Chandi Moore is a rock-star in our community. She will knock your socks off with the sheer force of her personality and heart for those around her. When I have struggled with my transition, Chandi has been there to remind me of what it means to have inner strength – sometimes with laughter (please look up her horse escapades) and other times with real talk.
No transition is easy, but when Chandi says she "gets it," she's had the experiences to back that up. She shared some of her life story on first episode of this season's I Am Cait, but I want to give her the floor to share more about her journey and the work she does now.
Without further ado, I pass the baton to my dear colleague and trans advocate, Chandi Moore.
Growing up, my family and I were in church every time the doors opened. We used to say we went to church "from Sunday to Sunday." Even though I didn't realize I was transgender as a kid, I still knew I was different. When I was sitting in church, I used to feel like the sermon was all about me – directed at my "sins" specifically. I heard that my lifestyle was not becoming of God, and it was very hard.
After a while, I began to believe that God didn't love me and that I was a bad person. I fell out of touch with Him and made some choices that landed me in a place I never expected to be...prison. As I told Cait, I had written some bad checks and done some credit card fraud.
In detention you can't make decisions for yourself. You have to get up when someone tells you to get up. You have to shower when they say it's okay. Everything's out of your hands. You have control over nothing. It's terrible.
My turning point happened on Thanksgiving or Christmas when I was sitting in the prison yard staring out of the fence. I realized that I was in a place where I wasn't going to have any of my mom's cooking for the holiday and I wasn't going to be with my family. Plus, I was watching all these people get released from prison only to come right back, and I didn't want that for my life.
It took a lot for me to get back to a positive space. I happened to catch a sermon on TV one morning, and it really spoke to me. I realized that God did love me. After all, God knew who I was before I did. So how could I think that he didn't love me, when he made me?
I wasted no time. As soon as I got out of prison, I went to makeup school within a week. I was totally serious. I did not want to be that statistic, like a lot of people. I knew that my life was meant to be something more. I never thought that I'd be working with prevention or helping other trans people. I never thought any of those things. I just knew that I had to love myself and do better than I'd done before.
Now, I work with trans and gender non-conforming youth, ages 12 to 24, at a project called B.L.U.S.H., which is a program to reduce HIV transmission. We educate young people about why they should get tested and how they should talk about it with their families, friends, and – most importantly – partners. We also have mental health therapy and medical services. It's like one-stop shopping for LGBT youth.
Working with young people is important to me because this is a population that doesn't have a voice. People are always making decisions on behalf of them, instead of for them, and that's what's fueled me to become a voice for the youth. They are the future and their voices need to be heard.
It's not always easy to keep going. When I think I'm at my worst, I realize there's someone else out there who's doing far worse than I am. I think about all the girls who have been murdered in our community simply for living their lives and for being who they are, and how grateful I am to be alive. That's what keeps me grounded and motivated. That's my reason for living my life to the fullest every day.
For more information on the transgender movement, see a list of resources at CaitlynJenner.com.