Boystown, or the gay enclave built along Halsted Street in Lakeview, was regarded as a pacemaker for economic sustainability among LGBT communities in major cities at the International MANEO-Conference 2011 held in Berlin Nov. 30 – Dec. 3, which included representatives from all over the world, according to a release by Chicago’s LGBT advisory council.
Chicago was represented in two presentations given by Director and Community Liaison of the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues Bill Greaves at the conference titled, “Building a Queer and Tolerant Neighborhood,” where 150 leaders from several major cities like New York, San Francisco and Paris convened to devise the future of LGBT neighborhoods. Following the presentations, Chicago was hailed among participants at the conference as a leader in developing a sustainable LGBT neighborhood.
“People consistently remarked that Chicago is leading the way and providing a model for others wishing to establish or sustain viable LGBT communities,” said Greaves in the release.
Greaves’ two presentations focused on the designation of Halsted Street as the first official LGBT neighborhood in the U.S. and its development into an economic force for LGBT tourism as well as the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame as an official way to capture local LGBT cultural history.
“A theme clearly emerged,” Greaves said. “Successful LGBT neighborhoods are significant indicators of the economic health of cities and their ability to attract a creative cultural class that will stimulate economic development. A secondary theme emerged as well: these neighborhoods are vulnerable. For example, once thriving LGBT neighborhoods in Sydney, Australia, and Amsterdam have all but disappeared in the last 10 years.”
The conference demonstrated that visible government support, strong business organizations, strong community organizations, physical spaces to house LGBT symbols of culture and life, events that draw people within and outside of the community to the neighborhood and permeable boundaries that foster interaction with the larger urban community are crucial to the success of a prosperous and sustainable LGBT neighborhood, according to Greaves.
MANEO is an independent project of and supported by Mann-O-Meter e.V., Berlin’s gay information and advice centre since 1985.