Indya Moore, one of the brightest breakout stars of Ryan Murphy’s hit FX series “Pose,” has helped bring the stories and struggles of trans women of color to the forefront. Offscreen, Moore, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, uses their voice and platform to raise awareness and inspire action, and has done so especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Black trans women are impacted most heavily by anything affecting everyone as a whole,” Moore told NBC News. “Black trans women would be impacted more, because they are very vulnerable. Black trans folk don’t have access to community, they don't have family or other folks to rely on, and a lot of black trans folks often depend on sex work to survive.”
"I'm really happy that people love me for my work, but it’s also important for people to connect with the fact that they love an artist who is also a black trans person that is part of a community who is being targeted every day with violence."
Moore has been advocating publicly for trans people of color since appearing on the runways of New York Fashion Week in 2017. At the time, Moore told NBC News: “I want to see designers capitalize on a beauty that is not only white. I need them to stop acting like beautiful black and brown women do not exist.”
Soon after establishing themselves as a model and vocal advocate, Moore appeared in music videos for Katy Perry and in an editorial spread for Vogue España. Those opportunities led them to be cast as Angel Evangelista in “Pose,” a trans sex worker who becomes the mistress of a yuppie she meets while working at the Chelsea Piers. In May 2019, Moore became the first trans person to be featured on the cover of the U.S. version of Elle magazine. Later that same year, Time magazine named the actor one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
This influence comes from Moore's advocacy work offscreen, redirecting the spotlight of success from entertainment projects to highlight the injustices and inequality that is pervasive in the black and brown trans and queer communities they belong to.
“I know that people on my Instagram, who know me from my work on ‘Pose,’ have come to care for black trans folk, come to care for the characters that we play, because we are the characters that we play after all,” Moore said. “That’s what makes ‘Pose’ so unique as a television show. So I really can't imagine people not actually caring for all those real life Angels and Blancas and Lulus and Candies also.”
Amid the pandemic, Moore is encouraging her fans to care more now than ever, as the crisis has amplified the existing inequalities trans people face.
“I try to use myself as a conduit to connect my fan base to my community,” Moore explained. “My fan base has disposable income and are in more privileged circumstances. It can be hard to create a conduit between the most privileged folk and the most vulnerable, and so I came up with the simplest way to do it.”
One of the ways Moore is trying to accomplish this goal is through an independent initiative on social media to get direct funds to those within the LGBTQ community who are most in need amid this public health crisis. On March 17, Moore wrote a heartfelt message to their over 900,000 Instagram followers explaining their reasoning for prioritizing black trans women in the fundraising effort.
Out on the Frontline: Indya Moore is one of NBC Out's 2020 Pride Month honorees. To see the full list, click here.
“It's really important to me to prioritize those who will always be thought of last, if thought of at all,” Moore wrote. “I am prioritizing the needs of black trans women first, the ones who are least likely to have friends, boyfriends and families checking in or present at all.”
“Redistribution of wealth [has] been important,” Moore added. “But now it’s imperative!”
Moore’s process is simple: Those who wish to donate send Moore donations via Cash App, and then Moore diverts those funds directly to those who reach out for help.
“I don’t think black trans folks have to send me stories about the trauma and hardships in order to get some help,” Moore said of the importance of simplifying the process. “I just don't think they should have to send applications and, you know, do all that extra work.”
Moore said they have raised over $20,000 so far, and the money has gone to help people with food, rent and gender-affirming care.
“Every dollar goes back to the most vulnerable of our LGBTQ community,” Moore said. “It was just a no brainer to step into action and try to organize what I can for my community.”
Moore said that even though they are a “mainstream artist,” they want people to know they are also part of “a community that is terrorized — especially now during the pandemic.” So far this year, at least 12 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed due to violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and nearly all of these victims were trans women of color.
“I'm really happy that people love me for my work, but it’s also important for people to connect with the fact that they love an artist who is also a black trans person that is part of a community who is being targeted every day with violence,” they said.