(Chicago Tribune file photo )
I'll admit it: I go to Boystown too much.
It's not unusual for me to eat dinner on a Monday at Wood, grab a few drinks on a Thursday at Scarlet and hang out on the rooftop at Sidetrack on a nice summer Sunday.
Boystown is my go-to, my very own Cheers, but on a larger scale. I'm certainly not alone, but as the weather starts to warm and the bar scene beckons ever more urgently, I keep asking myself: Is this really a good use of my time in Chicago, a progressive city with so much to do? Do I need to bust out of Boystown for a change? I'm not so sure.
LGBT people understand what I'm talking about. Boystown is a gay refuge, rainbow pillars and all. It's become the place that we, as a community, have built for ourselves over the years at times when most of society told us we had no place. And in regards to going out, it's a community where many gay folks feel the most safe when tossing back a few beers.
Sure, society has come a long way in terms of LGBT rights, but things aren't really that perfect yet. We, as LGBT people, still have a lot of things to worry about when thinking of going out for a night on the town.
If I want to wear something that may be a little too "gay" one night, you sure as hell won't find me telling friends: "Hey, let's go to Wrigleyville! No one will say anything!" Because we all know that isn't true.
When I have a few cocktails in me and I want to twirl around the dance floor, I would feel much more comfortable at Hydrate than many bars that can be found off Clark and Division streets.
Besides safety, let's be real: When we all go out—gay or straight—a lot of us are looking to meet someone. Whether it's for a one-night stand, a potential first date or just some innocent flirtation as we hang out with friends, we usually are looking for some fun with someone we find attractive.
As a gay man, I have better luck with this in Boystown. Shocking, I know. In Boystown, there's about a 90 percent chance the guy I keep looking at also likes guys. In Lincoln Park, that drops to about a 60 percent chance. In Wicker Park ... well, sometimes my gaydar just gets confused and I can't figure it out.
I have spoken with friends about our Boystown addiction, and I have come to the conclusion that this isn't a problem. It's not Chicago, it's just a personal preference for some of us.
Sure, guys like me should bust out of Boystown when we're in the mood, but at the end of the day we should never feel guilty if, at 1 a.m. on a Saturday, we find ourselves in a cab heading back to the comforts of Halsted and Roscoe streets.
We're around straight people all day long. If I want a drink, a drag queen and maybe some show tunes, then oh well. This is America, land of the free and home of the gay bar.
Zach Stafford is a RedEye special contributor.
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