Describing Terra Tempest Moore, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League Executive Director Andrew Barnett wrote, ''She is a natural leader, talented public speaker, and fierce advocate for those without a voice.''
It's an apt description, as Moore's voice is both authoritative – earned through her experience – and open to others, encouraging input with that rare talent of successful leaders.
Terra Tempest Moore
(Photo by Julian P. Vankim)
Moore, who turns 25 on May 11, has been a part of the SMYAL family since she first came to the group almost a decade ago. Having come out as a transgender woman in 2005, she's done more advocacy work than many others would do in a lifetime.
Having worked on HIV/AIDS issues as a peer educator with the STIGMA (Spreading Truth Is Gaining Mass Appeal) program at Metro TeenAIDS, on safer-sex issues involving young gay and bisexual men of color with Different Avenues, on trans issues with the DC Trans Coalition, and her ongoing work with SMYAL, Moore is everywhere.
At the same time, she connects her work, primarily, to her family. Then, to others still coming out.
''I have a younger brother who just came out of the closet not too, too long ago as bisexual. And I remember when I first decided that my life wasn't what everyone had deemed it, and the struggle and the turmoil and hurdles – and b.s., to be frank – and I made a promise to myself that he wouldn't have to go through it the way that I did,'' she says.
''So, everything that I've done up to this point has been really so that my younger brother doesn't have to deal with what I dealt with. And in prayer that any young trans woman that comes up doesn't have to deal with it. Or young trans man – I feel like they get left out a lot, too.''
When Moore talks about those struggles – teasing and abuse at school and home – she quickly moves to a more broad statement of what she, and others, have faced: ''The everyday fear of wanting to go somewhere to hang out with friends and not feeling that that space would be safe because of the ignorance of someone else.''
Working to eliminate that ''everyday fear'' and make spaces safe is Moore's work.
''Trying to create that space, I feel like my part was small,'' she says. ''Sometimes I feel like I didn't actually do much. I was present, and everyone has always said that presence is what is needed first. If there is no presence, then nothing is ever started.''
If presence is the starting point, then where is she headed?
''To see the day where things have changed to the point where you don't hear about gay bashings on the news every other day, you don't hear about a trans woman being shot every other day, there's not a candle vigil every other day because someone was ignorant or violent.''
''And it's not just the GLBTQ community,'' she says, referencing Trayvon Martin and other violent outcomes that Moore sees as based in ignorance.
Terra Tempest Moore
(Photo by Julian P. Vankim)
While dealing with creating change in the world, Moore also has had to face a dramatic change at home after her mother died on April 21. As with the other turmoil that she has faced, though, Moore addresses it with a sureness that would be notable in someone twice her age.
''I'm fine with the death of my mom. I'm at peace with that. I cried very briefly when I was making a Facebook message saying, 'I'm not ready to write this message yet. I'm not ready to do this without my mom here.' But my reality check is [that] she worked from the day that she came into this world until that day that she died – and she died working.''
''She's finally taking a break, and it's a vacation that she never would have accepted had you tried to give it to her, and that's just the woman that she was,'' Moore says. ''She's with her mom and her sister and with family members, and that washes over me with comfort.''
Saying that her mother's death has meant she's ''had to become more of an adult,'' Moore is – as always – full-steam ahead.
''I was put here for a reason, and because I don't know that reason, I'm afraid that I'll never necessarily amount to the worth and the potential that I was given when my mother gave me life,'' she says. ''And, I think that with her passing, that need to show up in the world is that much more present.''
She turns to wisdom she gained elsewhere.
''I love poetry,'' she says. ''Someone said, 'Don't let this world regret you.' To me, that's something that I think about every day. Don't let today regret your existence. Make sure that you make it worth living. Make sure it's worth getting up and out of bed in the morning. I think that's what motivates me.''
As such, the Metro Weekly Next Generation Award is, for Moore, just another step. On May 10, for example, she will be in Pulled Apart, a play being staged by the Voices of Now ensemble at Arena Stage.
''You can sit and dwell on a victory for too long. I think, like we say, 'You learn more from failure than you do from victory,' because usually you let the victory wash over you and you don't stop to think,'' she says.
''For me, it's: I don't sit still. If you give me an award, it's like, 'What can I be doing next? What's the next challenge? What's the next adventure?' Not so much, 'I've won this award. I've done enough.' The journey is never over.
''I'm ready for the next bite. Give me something more to chew.''