The Life in Boystown: LGBTQ Alcoholism

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Updated: Apr 26, 2021
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The Life in Boystown: LGBTQ Alcoholism essay

Growing up in a country where the LGBTQ community was always looked down upon, visiting Boystown has been a tremendous experience. As the name suggests, Boystown is known as the cultural center of one of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities in the nation. One of the main goals for my visit was to see the lifestyle of the LGBTQ community and understand more about the history which led to it. In this paper, I would be discussing the use of alcohol by the community and what led to the changes in their lifestyle as we see it. 

 Before going to Boystown, I researched the history and places to visit in the area. With a particular route set on my mind, I set off for my initial visit to Boystown. I got off at Belmont red line station and could immediately feel the energy in the air which you cannot get from google street view or photos. I started walking down east Belmont ave and was surprised to see a mix of big corporate chains like taco bell and target with local diners and erotic shops all together even before entering Boystown. Walking a couple more blocks east, I took my first stop at ‘furious spoons’, a restaurant right at Halsted and Belmont, about which I saw a video on YouTube and was curious to see the place myself. Even though the restaurant isn’t local but in fact, is a big chain with several franchises in the city, but, before the furious spoons opened up, it was an iconic gay club called ‘Spin’. The owner of the restaurant kept the original graffiti on the walls and some art which helped me a little bit to understand the history and life of the neighborhood. As I left at Halsted and started walking north, the pride flags started to appear and soon the area was filled with Boystown flags and graffiti on the walls. One thing that stood out the most in the area was the number of bars on almost every block which led to a question that I asked myself, why do people in the LGBTQ community like to hang out in the bar so much? Alcoholism is a very serious problem in the LGBTQ community. 

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According to ARG, Up to 25 percent of the general LGBTQ community depend upon alcohol, compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population. There are several reasons why the LGBTQ community is strongly impacted by alcoholism. One of them is the discrimination that the LGBTQ community faces daily which is also one of the most important reason. The article also talks about this being true for older LGBTQ generation or the people who live in a more conservative neighborhood. This discrimination often results in intense emotional distress, which includes fear, low self-esteem, and anxiety. Alcohol became a way for them to help and medicate themselves which made matters worse as time went on which led to more heavy drinking by the people. Additionally, alcohol use has been really increased because of the history and the struggles the community has been through. For a long time, bars, especially gay btats have been the only safe space for the gay people to be truly open about their identity since they felt safe with other people for the community which made drinking a primary way to interact with others, in fact, very important moments such as the stone wall riots which led to the LGBTQ rights moments were very closely related to gay bars. Because of such history and extensive use, alcohol has been normalized by the community. 

One place that caught my attention the most was the bar replay which had these open windows where you could see everything that was going on inside the bar and regardless of the age restriction in the bars, the bar Replay still allowed me to enter and play their wide range of retro arcade video games that were available. Stepping inside replay allowed me to experience the bar culture of the Boystown as well. Researching more about the bar life and its importance in the LGBTQ community, I found that before the decades ago, if somebody wanted to go to a gay bar, you couldn’t see inside the bars as the windows were covered and people didn’t want others to know that they were gay, and felt endangered which has changed a lot in the recent years and one of the most interesting parts about replay was that they had open windows and you could see everything that is going inside, with people proud of their sexuality enjoying themselves which led me to research more about the history of gay bars and why LGBTQ community likes bars so much. After World War II, many new bars started to open up, specifically for men and women who moved to the city in search of a military job. During this time, homosexuality was also a criminal offense and it was even against the law for two men to dance together, the bars provided a meeting place for LGBTQ people who were otherwise isolated. Since it was against the law, raids were very frequent in these bars which made visiting bars a very high risked activity as people faced jail time and public humiliation as all their personal information appeared on the newspaper the very next day. 

But the resistance didn’t stop and despite police harassment, people still returned to enjoy. During the ’80s, Aids hit the gay community and bars became a place for people to gather, grieve and raise money to help those in need. Drag queens also started to donate their tips to those suffering all of which has increased the use of bars buy the LGBTQ community since they began to hide themselves behind the closed doors of the bars, the bar replay challenges this movement by removing the windows in his bar in Boystown allowing people to look inside the bar and help people embrace who they are. Life is different in Boystown, after coming to the United States, I expected more people to be open but I rarely saw a gay couple walking openly in the public but as soon as you enter Boystown all you see are proud people of the LBGTQ community which made me realize how I have treated them over the years, I used to look down on the floor when I used to see a transgender person, mostly because of what image I had in my mind for them. In India, the transgender people have been excluded from cultural and social participation in the society for over two centuries by giving them minimal access to education and health care which can be seen even today, and to even worsen their conditions, they are also treated as nonentity legally, which is a violation in the constitution of India. The constitution also declares that only citizens have a right to vote, but until 1993, the ballots had only two categories male and female and only in 1994, they were allowed to vote as a third category called E (Eunuch) to recognize them and give them the rights to vote. (springer) But giving them the right to vote does not change the fact about how badly they are treated in the society and not just transgender people but also all the people in the LGBTQ community are treated the same way and growing up in such a society my mindset towards them has been very similar. 

