A note on pronoun usage: Many transgender and nonbinary people prefer to use “they” or “them” as opposed to “he” or “she.” Elle Magazine used “she” for Indya Moore – as she is nonbinary but accepts the use of this pronoun. This author has chosen instead to use “they” and “them” here. More information about terms can be found here.
Everyone is talking about stunning Indya Moore, native New Yorker, actress for the hit television series, Pose. Moore has been named one of Time’s most influential people, and was recently featured on the cover of Elle. While they have been quite successful, life has not been easy for Moore. They recently revealed they are a survivor of violence and human trafficking.
In April 2019, when Time listed Indya Moore as one of its “Pioneers” in the “Annual 100 Most Influential People,” Janet Mock, writer for Pose, discussed writing the part of Angel (played by Moore): “Writing her character Angel proved healing for me as a trans woman who had walked in those same platform shoes, longing for more than the crumbs society had thrown girls like us.”
Pose gives us a window into the underground ballroom dance culture surrounding Transgender Latinx and African-American ball dances during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The series presents a powerful juxtaposition of trans performers and cisgender actors, while heterosexual yuppies are apparently fascinated by this milieu. In the role of Angel, Moore portrays a sex worker and ball dancer. Sadly, both character and actress have shared similar life experiences, including the stigma and marginalization that threaten nearly all transgender youth. Janet Mock, writer for Time, wrote, “But a greater gift has been watching Indya rise from an adolescence navigating foster care in the Bronx to critical acclaim as an actress and model using her voice to center the marginalized communities she comes from.”
The June 2019 issue of Elle is the first to feature a transgender person on the cover. In the article, Moore tells of how they left home at fourteen and went into the foster care. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father, Moore was assigned male at birth. With both parents being Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moore felt they were “over-disciplined” for being too feminized, according to the Elle article. Moore began taking hormones at age 14, and found the situation at home untenable. They left home only to suffer exploitation by those who took them in. Moore is quoted as saying, “They told me that all I had to do was play with these men who will come in for a moment to see me and play with me and then give me money…I didn’t understand what sex trafficking was at the time. The language I knew was that they were, basically, my pimps. I was just a kid.”
Thirty-three percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported being victims of sex trafficking, with horrific details of sexual slavery such as rape and kidnapping.
In a 2017 Covenant House study of over 900 temporarily homeless youth, nearly one in five reported human trafficking with 32% of youth reporting being engaged in a sex trade. Fraudulent job offerings were reported by 91% of all homeless youth; some reports, as those by the Polaris Campaign, indicate that most are approached within the first 48 hours of becoming homeless. As many as 19% reported engaging in survival sex for food or shelter. Thirty-three percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported being victims of sex trafficking, with horrific details of sexual slavery such as rape and kidnapping. Sex trafficking is perpetrated on LGBTQ+ youth at twice the rate of their straight or cisgendered counterparts, just one of the reasons why transgender youth are at increased risk for suicide. The Modern Slavery Project and Covenant House state that actual numbers are probably even higher since there are likely many unreported cases. In a 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 56% of youth who identified as transgender had made at least one suicide attempt, compared to 20% of those who identified as cisgender. Indya Moore themself admits to making a suicide attempt during their harrowing years of adolescence, and wants to use their platform to help save the lives of others, according the the Elle article.
Sex trafficking is perpetrated on LGBTQ+ youth at twice the rate of their straight or cisgendered counterparts, just one of the reasons why transgender youth are at increased risk for suicide.
Due to misrepresentation and a lack of reporting, the Human Rights Campaign, while attempting to track all Transgender attacks, has been unable to find every incident of violence against Transgender people. They have reported the following in their most recent updates:
“Since 2013, at least 128 transgender and gender-expansive individuals have been killed in the U.S. At the end of 2017, we mourned the loss of 29 people — the highest number ever recorded. In 2018, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women. So far 2019 has already seen at least eight transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. …Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.”
Needless to say, Indya Moore is an inspirational figure for transgender youth, but the dangers to these children remain very real and present. Moore has been sexually abused, imprisoned, and was refused hormone treatment by both their natural and foster parents. Two years ago, when they came out as a person of male-to-female gender, Moore was physically assaulted, leaving them with emotional and physical scars. Moore’s beauty and resilience has enabled them to overcome adversity and ultimately rise to fame, but there are many transgender youth (and those questioning their gender identities) that live in fear and potential danger every day.
Pediatrician Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH, Ed, FAAP, wrote, “We know that family and community support are essential for any child’s healthy development, and children who are gender-diverse are no different. What is most important is for a parent to listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity. This encourages open conversations that may be difficult but key to the child’s mental health and the family’s resilience and wellbeing.” In 2018 the AAP has published recommendations for Pediatricians with regard to gender issues:
- Take a “gender-affirming,” nonjudgmental approach that helps children feel safe.
- Provide youth with access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.
- Provide family-based therapy and support to meet the needs of parents, caregivers and siblings of youth who identify as transgender.
- Make sure that electronic health records systems, billing systems, patient-centered notification systems, and clinical research are designed to respect the asserted gender identity of each patient while maintaining confidentiality.
- Support insurance plans that offer coverage specific to the needs of youth who identify as transgender, including coverage for medical, psychological and, when appropriate, surgical interventions.
- Support advocacy by pediatricians within their communities, for policies and laws that seek to promote acceptance of all children without fear of harassment, exclusion or bullying because of gender expression.
“Transgender youth are more visible today than ever before, empowered by others they see on the internet or in their communities,” wrote Ilana Sherer, MD, FAAP, executive committee member of the AAP Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health and Wellness, “They need our continued support and love, and those of us in the medical community stand prepared to help them.”
If you or a loved one feels in danger, please call the Trevor Hotline 1-866-488-7386.