Barbara Circle Image copy

No way did I ever think I’d be in this position. I did everything right in my life.

Barbara

I was one of the lucky ones growing up. When I told my parents I’m gay, my mother looked at me and said, okay, let’s eat. Sure, there was discrimination as a gay person growing up, but as a teenager, I had more problems being Italian in my neighborhood than being gay. But as a lesbian senior, it’s extremely hard to live in this society. When other seniors are going to Hawaii, I can’t even afford to go around the corner.

Most of us in the gay community never thought we’d end up poor. We were intellectual. We had good jobs. But many of us don’t have the support system as we age that straight people do – the children, the nieces and nephews, and others. So, when we get old, we either live poor or we commit suicide. And if sickness comes along, it can drain all your money in one day. That’s what happened to me.

My wife Pat scrimped and saved to have a better life. But when Pat got cancer, and later dementia, we had to use all of our savings to care for her. Now Pat is gone. The rest of my family is gone. I’m alone – living on $800 from Social Security and a little extra from widow’s benefits. But who can live on $800 a month? Not a human being in this day and age when prices keep going up and Social Security only has gone up about 1% in the past few years.

I knew that after 41 years together, my life was going to be different when Pat died. But to be standing in a line with people who need food? It’s humiliating. But the food pantry, and free senior dinners, is how I get enough to eat. Food has become so expensive, that I can’t buy much after I pay for rent, utilities, and medicine. Fresh vegetables are out of my realm, so I eat canned. I’d love to have a fresh carrot in the afternoon, but I can’t afford it. If I didn’t have the food pantry, I’d have to eat cereal, which makes my stomach awful.

I’m fighting for my life to have a little bit of money to get the things I need. I’ve tried to go back to work – even though I’m 70 years old and almost blind from macular degeneration – but every place I’ve tried has refused to hire me. They said I’m a liability because of my eyes.

No way did I ever think I’d be in this position. I did everything right in my life: I worked two jobs as a teenager to help my family. I was there in the beginning with feminist organizations and at Stonewall. But where did it get me? This country has to start treating elders with respect. And the younger generation needs to start protesting more – not just when the weather is nice, but all the time. You just can’t do one or two marches and then say, ‘I did it,’ and stop.

More stories

Whitney

Whitney

I had planned to work until I wasn’t able to anymore...

Read story
Rhonda

Rhonda

It’s hard for us, but somehow we get by.

Read story
Mollie

Mollie

When my food stamps run out, it’s kinda scary not knowing if I'm gonna have any money to eat tomorrow.

Read story
Charles

Charles

I never imagined I’d get to this age and this would be my life. 

Read story
Emery

Emery

We were one of those couples that purchased the house we could afford...

Read story
Maria

Maria

I barely make ends meet. I don’t use the lights during the day, and I don’t buy as much food as I’d like.

Read story
John

John

The food stamps we get aren’t enough to feed four people for a month...

Read story
Ashley

Ashley

We thought being in the military might be a way out of living paycheck to paycheck...

Read story
Normarose

Normarose

I never used to worry about taking care of myself...

Read story
Dylan

Dylan

It was the best time, when my mom had a job...

Read story
Joe

Joe

Joe Gaston, age 45, is a disabled veteran living in Bozeman, Montana with his wife and two children. 

Read story
Mark

Mark

I never thought that in my lifetime I would have to be on food stamps.

Read story