Updated: Oct 28, 2021
By: Elisabeth Mann
In 2020, Ritchie Torres made history in American politics by becoming the first openly gay Afro- Latino member of Congress at the age of thirty-two. Torres is a Democrat representing New York's 15th congressional district, which is located entirely in the Bronx. Torres represents the intersectionality of overlapping identities, which has become increasingly important to show young BIPOC Americans that they are represented in office. His activism began before he was elected as a member of Congress. According to NBC News, as a Council member, Torres helped secure a three billion dollars Federal Emergency Management Agency grant after Hurricane Sandy and opened the first shelter for LGBTQIA+ young adults in the Bronx. The NBC article also goes into detail about Torres’ rocky past dealing with depression, substance abuse, and grief. Torres is a prime example that a troubled past does not define you and you can do anything you put your mind to despite your differences.
A large part of Ritchie Torres' mission comes from his childhood being raised by a single, African American mother in public housing. He became a crucial advocate for public housing as both a council member and congressman. According to Vox, he states “the best tool for making housing not only a human right, but also a universal reality, is what I call housing vouchers for all. Every person in need should have access to a Section 8 voucher, which would guarantee that they pay no more than 30 percent of their household income toward rent.”
Torres has also become an advocate against Afro-Latinos racism and colorism. He has made it clear that marginalized groups are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic because of the lack of accessible health care, food, and affordable housing.
Torres has been an advocate for the mental health crisis that has resulted from the pandemic. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Torres states he feels “an obligation to break the silence and the stigma and the shame that too often surrounds mental illness.” He also opened up about how the struggle of coming out has taught him to be more open and honest about his mental health.
Being the first openly-gay Afro-Latino congressman, Torres hopes to shape young minds to feel accepted and included. Torres considers himself a “pragmatic progressive,” agreeing with many of the left's ideals, but thinks that the Democratic Socialists are too far out of touch with the reality that is America. A Democratic Socialist typically believes that there should be a socially owned economy, economic democracy, workplace democracy, etc. Torres believes, as a “pragmatic progressive,” that Democratic Socialism would cause too much collateral damage.
In 2019 Torres announced that he would be running for a seat in the House of Representatives. His main opponent was a conservative democrat, Rubin Diaz Sr. Diaz had many opposing viewpoints to Torres, the main one being he was against same-sex marriage. Torres compared Diaz to having similar views and ideals as Donald Trump. He ended up winning the November 2020 election. In congress, Torres is on the Committee on Financial Services, Committee on Homeland, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the Congressional LGBTQIA+ Equality Caucus. According to NBC News, currently in congress, Torres is working on reintroducing a bill that will expand a data collection rule for financial institutions to include LGBTQIA+-owned businesses. According to The City, he also is working on a child tax credit increase which could help family poverty. Torres also stood up for the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Torres is working hard to create a more equal and inclusive America and is someone we should look up to not just as a politician but as a human.
We are here to uphold the abiding truth of the American experiment. That we are all created equal, and that none of us should be evicted, fired, or denied accommodations and services simply because of who or whom we love.”- Richie Torres
Staff, Cori Bush. “Biography.” Biography | Congresswoman Cori Bush, bush.house.gov/about.
Acevedo, Nicole. "Rep. Ritchie Torres Feels 'the Weight of History' on His Shoulders." NBCNews.com. February 05, 2021. Accessed March 01, 2021.
Baird, Addy. "He's About To Be The First Openly Gay Black Member of Congress - And He's Talking About Mental Health Like Few Politicians Ever Have." BuzzFeed News. November 26, 2020. Accessed March 01, 2021.
"How Ritchie Torres, Congress's First Gay Afro-Latino, Won on 'bread-and-butter Issues'." NBCNews.com. November 06, 2020. Accessed March 01, 2021.
David, Greg. "New Rep. Ritchie Torres Bets on 'Game-Changer' to Bust Child Poverty in The Bronx and Beyond." THE CITY. February 22, 2021. Accessed March 01, 2021.
Yurcaba, Jo. "Exclusive: Rep. Ritchie Torres to Introduce Bill to Collect LGBTQ Small-business Loan Data." NBCNews.com. March 01, 2021. Accessed March 01, 2021