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The City of West Hollywood is considering designating a section along Santa Monica Boulevard, between La Cienega Boulevard and La Peer Avenue, as “Historic Boystown”. With support from the local business community, including Block Party store owner Larry Block, and Councilmember John Duran, the city council is in the introduction stage of the idea, although Block is hoping for an official designation in time for June’s gay pride celebration.
“Boystown is the name this part of town has been known by for years,” Block said. “It’s the epicenter of everything gay in Los Angeles. That history and diversity needs to be recognized.”
So as not to be too exclusive, the city suggested using the term “Historic Boystown.”
“Historically, this has been a place where the gay male community has gathered,” Duran said. “We need to find a balance so it doesn’t feel exclusive. Most gay men are highly supportive of the idea, but some lesbian women are concerned they not be excluded.”
During the recent city election, Duran and City Councilmember John D’Amico used the term “Boystown Fights Back” during their campaign, which some people found divisive.
“I thought the language used seemed to say that heterosexuals were not as welcome as gay residents,” West Hollywood activist Matt Palazzolo said. “For a city known for diversity, that was not the best way to approach things.”
Palazzolo, a volunteer with Equal Roots Coalition, a non-profit, community organization that offers resources to young LGBT individuals who want to be socially active, was “taken aback” by the Boystown Fights Back reference. However, he is not against the use of the name “Historic Boystown”, even though he thinks better options are available.
“Even though the LGBT community is predominantly gay men, there is a long, rich history of bisexuals and lesbians,” Palazzolo said. “It’s extremely important for the City of West Hollywood to declare parts of the city as historical designations to the LGBT community. I’m just not sure if the term ‘Boystown’ is the best way to do that.”
For Block, a resident of West Hollywood since 1987, the idea of the official use of the Boystown name was born out of the election, which he too believed was divisive. But he thinks it is a rallying cry that the city needs.
“Some people say it’s about time, others say it’s not inclusive enough,” Block said. “What about the lesbians? Boystown doesn’t mean ‘not girls’. It’s a moniker of diversity. There’s Koreatown and Little Ethiopia, why can’t we get something designated too? We gave birth to the City of West Hollywood.”
Block also suggested naming a part of “Historic Boystown” as “LBGT Square” to include everybody.
Film publicist Mickey Cottrell, who has worked with filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant and Bryan Singer, has been a West Hollywood resident since 1985 and supports the idea, and doesn’t believe the term is excluding.
“I’d say, ‘Historic Boystown’ seems an appropriate handle for what we have been simply calling ‘Boystown’ for twenty-five years,” Cottrell said. “I don’t think ‘Boystown’ could be termed excluding of straights or lesbians, as it is the strip of Santa Monica Boulevard, especially devoted to gay boys. Look at the centers of attraction in that area and they are not lesbian or straight, but gay bar after gay bar. It’s a starting off place for a lot of young, experimenting gay boys, new to L.A. or new to an ‘out’ scene, so it serves a purpose on the evolutionary scale. For others, it’s their gay ghetto where they feel safe.”
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