Gay-Friendly Housing Options For Elders: SAGE Housing Initiatives (Part 3)


I need my own space, for however long I have.

In part two, long-lived lesbian Cheryl G. described her hopes to move into new gay-friendly housing in New York State. Under the new housing initiative, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) will offer LGBT cultural programming and services to residents of two buildings: the Crotona Senior Residences, in the Bronx, and the Ingersoll Senior Residences (ISR), in Brooklyn.

Cheryl has been looking to move out of her daughter’s house for some time, but has been daunted by the competition for spaces and by high rents. Finding a place in either of the new buildings appeals to her for a number of reasons, primarily for the SAGE programming. Cheryl says, “I’m hoping to be in the area with other seniors who are lesbian, so we’ll have that in common. I live near a gay center, but do you think I go there? There are still racial issues there, and I don’t want to have to fight through that.”

Cheryl, who identifies as “Caribbean, considered African-American,” says, “If there are race issues [in a social setting], it’s disheartening. It’s hard enough just being human, but horrible when people point a finger and say, ‘She’s a lesbian, she’s this, she’s that.’ Most people would say I’m a comedian! But I don’t make racial jokes, or sex jokes.”

“I know a lot of gay men, lesbians, transgender, whatever: I treat them like family. Long as I know you and you’re sweet to me, we don’t have a problem. It doesn’t take a lot to be sweet. Just be human, and you’ll be okay.”

Although she uses a cane for walking, Cheryl is eager to get out and socialize. “I have problems with my back, my legs, the usual old-people stuff, but I’m still a vibrant person. I might not move as fast as I used to, but I’ll still make the effort. I’m really happy about the fact that I can socialize with other women and not have them feel threatened. I don’t dress masculine or feminine, I’m just comfortable – I’m happy with that. So this [housing option] is going to give me what I’m looking for, socializing. If I want to have brunch or something to eat with someone I’ve met, that would be pleasant – it’s not like you have to take them home! I’m a little old for that.

Cheryl is entering the lottery and would be glad to find accommodation in either building, Brooklyn or the Bronx. She is also applying to live in other buildings where there is not currently gay-friendly programming. “But,” she adds, “I hope it will be there soon. I would be more than ecstatic!”

Cheryl doesn’t know how many people are entering the lottery, which will be open to the public. “I’ll take my chances,” she says. “I’m going to stay optimistic. God will not leave me here with a yearning. I need my own space, for however long I have.”