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'I Am Cait' Star Chandi Moore is #7 of Our 75 Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016

#7 of Our 75 Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016: Chandi Moore

Earlier this year when E! online published an article subtitled, “19 Times Chandi Moore Was the Real Star of I Am Cait,” it summed up — with cute GIFs, of course — why Moore has become a fan fave for thousands of TV viewers. Transgender, HIV-positive, and the co-founder of Trans Girls in Action Divas, Moore resonates in part because she’s sweet, smart, and brutally honest. Moore’s also been a visible proponent of her sometimes misguided co-star, Caitlyn Jenner, telling Huffington Post, “Her heart is in the right space and she is doing something that she did not have to do at all. I don’t feel that our community should hold her to a higher standard than anyone else that is freshly coming out.” A trans youth health and HIV prevention counselor and educator at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Moore also stars in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new HIV testing and prevention campaign, “Doing It.” 

What that people really love about you on I Am Cait is that you talk about the difficulties you’ve had in your life. Is that something that you share with the kids that you work with?

I definitely share that with the kids that I work with because trans women of color are not only more likely to contract HIV, but they’re more likely to be murdered as well. Promoting being tested and being comfortable with yourself is something that is very near and dear to my heart. My heart goes out to all those people in Orlando. I just hope that the good thing that comes out of this, not that any of it is good, is that our community can unite, and not separate. We need to come together.

Has being on TV given you a bigger platform for talking about issues?

Yeah, it definitely has. Being a part of I Am Cait has changed my life in so many ways. It’s a lot different for me now, like going to the grocery store.

You get recognized now.

It was one thing to be popular in our LGBT community, but it’s different when you go outside of your community and you have people coming up to you and saying, “You know what? Thank you for being a part of that show. Something you said really changed my way of thinking.” I’ll never forget, I met a parent and her daughter did not share with her that she wanted to transition, and she was kind of hurt by that. I had to say, “Well, you know what, sweetie? She didn’t feel comfortable with you enough to share that experience with you.” She shared it with someone else. But now they watch I Am Cait together. They’ve really grown from that experience. 

The rates of HIV and violence against trans women are outrageous. How do you live your life without being fearful?

That’s great question for you to ask me because I never felt fear for my life in all these years until that Sunday of the Orlando tragedy. We actually had gay Pride here [in L.A.] and we were in the parade. I hadn’t heard about the tragedy until I actually got to the parade. Then to find out that they caught somebody that was on their way to the parade [in LA, with weapons] really scared me. For the first time, I felt really nervous about living. I’ve never felt that way. I’m always encouraging the youth to be themselves and don’t be afraid to come outside and live your life and do all these things. In that moment, I, too, was scared. But we all have to get beyond our fears. We have to push through and keep going…. We have to continue to fight our way through it. That’s what I’m going to do.

What does it mean for you to do HIV outreach to kids now?

I enjoy doing outreach. We have a group called B3, which is for HIV-positive youth, and we also have LIFE, which is for gay, straight, bi, trans youth in between the ages of 12 and 24. [I’m] able to get out there and have those one-on-one conversations with them, passing out condoms … PrEP is something that we’re definitely encouraging our youth to look into right now. I like seeing the smiles on [the kids’] faces, when we can get them to smile, because a lot of the youth that we deal with are homeless. Sometimes they’re not having a good day, and … you kind of have to meet people where they stand. That’s why I’m such a big hugger of everybody that I come in contact with. Because you never know what that hug will do, how that will change someone’s momentum in their day.

What do you tell them that you wish somebody would’ve told you at 12?

I wish we would’ve had all these type of services available when I was 12! I wish that there were support groups available when I was 12. Encouraging, positive words is … what I try to tell them to keep them motivated; that they can be whatever it is they choose to be in life. 

LGBTQ youth suicide is a big issue as well.

I actually had to deal with two clients one day, in the same day, threatening suicide. I was kind of like an emotional wreck really, because I didn’t know how to react to them. But still, I’m glad that they called me because I had to remind them how amazing they were, and how great of an asset to the community that they were. Luckily, by the grace of God, both of them made it through. It’s just challenging when you’re living your life, or trying to find yourself and you realize that you’re different. Especially with our youth not having parents who embrace them in most cases. It just makes life difficult when you’re thrown out on the street, thrown out to the wolves, set up, basically, to contract HIV, because you have to survive out there on those streets. Survival sex is very prevalent in our community. It’s very challenging trying to keep yourself motivated to be your authentic self when you live in a society that judges you.

Not every trans person can afford hormones or access to healthcare. 

It is great now that Medi-Cal is actually helping the girls, and guys, with some of those services now. Some of them are able to have their [gender reassignment surgeries] done through Medi-Cal. [That] really helped a lot of the trans and gender nonconforming people be more comfortable with themselves. They’re able to get that great self-esteem that they need to be able to go out there and get that job. There’s nothing like being able to walk in your authentic light. At our hospital we’re able to meet parents with children as young as 3. I have to embrace the parents because so many parents out there don’t embrace their children — so for them to be actually at a hospital, looking into their child being different, and trying to figure that all out … it’s so amazing. That’s what keeps me inspired. The new parents that are embracing the youth these days.

How does access to hormones tie in with trans people’s HIV risk?

Well, having access to hormones allows the youth to be more assertive in the choices that they make. Because they don’t feel as if they can’t be who they want to be. When they’re not making those choices themselves, that’s what puts them at risk for HIV. But once they’re able to get their medical services, that keeps their minds going. Now that they can go get their surgeries done…it makes life that much better for them, and it keeps that risk down, when they have access to things.

Having access to hormones allows to people to not need to resort to sex work.

That’s something that I wish would’ve been available, because I dealt with the black market when I started my transition. Having medical services available to me at that time would’ve been great because it would’ve helped me be able to explain to my parents what I was going through. Because I didn’t know. 

What’s your message to people?

If you’re going to play, play safe. When you play, don’t be afraid to walk in that door and get a test. Knowing your status is so important. I said it in the video. I’m going to say it again right now. It’s more valid for you to know your status than for you not to know. Don’t be afraid to go get tested. There’s cool people in those clinics, like me, who are willing to give you all the information you need, provide you with condoms, lube, whatever you need. Answer any questions. Just don’t be afraid to ask someone. That’ll be my message.

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