According to the Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), 32 percent of gay senior citizens living in New York are living in poverty.
Councilman Ritchie Torres has decided to do something about it.
Torres, both the youngest member of the New York City Council, and the first-ever openly gay council member has secured $1.5 of the city’s budget to create an LGBT senior center in his own borough – the Bronx.
“It’s hard to be gay, especially in an area like the Bronx,” the 26-year-old said. “I can only imagine what it’s like to be an LGBT elder, the fear of aging alone, dying alone.”
Torres, who came out at 16, said it’s because one of his openly gay high-school teachers inspired him.
“I once felt sexuality was a private matter,” he said. “Whose business but mine is it? But after watching The Normal Heart, I found the value of visibility. Invisibility can be deadly.”
One study by SAGE found in 2010, gay male couples have doubled the poverty rate than their straight counterparts.
“Unfortunately, we see many gay leaders go back into the closet as they age,” SAGE spokesperson Kira Garcia said. “Many retirement communities and nursing services are not welcoming or accommodating.”
Right now, the Bronx is the only borough without a gay community center of any sort.
“I see the Bronx as the Bible Belt of New York City,” Torres said. “It’s tough. It’s hard to be gay there. It’s a borough where people still use clunky half-closeted phrases including ‘down low’ and ‘men who have sex with men.’”
Torres’ goal is to create this center for “the most underserved part of the most undeserved New Yorkers,” by 2015.