Thank you to Tiffany Tawzer and Jacqueline Leskovec from NN/LM Greater Midwest Region for their great guest post on LGBT Chicago!
The Windy City has been a welcoming place for the LGBT community for many years, and Illinois passed marriage equality just last year in 2013. Here are a few places you may wish to put on your itinerary during your stay. Most places are easily accessible by the CTA, so get a several day bus/train pass at one of the CTA kiosks and partake of what Chicago has to offer.
Boystown, the first officially-recognized gay village in the United States, is located in the East Lakeview neighborhood. The area is bordered by Lake Michigan, Clark Street, Irving Park Road and Diversey Avenue, but the streets of North Halsted (“Northalsted”) and Broadway are its commercial heart. With its rainbow pylons and flags dotting the streets, Boystown is home to numerous shops and restaurants run by (and for) members of the LGBTQ community and is at the heart of many of the festivities during Chicago Pride Week every June. Boystown sports a lively nightlife. Dance the night away at Roscoe’s or take in the view at Sidetrack, which has been Chicago’s premiere video bar for 30 years.
Boystown is home to the Center on Halsted, the most prominent LGBTQ organization in the city and the largest in the Midwest. The Center provides a safe space for individuals and organizes a large range of programs and events designed to meet the social, cultural, health, and legal needs of the community. The Center is open to the public from 8am-9pm daily. A Whole Foods Market anchors the Center, where visitors can pick up a bite and settle in the large seating area on the first floor for conversation and people watching.
Just outside of Boystown, the Howard Brown Health Center exists to “eliminate the disparities in health care experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research, education and the provision of services that promote health and wellness.” Though visitors might not require their services, the Health Center operates three Brown Elephant resale shops around the city, which fund services more than 50% of their under- or uninsured patients. These eclectic shops are located in Boystown (across from the Center on Halsted), Andersonville, and Oak Park, and are open from 11am-6pm daily.
To the north, the Andersonville neighborhood (unofficially known as “Girls Town”) is also home to a number of LGBTQ stores and restaurants, and is known for its commitment to independently-run businesses. Among these is the Women and Children First bookstore, one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country. They specialize in books by and about women as well as LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction. Like Boystown, restaurants in Andersonville are plenty and provide a variety of tasty fares.
If you need a place to work out or relax, the Cheetah Gym on Clark in Andersonville is “Where the boys and girls come to get pumped up”. For women looking for a unique spa experience, Thousand Waves Spa provides a woman-only space and is located just west of Boystown on Belmont Avenue.
If you are looking for a place to worship while in the city, the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches maintains a list of welcoming congregations across a variety of denominations. If you want to venture outside the city, the near western suburb of Oak Park (which is LGBTQ-friendly in its own right) is home to nine welcoming congregations. Of special note is the Unity Temple, a historic landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that houses a welcoming Universal Unitarian congregation.
For more news, events, places of interest, and more, the Windy City Times is Chicago’s premier LGBTQ media outlet. Enjoy your meeting, and see you in Chicago!