, where he used to worry about thugs attacking him for being bisexual.

But all is not bliss for Jones in Boystown either. That's because the 21-year-old college student, who often travels down Halsted wearing baggy pants and a dark coat, knows that -- in an ironic twist -- some residents now view him as a thug.

For a couple of years, this section of the Lakeview community has been trying to figure out how to deal with the young gay men from the city's South and West sides who come to Boystown to visit the Center on Halsted, whose youth programs for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community make them feel safe, affirmed and valued.

Sometimes the young men leave the center and hang out on the corners in the community, which some residents and patrons of Halsted's gay bars have found off-putting, even along this street known for its colorful and lively night life.

Jim Ludwig, who owns Roscoe's Tavern, a local gay bar, is the president of Triangle Neighbors and a board member of the Northalsted Business Alliance. Some gay patrons also have complained about the youth.

"It's not a race thing, it's a cultural adaptation thing," Ludwig told me. "It's a youth rebellion thing. We're at a loss in trying to figure out what's a good thing for these kids to be doing other than congregating on the corner. Sometimes there are 50 kids. But it's only a handful that doesn't have the social skills regarding sidewalk etiquette, so it intimidates customers and residents."

And black trans youth many of whom are homeless and unemployed have an even tougher time. Chicago Now profiles 21 year-old trans female Adrianna King.

King, born a male and in transition to becoming a woman, said she was turned away from Lakeview homeless shelters because management feared she'd be harassed by other boarders. She said she spent the summer sleeping in parks, abandoned buildings, "L" trains and on the lakefront. When nowhere felt safe, King walked all night through Lakeview's streets, waiting until the Center on Halsted opened so she could crash on its couches.

"I worry, 'How are people going to view me? What do I have to offer?'" said King, who each day heads to the Center on Halsted to see friends and talk to her case manager about jobs. Finding a job is one of the greatest challenges--and a reason so many transgender people are homeless.

The youth, for their part, say they're often the targets of crime--and transgender people, in particular, are vulnerable, as they're more visually different and their mainstream acceptance lags far behind that of gays and lesbians.

"We see a lot of verbal and physical violence against trans youth," said Gabriel Ervin, a youth resource advocate at the Broadway Youth Center. "It's still OK to be outright transphobic."

Thanks Bernie


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I guess there will be more segregation...

November 30, 2009 2:51 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

There's a lot of sad news today regarding our community, but this one kinda made me tear up - (besides the whole uganda thing)...

I mean.... its like Gay Black literally. people have NOWHERE to turn too,

We can't find comfort in our own homes around our family, no comfort in our community, and even in gay friendly places you can't find comfort because you dont fit into "their" socially accepted cliques and circles.

And we we wonder why Black GLBT people stay in the closet or openly hate and prey on other GLBT people of color, ESPECIALLY OUR YOUTH...

We need more leaders for our community and my biggest fear that we are being set up to destroy each other if we don't unify in love.

This is a scary time for Black Gays & Lesbians - its a shame most don't see it.

November 30, 2009 3:06 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Adrianna is a sweetheart, as are most of the kids I see at the Center...

It's a rough situation... I was in Saugatuck coffeeshop along Halsted (across from SideTrack) last month and overheard a sociology student holding an interview with "community residents" about the history of Boystown, what it means to them, blah, blah... A certain latino who does drag at Circuit (who will remain nameless lol) began to comment about the "ignorant kids" who come to the neighborhood and "cause problems"... when the interviewer asked him what kind of "trouble" or laws the kids were breaking, he couldn't give a straight answer.

I'm not saying all of the kids are angels (I've seen a few try to lift a sandwich from Whole Foods, or just exercise poor etiquette), but it's infuriating when local business owners and residents aren't even willing to meet the kids halfway and show them some basic understanding and respect for what their reality is.

Then of course, there are some of them that are "selling themselves", which is a whole 'nother unfortunate subculture along Halsted...

November 30, 2009 6:28 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Well, are you honestly surprised? I mean the racial bias amongst some LGBT/SGLs is amazing when it comes to blacks. I mean they assume if a number of them congregate anywhere there is trouble. Hence why you have to always have a back-up plan for yourself since so-called "safe havens" aren't really so.

November 30, 2009 10:26 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

"It's not a race thing, it's a cultural adaptation thing," Ludwig told me. "It's a youth rebellion thing. But it's only a handful that doesn't have the social skills regarding sidewalk etiquette, so it intimidates customers and residents.

WHAT CRAP! If these kids were white, those racist, hateful and vile bois on Halstead Street would set up permanent camp at the Center just to foam at the mouth over the "delicious eye candy" hanging out there. Boys Town is the epitome of a gay racist community. Thanks for this article Darian. I feel sorry for those kids. Yet, what they experience is just about the same as any black man walking down that street. Boys Town is horrible to black men (even the ones who are in complete denial about it).

December 01, 2009 10:05 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I go to school in Chicago at DePaul University, and I'm black and gay. I've seen black LGBTs hanging out in Boystown. I've seen a lot of different races actually. When I've been there I've had a good time. Accusing our Caucasian LGBT brothers and sisters of racism all of the time isn't going to eradicate it, and I'm kinda of tired of hearing complaints and no one taking action or having resolutions. It's absolutely sickening. It's almost 2010 and we have an African-American president. Can't we all just get along!

December 03, 2009 1:22 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I live and go to school in Chicago at DePaul University and I'm black and gay. I've never received any racial bias when I've been in Boystown, but I have seen people of all colors there. I'm really tired of people accusing our Caucasian LGBT brothers and sisters of racial bias with no resolutions or plans of action. It's sickening. It's almost 2010 and we have an African-American president. We are all a human family. It's not about us versus them. Let's get it together people! If you want to change the world, change yourself!

December 03, 2009 1:30 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Well Joshua, I guess the young black gays hanging out on Halsted Street are just hallucinating over things since YOU have never experienced any racial bias. And since YOU have never experienced any racial bias, then racial bias on Halsted Street must not exist.

Is Jim Ludwig, owner of Roscoe’s Tavern, also hallucinating? Did he make up a story to tell the Chicago Tribune? Did he Joshua? The world indeed can’t change when its inhabitants view it through rose colored glasses. Joshua, YOUR experiences are not those of all black gay men.

December 04, 2009 8:08 AM


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