I used to look away and even passed comments on them, oppressing them but Boystown isn’t like any other town, I have never seen people more proud about their sexuality a walking around the area holding hands of their partners and embracing their history and who they are. Walking down Halsted I started to think about how I have treated the community in the past and how different it is after taking the class and taking a trip to Boystown. We see what the world tries to show us and it is very important for us to understand the history before judging anything or anybody, and public in society must be more         tolerant and compassionate toward the community and accept them so that the whole world is as comfortable for them as Boystown. It is interesting to see the number of small businesses owned and run by the LGBTQ community with one very common goal in their mind ‘to be open for everybody regardless race, cast, gender, sexuality, etc’ which you don’t normally see the other neighborhoods in Chicago. But the Boystown we see right now was not always the same, people often asked why Chicago? What makes the LGBT community, especially gay men, move to Illinois? And our state laws help us answer that question. In 1961, many states had a law that even if two consenting adults of the same sex engaged in a sexual act, they could be sent to prison. That law was repealed in Illinois later, and many gay men saw their chance at living a life free of fear.

 During the civil rights movement, many people from the LGBTQ community joined politics to help themselves and others like them to improve their quality of life in Boystown and the rest of Chicago and Illinois. The Chicago Gay Liberation and other groups were formed during this time and continue to fight for LGBT rights even today. The diversity in Boystown is another key factor in creating the history of the neighborhood. In the early 1930s, about a third of Lakeview residents were immigrants from Germany or a Scandinavia country. Later, following World War II, a number of Japanese Americans move to the area. With such diversity, many people already accepted the fact that their neighbors had different customs, beliefs, and ideas than other neighborhoods in Chicago. Most considered members of the LGBT community to be no different than the other residents of Boystown. (webz) With an increase in restaurant, cafes, shops, and bars, many people think that the demographics of the neighborhood is changing, and it is becoming less of a place where gaypeople live and more of a gay entertainment district. 

At the same time, the internet is arguing about the way that many queer people meet, interact, and build community. The very need for a physical neighborhood is even being debated by some members of the LGBTQ community as well. The future of Boystown is full of big questions and wide-ranging possibilities, and not everyone agrees about what the future holds since many of the queer people are moving to different places, the neighborhood is being used as a place to visit and hang out and not to live. (webz) Even though the neighborhoods increased popularity over the years has also increased the rent and cost of living in the area, Boystown is still an amazing place to be at, with streets that are filled with colorful pylons and eccentric boutique shopping, the area has an energy of its own. Boystown is incredibly active, vibrant and diverse. There is always something going on, there is always something happening, you can always find something interesting to do, regardless of whatever you are interested in. Every inch of the neighborhood is filled with history and culture and it’s an amazing place to truly understand the struggles and lifestyle of the community. 

Work citied 

  1.  Murray, Krystina. “LGBTQ Alcoholism.” Alcohol Rehab Guide, Nargis, Jason, and Steven Jackson. “Making Chicago’s Boystown.” WBEZ Interactive, 7 May 2017, 
  2. Miller, Anna Bergren. “For These LGBTQ Seniors, Closets Are Just for Clothes.” CityLab, 23 Sept. 2015, clothes/406666. 
  3.  Bloomfield, Kim, et al. “International Differences in Alcohol Use According to Sexual Orientation.” Substance Abuse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 Oct. 2011, 
  4.  Agoramoorthy, Govindasamy, and Minna J. Hsu. “Living on the Societal Edge: India’s Transgender Realities.” SpringerLink, Springer US, 24 Dec. 2014, 
  5.  Tate, Allison. “This History of Gay Bars Is Also a Tale of LGBTQ Liberation.” ADVOCATE, 21 Mar. 2019, liberation. 
  6.  National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Substance Use and SUDs in LGBT Populations.” NIDA, 5 Sept. 2017, 

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The Life in Boystown: LGBTQ Alcoholism. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from