A Pride Reopening

The Edie Windsor SAGE Center for LGBTQ+ seniors has weathered the pandemic virtually and now will phase back in

| 18 Jun 2021 | 04:52

A dynamic, top-tier professional athlete coming out of the closet, or a celebrated actor disclosing their true gender identity ... those are the types of headlines that make it into the mainstream press. But more quietly present, but just as powerful and profound, are the stories of LGBTQ+ seniors that have survived the tumultuous human history, and are still telling their stories and thriving in their communities. Organizations like SAGE, which was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in New York City, are vital outposts that have provided safe havens for expression and unity, one of the most prominent ones in the world being the Edie Windsor SAGE Center, the first in the U.S., right here in Chelsea.

Upon entering the center, I could still sense the vitality of its community, even though the place has been shuttered since March 16, 2020. Colorful vinyl chairs are stacked along the periphery of spacious, empty rooms overlooking a glorious view of West Side Manhattan. Informational pamphlets and event fliers are still snug in their cubbies, but boast dates long passed. This location, though, named after the iconic LGBT rights activist Edie Windsor, was gearing up for the virtual Edie Windsor Day Celebration, recognized on June 23 (her actual birthday falls this year on Sunday, June 20).

The festivities are being organized in conjunction with not only the phased reopening of the center itself, but right in the crux of Pride, which was all but gutted last year due to COVID restrictions. The community is percolating with pent-up energy in anticipation of the annual rainbow-hued extravaganza. The SAGE Center is scheduled to reopen in a limited capacity Tuesday the 22nd, in accordance with city mandates and the Department of the Aging.

Prior to the pandemic, the center was open five days a week with occasional weekend events, offering discussion groups, organized exercise, music, art and language classes, karaoke, and even meals (with a suggested donation of $3 per the city’s Department for the Aging). Of course, all that shut down in March, and they deftly converted to a virtual existence along with the rest of the world.

Popular Virtual Programming

James Derham, one of the ten staff members who normally operated this location, said that patrons moved well into a virtual existence, relying heavily on Zoom to keep those connections tethered. They rustled together a tech support team to help seniors with connectivity, and continued to work with the homebound, despite the obvious risks. Community dinners were packaged up for grab-and-go, a practice that will continue while their members, and the rest of the population, get back onto their own feet.

Some of the virtual programming has become so popular they will continue it even as COVID fades from urgent risk status, and it actually pushed open a portal to reach home-bound people in a way they had not conceived of before. Since many programs were created before restrictions began to lift, all of those virtual events for Pride and Edie Windsor will continue, and they are figuring out how to safely add in-person events to the docket in order to start bringing bodies back together again. Because that is what the SAGE center has done with such excellence since is was created - bringing LGBTQ+ seniors, and the allies, friends and staff that love them, together.

Please visit www.sagenyc.org for a comprehensive and frequently updated list of events to celebrate Pride and Edie Windsor Day in New York City.