age when nominated: 85
city: Ann Arbor
Jim Toy is a leader, a healer, and a humble soul. He was the first openly gay man in Michigan, fought for equal rights, and helped establish the first campus center for gay and lesbian issues. Many Michigan students credit him with saving their lives. In a time when people felt alone, Jim was there. For his life-long dedication to a righteous cause and continued push for equality, Jim Toy is Senior Strong.
Jim Toy is a man who lets his life speak for itself. He was the first openly gay man in Michigan, a founding member of Ann Arbor’s Gay Liberation front, and opened the first campus center devoted to gay and lesbian issues. Unwilling to formally retire, he continues his life-long commitment to equality and human rights to this day.
At the community center named in his honor, Jim still counsels those who feel marginalized, many of whom later credit him with saving their lives. He always lends a kind ear and a soft voice of understanding. But Jim downplays his importance and says he is nothing more than a good listener who helps people come to decisions on their own.
Even with a community center and library in his name, a mayoral proclamation honoring his achievements, and other honors throughout his life, Jim maintains a spirit of humility. When asked about his proudest moment he replied, “Proud?– I don’t know if that’s in my vocabulary.” He never talks about his life without mentioning his fellow activists and his thankfulness for being part of a greater movement. He describes how together, they were able to bring about real and lasting change.
At age 85 Jim is not slowing down. He prefers to say, “My age is one thread of the tapestry of my identity.” He embodies the spirit of what it means to be Senior Strong. Still active in his community, embracing new challenges, and never losing his fighting spirit. Mr. Toy is a Michigander who continues to have an impact felt across the state as well as the nation. We are thankful for his work to make our corner of the world a brighter, more inclusive place.
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