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Beyond Lakeview's youth controversies, a snapshot of New York
LGBTQ Youth Series from Windy City Times
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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While Lakeview may be Chicago's most visible meeting point for many LGBTQ youth, it is hardly the only one. Some service providers note that many of Chicago's LGBTQ youth and street-based youth never even venture to Boystown.

In this week's installment of Generation Halsted, we look beyond Lakeview to talk with young people in other parts of the city where LGBTQ youth congregate. We also look at Chicago-based youth organizing that is impacting young people nationally, examine some of the local and national numbers around LGBTQ youth and homelessness, and look at Lakeview's youth controversies in the context of other cities.

Controversy involving the role of LGBTQ street-based young people in affluent neighborhoods is a story that can be told many in U.S. cities.

In Chicago, discord hit a high point in the summer of 2011 when some Lakeview residents started a Facebook group called "Take Back Boystown" aimed at targeting what they saw as an uptick in crime in Chicago's official gay neighborhood. The group set off a citywide debate about racism and LGBTQ youth receiving services in the neighborhood. Additionally, some accused neighborhood service providers of attracting crime, as youth congregated around their centers.

New Yorkers have faced similar conflicts. In 1999, the Christopher Street Pier, a popular LGBTQ youth hangout in the city's gay neighborhood, began closing down for redevelopment. Youth campaigned to keep the pier a welcoming space for them to hang out, and the organization FIERCE was born (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment).

After the pier reopened with tighter rules, youth continued to congregate along the pier, but many residents complained that youth disturbed the neighborhood.

In 2005, The Villager newspaper published an opinion piece called "Gay youth gone wild: Something has got to change." In it, authors Dave Poster and Elaine Goldman wrote that, "What have been the Village's greatest assets — its acceptance and diversity — have become its greatest liabilities."

"While residents and merchants attempt to carry on with their lives and businesses on Christopher Street, hundreds of unruly youths parade this only thoroughfare to and from the Pier, creating havoc on the way," they added later.

Other cities like San Francisco and Denver have faced their own questions about the role of LGBTQ street-based youth in the communities around them. And youth in many cities have built their own groups and organizations to make themselves heard.

Generation Halsted is an eight-week series that seeks to capture youth voices not typically represented in Windy City Times and other media. The young people portrayed have many housing situations, gender identities and sexual orientations. The series looks primarily, but not exclusively, at Boystown, where an influx of young LGBTQ people has been a source of controversy. Windy City Times will continue to explore the issues raised here beyond this series.

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