To read about the rest of the Culture Shifters, including TV executive Jasmyn Lawson and spiritual adviser Emilia Ortiz, return to the full list here.

To put it simply, Mariah Moore’s compassion for trans women and their shared struggles radiates through her words and her actions.

The New Orleans activist uses her political savvy and devotion to fellow community members to fight against anti-trans legislation. Whether it’s providing a meal and clothing to those in need or lobbying for congressional recognition on behalf of the transgender community, Moore has become one of the heroines of New Orleans. She says it takes empathy and a willingness to listen in order to bring effective change within a flawed socioeconomic system.

“Every day that you wake up, you have choices to make: You can choose to love your neighbors and community members. You can choose to lead with an open mind and heart. You can choose to be good to people,” Moore said in an interview. “Just by doing that, you can change the world and you can change the quality of life for many people.”

Moore has been advocating for transgender people in New Orleans through several organizations. She is the organizing program associate at the Transgender Law Center. Housed at TLC is Black Trans Circles, which has allowed her to co-organize and create leadership development programs for Black trans women in the South. Through this program and others like it, Moore aims to teach other trans women the skills to heal, organize and develop internal community solutions. The community organizer also works with such operations as the “CANS Can’t Stand” campaign, which seeks to erase a 19th-century “crimes against nature” law in Louisiana. She serves on the city’s LGBTQ Task Force and co-directs her very own organization, House of Tulip, with Milan Nicole Sherry, where they help transgender and gender nonconforming residents find safe, affordable housing in Louisiana.

And in March, Moore announced her candidacy for New Orleans City Council. If she’s elected, she would become the council’s first transgender member.

“I’m running because I know we can’t truly move forward if we aren’t all represented and we aren’t all allowed to have a voice,” she said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “What I’ve experienced is leadership isn’t present for everyday, hardworking New Orleanians.”

In 2020, Moore was able to aid other trans women in maneuvering food insecurity, housing instability and unemployment. The organizer collaborated with other trans activists to establish an emergency COVID Crisis Fund, raising $20,000 for at-risk sex workers and unhoused transgender people in Louisiana. Her own life stories inspire her to keep pushing for mutual aid and governmental protection for all.

Moore, 32, grew up poor in New Orleans’ 7th Ward and took any job that would keep her afloat. A sex worker turned retail associate turned legal professional, she now serves as a beacon of hope for those who come from similar upbringings. Her day-to-day operations, no matter how big or small, are essentially preventive measures to ensure younger trans women are brought up in a kinder, more viable world.

“I’m a former sex worker. I’m affected by anti-trans violence. I have navigated housing insecurity and food insecurity,” she said. “I’ve been turned down from jobs I was overly qualified for.”

Navigating institutions devoid of compassion and understanding for trans women can be daunting. Without the necessary access to career opportunities or safe housing, these women easily become the target of brutality at the hands of family members, police officers and strangers. Her home state of Louisiana has seen several homicides of trans women over the past few years.

“When we look at 2016 and 2017, these were some of the deadliest years to be Black, trans and femme in New Orleans. However, when our organizing efforts took off, you saw a lot more conversations being had, a lot more organizations stepping out and a lot more community being gained around trans-led initiatives. Fortunately, we have been successful in reducing the violence over the past three years, but to only reduce it is not enough.”

“The number I recall is 35. Black trans women have been statistically doomed to not make it past that age,” she said. “But I want for myself, and other girls like me, to beat the odds.”

So here’s Moore’s call to action: Do the work to continue making life easier for people in your community.

“In order to see consistent change,” she said, “our organizing efforts must be broad and consistent. It’s going to take calling out all the institutions and having all the uncomfortable conversations necessary to make the work worthwhile.”