Indya Moore, star of FX’s Pose, recently gave a candid account to Elle about the horrors of being sex trafficked as a young, vulnerable trans person in the foster care system.
Moore left her parents’ home at the age of 14 after being “overdisciplined” for what her parents saw as refusal to perform traditional masculinity. In foster care, she (the Elle story uses female pronouns, which Moore agreed to for the piece) was placed with a trans woman, who, for a time, shared her hormone replacement therapy treatments. When her foster mother stopped providing her with the treatments, strangers contacted her on Facebook offering to help her get more:
“They told me that they had a lot of friends who were trans and they wanted to help me in my process. And that they could help me to get the money that I needed to be a woman,” Indya says. “Such a weird sentence, right?”
Moore describes the manipulation tactics her abusers used to trap a scared teenager in a potentially deadly situation:
“She accepted the invitation of these strangers, she says, “and 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 they’ll give me money.”
“They told me I needed to do it continuously so that I could afford hormones,” she says. She was 16 years old. “I didn’t understand what sex trafficking was at the time,” she says. “‘The language I knew was that they were, basically, my pimps. I was just a kid.’”
She was also badly beaten by her abusers when she tried to leave, and life after escaping the sex traffickers didn’t get better for quite some time. Moore was shuffled from dangerous, violent situation to dangerous, violent situation before finally gaining the Instagram following that helped get her noticed as a model and actress:
“What followed were more foster homes; a police record; time in prison on Rikers Island on an assault charge from a fight with a boyfriend; a stint in an institution where she was misgendered, taken off her hormones, and given anti-depression medication; and a drug addiction. She escaped to foster care in a group home, only to be placed among LGBTQ boys rather than in an all-girls unit, as she’d begged them to do.”
Now 24, Moore is the face of Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein, as well as one of the stars of Pose, a Ryan Murphy drama centered on the late-80s LGBTQ black and Latinx ballroom community in New York City. Since leaving the foster care system, she’s reconciled with her mother, and the two live together in the South Bronx.