March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), a day to celebrate and raise awareness about transgender people. We celebrate the joy and resilience of trans and non-binary people everywhere by elevating voices and experiences from these communities.
It is a day to celebrate the lives and contributions of trans people, while also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination, and violence this marginalized community faces.
Why might this matter to us? Unfortunately, human trafficking impacts marginalized communities at disproportionately high rates, making transgender people particularly vulnerable to exploitation in human trafficking.
Today we honor these incredible people and the significant impact that they have made and continue to make in the fight against human trafficking for the transgender community as well as the survivor community.
From Survivor to Thriver
New Yorker Indya Moore’s career as model, actor, LGBTQ+ advocate and transgender icon has spanned from the Louis Vuitton runway at Paris Fashion Week to staring in Ryan Murphy’s ground-breaking series, “Pose.” She has been named as one of Time‘s 100 most influential people in 2019, and was featured on the cover of Elle.
But that’s not where her life started. In her interview with Elle Magazine, Moore revealed she’s a survivor of human trafficking.
Growing up in foster care, a 16-year-old Moore was desperate to transition and found a group online who told her they wanted to help her get the money for the hormones she needed. They trapped her in a cycle of need, dependency and violence.
Today, Moore continues on in her healing journey. Yet, in spite of all her success, she still describes herself as “someone who’s just trying to be free and find safety for myself and for others.”
A Trailblazer Combatting Human Trafficking
Dr. Rachel Levine is no stranger to being a trailblazer. She became one of the country's highest-ranking openly transgender officials in 2015 as Pennsylvania's physician general. Three years later, she became the country's most prominent transgender public health official when she was confirmed as the state health secretary. Then, in 2021, Levine became the first Senate-confirmed transgender federal official in the country’s history as the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2022 HHS Secretary Becerra formed the HHS Task Force to Prevent Human Trafficking to implement the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and create greater awareness about the scope of the issues.
In a statement, Dr. Levine said, “I’m honored to co-chair this effort with ACF Assistant Secretary Contreras. We are working with many dedicated people across the Department who share the vision of bringing relief to survivors today and, one day, ending human trafficking.”
Mother, Guardian, Hero and Healer
Lorena Borjas is a human trafficking survivor and lifelong defender of immigrants, sex workers, and trans people. Known as the mother of the trans Latinx community in Queens, she advocated for trans victims of trafficking, slavery and violence.
After immigrating to the US from Mexico in 1981 to live more freely as a woman, she shared an apartment with 20 other transgender women who survived life as sex workers.
Lorena worked to protect transgender victims of human trafficking (which she had experienced herself), slavery, and violence. She worked without pay to facilitate HIV testing and hormone therapy for transgender sex workers.
Lorena had a long history of activism protecting trans people, in particular those who were victims of trafficking, slavery and violence. She organized marches to honor trans people, HIV testing for trans sex workers, established funds to bail out victims arrested on prostitution charges, and ran syringe-exchange programs for trans women taking hormone injections.
In 2011 she founded the Lorena Borjas Community Fund to help transgender people embroiled in the cycle. In 2015, she became Executive Director of ourvoicesarefree.org
Lorena passed away in 2020 from COVID-19 complications. Before Lorena passed away, she had plans to start a shelter called La Casa Trans Queens, which would serve transgender people, migrants, people living with HIV, and sex workers.
A survivor is someone who lives over and beyond the trauma of their abuse. It communicates the hope of moving beyond the pain of the past and is an attempt to shape a new narrative and tell a new story.
- Anne Miller