At the age of 14, most cis-het teenagers are either worrying about their algebra homework, hanging out with their friends after school, or wondering what to wear on a first date.
Not Indya Moore.
They had recently come out to their mother, who like most homophobic and transphobic parents refused to accept her daughter’s identity as valid. As Moore recounts in their survival story published in i-D,
“She told me it wasn’t normal to be gay and suggested taking me to the Kingdom Hall to meet with a few elders — one of them apparently ‘used’ to be gay — to initiate a form of conversion therapy.”
Things like friendship and family support that all of us deserve and desperately need in our formative years are something that queer children often miss out on because the hetero-normative patriarchal society we live in constantly invisibilizes their identities, histories, and narratives, whether by violence or by other insidious means.
In fact, life had become so difficult for Moore that they were forced to move out of their parent’s home and enter into foster care. They grew up amidst a lot of violence and regularly got into fights in school. At the age of 15, they were making ends meet by doing modeling gigs, even as the fashion industry’s focus on creating an unrealistic body image, dismayed and disturbed them.
Moore became increasingly lonely and alienated.
“I couldn’t have a relationship with my family, with friends or with other kids. I couldn’t build friendships because I never got to hang out with anybody who supported me.”
At the age of 16, they finally gathered the courage to begin hormonal therapy and formed a close friendship with their parent-teacher coordinator, who provided them with a safe space and “maternal support” that Moore had never known as a child. In fact, Moore describes her as a mixture of a mentor and a best friend.
“She was everything! She celebrated my identity, introduced me to voguing, wrote poetry with me and took me to my first Pride.”
Yet, most queer children know instinctively that happiness is precarious and short-lived and liable to be taken away from them, often by force. Moore revealed how their parents did not trust anyone who supported their queer identity and eventually cut them off from that one person who had not only inspired them, but treated them with love and respect.
Their sister had also supported them, which was why they weren’t allowed to attend her wedding or see her often.
Constantly bullied and left to fend for themselves, Moore still found the strength to keep going and finally landed their big break as Angel Evangelista in the FX television series Pose. The show focuses on the LGBTQIA+ Black and Latinx community of New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s and drew critical acclaim for its portrayal of underground culture that isn’t represented in mainstream narratives.
Moore’s character is a trans sex worker, struggling to find love. And their real-life story isn’t too different, beset with transphobia, isolation and generational trauma. They said,
“I missed out on having a family; on having friends; on going to school and having a childhood full of support and community…People took advantage of me and that’s the story of my entire life, but I survived to find hope.”
Their survival story is a reminder of how many queer children grow up — fearing for their lives, fighting for their basic rights, and constantly afraid that they don’t have a place to belong. As per HRC’s survey “Growing Up LGBTQIA+ in America”, 42% of the LGBTQIA+ youth between the ages 17-24 feel that the community in which they live isn’t accepting of queer people and LGBTQIA+ youth are twice as likely than their peers to have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at.
As a survivor who faced almost insurmountable odds and still made it to the Time’s List of 100 Most Influential People this year, Moore’s words highlight the need for positive social transformation.
“I wouldn’t give myself advice; I would give advice to the world around me.”
Moore reminds us that the LGBTQIA+ community is tired of always making compromises. It is the world that needs to change and needs to change now.