Nonbinary, trans model and actor Indya Moore has graced the cover of the June issue of Elle Magazine, marking the first time that the US publication has ever featured a trans model as the cover story. It speaks volumes that the editors of Elle chose to dedicate the cover to a trans person of color for this historic moment, representing some of the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community.
Moore tweeted gratitude for the experience and also applauded the publication’s commitment to amplify the impact and story of a trans person of color. “Thank you for having me as your first experience covering a trans person. I know I will not be the last. So excited to see Elle leverage their platform to help other talent of trans xp find visibility, & the safe space to be acknowledged & vulnerable in this powerful way.” Moore, who hails from the Bronx, is of Haitian, Dominican, and Puerto Rican descent.
In the cover story, Moore opened up about the way that their parents had responded to Moore’s feminine expression with discipline, unwilling to allow Moore to disassociate from their at-birth gender assignment. (Note: Moore has claimed the pronouns they, their, and them, but permitted Elle to use she, hers, and her for the article.) “Because I was assigned male at birth, they expected me to be masculine or to perform the way they thought young boys should perform. And I did not.”
Moore’s mother Gloria disciplined them out of an urge to protect her child from the trans fates that she’d seen as a nursing attendant, unable to understand that depression, suicide, and being ostracized were a result of society’s problems with trans people. Mental Health America cited the fact that having non-accepting family is the Number One concern for trans youth, while bullying is the Number Two concern, both of which contribute to depressive disorders, unhappiness, and feelings of isolation that can lead to suicide.
Moore explained that their mom was, at the time, like many parents who hope that strict parenting will set their children on a gender-conforming path. “They think they’re saving their children from harm. But they don’t realize that they’re causing harm, that they’re doing to their kids exactly what they’re afraid of the world doing to them.”
Moore eventually left home and ended up in foster care as a teenager suffering from severe depression, and also became a victim of sex trafficking, an experience that informs Moore’s role as Angel Evangelista on the TV series Pose as a transgender sex worker. Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia highlighted how difficult this experience was for Moore, using her platform to tweet a short excerpt from the cover story. “@PoseonFX may have changed Indya’s life, but it also amplified every trauma she’d been carrying with her. Certain scenes in Angel’s arc, as a sex worker who falls in love with a client but who longs for a sense of belonging, would render her dazed or leave her in tears.”
Like so many trans adolescents, Moore tried to commit suicide while still in high school. Suicide is a major issue facing all American teens, but trans youth attempt to commit suicide at disproportionately and alarmingly high rates. The results of a survey published last fall in Pediatrics found that over half of its transgender male respondents had attempted suicide at least once, while about 40 percent of nonbinary youth had done so. Transgender females had the lowest attempt rate, relatively speaking: almost a third had reported at least once suicide attempt.