By Kylie Condon
It’s no secret that Chicago, Illinois is known for having a friendly LGBTQ+ community. However many look to the “Boystown” River North neighborhood for most of their gay needs. Another area that should not be overlooked is a bit north of there, called Andersonville. Initially settled by Swedish immigrants, the neighborhood has been a popular place for local and visiting LGBTQ+ community members over the years. In a recent survey, Andersonville’s zip code was found to have the highest number of same-sex married couples in Illinois. Additionally, the neighborhood boasts several LGBTQ+ owned businesses. In a recent visit to Andersonville, I was able to explore some of these shops.
Women & Children First
Women & Children First is a feminist bookshop that first started in Boystown in 1979. It moved up north to Andersonville in 1990 because the neighborhood was known for its diversity, queer-friendliness, women-owned businesses, and community spirit. Women & Children First is dedicated to promoting the writing of women and other marginalized voices. Today, it is one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country stocking more than 30,000 books on its shelves. In 2005, the bookstore started The Women’s Voices Fund to help promote feminist events and programs at the bookstore in order to ensure inclusion of a feminist lens in the Chicago writers and lit scene.
Early to Bed
Early to Bed is a locally owned sex-shop, but definitely not the typical overwhelming kind that can make you feel uncomfortable. The shop first opened in 2001 with the intention to help people of all genders and orientations to explore their sexuality to the fullest through products as well as workshops. Early to Bed makes an effort to be very LGBTQ+ inclusive, featuring toys that accommodate all clients and members of the community. The owner, Searah Deysach, has also created TransKids- a store geared toward transgender kids with products that fit their specific needs.
The Brown Elephant
The Brown Elephant is a cool thrift store that also supports a good cause. The resale shop features vintage clothing, antiques, and furniture. Once sold, the proceeds go to the Howard Brown Health Center, which is a Chicago community health center and champion of LGBTQ+ healthcare. So you can get your shop on and feel like you’re giving back to a good cause.
Looking forward, Andersonville continues to be a progressive neighborhood with plans to offer trans-sensitivity training to local businesses. With the slogan “shop local, “ Andersonville gives you a quaint neighborhood feel while still upholding a strong acceptance of all. For more info on Andersonville, click here.
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