(Reuters) – Growing up in the Bronx, poor, Afro-Latino, and gay, Ritchie Torres said he never imagined that he would one day be elected to the United States House of Representatives.
But in a few weeks, Torres, 32, a Democrat from New York, will become the first Afro-Latino openly-gay congressman.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that as a poor kid from the Bronx, I would become a United States congressman,” Torres told Reuters the day before heading to the nation’s capital for Congress’s new member orientation.
Torres makes history, along with fellow Democrat and New Yorker, Mondaire Jones, who will be the first openly-gay African-American congressman.
Torres, who is both Black and Puerto Rican, grew up with a single mother in New York City’s public housing. Now he is headed to Washington, DC.
His goal as congressman will be to secure funding for affordable housing, he said.
He aims to fight for passage of the Equality Act, which proponents say is written to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in their daily lives.
“LGBTQ people of color are about to have a seat in one of the most powerful tables,” Torres said.
“A wise person once said: ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re probably on the menu’.”
Voters on Election Day also backed Sarah McBride, in her race to join the Delaware State Senate, making her the highest-ranking openly transgender official in the United States.
“We’re witnessing the collapse of politics as an old boys club, and we’re witnessing the embrace of America as a multiracial, multiethnic, inclusive democracy,” said Torres. While Torres is keenly aware that his identity is an inspiration to many, he said he is focused on the job ahead.
“I hope to be an inspirational example of what is possible in America. But in the end, I’m going to be judged not by who I am but by what I accomplish. So my identity matters in the short run, but in the long run, what matters is the record that I build in Congress.”