The co-founder of an organization that provides housing and other services to transgender and gender non-conforming people in New Orleans hopes to make history as the first Black trans woman elected in Louisiana.
Mariah Moore, who co-founded House of Tulip with Milan Nicole Sherry, another Black trans activist, is running to represent District D, which includes New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood.
The primary is scheduled to take place on Oct. 9. The general election will take place on Nov. 13.
“Being a Black trans woman and being someone that holds a position like that, I will honestly have the opportunity to change so many hearts and minds about the way that people see us and the stereotypes that they cast on us,” Moore told the Washington Blade on March 1 during an interview at House of Tulip’s offices in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood.
Moore is originally from New Orleans’ 7th Ward.
Her family has deep roots throughout the Crescent City and in Madisonville and Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Moore was also a foster child.
“That’s another piece of my story that a lot of people don’t know,” she said.
Moore added New Orleans “has always been that anchor for me.”
“Even though I was navigating a very broken state foster care system, I still found my way back home,” she said. “New Orleans will be some place where I will always live. I was born here and I will die here.”
Moore said more affordable housing, higher wages and better infrastructure are among the issues on which she would work if elected.
“I understand, like myself, there’s a single mother out there who has to take public transportation. There’s a single mom out there somewhere who doesn’t have health insurance. There’s a single mom out there who’s relying on $7.25 to feed her three kids and she doesn’t get food stamps because she makes too much and we know that $7.25 an hour at less than 40 hours a week is not a livable wage in New Orleans, and it’s not a livable wage anyway,” she told the Blade.
“I’m a renter, so I know how hard it is to find a quality unit at an affordable price,” added Moore. “I understand these things, but most of all I know that solutions are possible because I created one, and so I’m not just talking about what needs to happen, I’m providing the solutions for the many problems and the circumstances that people are in.”
House of Tulip helps ‘community house community’
Moore and Sherry first conceived the idea that became House of Tulip in 2020 after the pandemic largely shut down New Orleans’ hospitality and tourism industries.
A GoFundMe campaign that House of Tulip launched raised more than $400,000.
House of Tulip in January bought a 5-bedroom double in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood.
Moore said the home is furnished. She told the Blade that House of Tulip plans to paint a mural in the backyard and add seating, plants and a fountain to “make it a more tranquil healing space and restorative space.”
Two people are now living in the Tremé house. A 3-bedroom property in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood that House of Tulip is renting currently has three residents.
“The idea is to help community house community,” said Moore.
Moore also pointed out that House of Tulip offers a variety of other services to trans and gender non-conforming people who don’t live in their properties. These include access to job training programs, health care and mental health services.
“We have to build a very robust program to support those things, so now that we have the properties and we’re starting to see more and more community members that we’re able to serve in the properties that we have, we’re building our programming,” said Moore.
Three Black trans women murdered in La. over last year
The U.S. Census notes New Orleans has a 23.7 percent poverty rate.
Sherry told the Blade last July during an interview at her home in New Orleans’ Garden District that this figure is even higher among the city’s Black trans residents. She and Moore both said Black trans people in New Orleans and across Louisiana are also more vulnerable to discrimination and violence because of their gender identity.
Fifty Bandz, a Black trans woman, was murdered in Baton Rouge on Jan. 28. Two other Black trans women — Draya McCarty and Shakie Peters — were killed last summer in Baton Rouge and Amite City, which is roughly 60 miles north of New Orleans, respectively.
Moore worked with Peters’ family after her murder.
“They’re wonderful people and they loved and affirmed Shakie,” said Moore. “I don’t ever want people to think that just because it is the South that nobody has family support, but Shakie did have a family that loved her, very deeply.”
Moore told the Blade that Chyna Gibson, who she described as a “dear sister of mine,” was murdered in New Orleans in 2017 as she was leaving a clothing store before a Mardi Gras ball “everyone was planning to attend.” Moore also said that “after the police conduct their investigation, all we can do is wait and hope that justice is served.”
“I’ve only experienced heartbreak continuing to try and get the police to further investigate … to bring justice to everyone that I have personally lost,” she said.
Moore told the Blade that it remains very difficult for Black trans women to obtain state-issued IDs that accurately reflect their gender identity. Moore also said most health insurance plans in Louisiana do not cover transition-related care.
Pandemic made trans New Orleanians even more vulnerable
Moore told the Blade violence in New Orleans increased last summer, in part, because people were not working. She also said people who engage in survival sex “were very vulnerable and quite frankly left out of the conversation about people who need to be prioritized and really getting aid to these folks.”
“Our undocumented community is totally left out of the conversation,” added Moore. “We often forget that because of our undocumented community, because of our Latinx community, New Orleans is back up and thriving just as it was pre-Katrina because of those wonderful folks who came and really lent their amazing craftsmanship and everything to our great city.”
“To only include these people when it’s beneficial is a disservice and a slap in the face to all their hard work and also a slap in the face to the culture that Black trans women bring to New Orleans and to the rest of world, whether they are survival sex workers, whether they are navigating sobriety,” added Moore. “No matter where they are and what they’re doing, they add such a preciousness to the city and none of it would be what it is without each and every one of us.”