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Training for Change: Reverend Moses Reminds Us to Run a Race, Not a Sprint

Training for Change: Reverend Moses Reminds Us to Run a Race, Not a Sprint

Photography by Arnaldo Vargas

As many of you know, the New York State Legislature went out of session for the summer without voting on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), making it at least another year before transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers obtain equal rights in the state. In fact, oftentimes the fight for equality is likened to a marathon, not a sprint.

Perhaps no one knows this better than Reverend Moshay Moses, who has been a social justice advocate since the 1960s. Since then, Reverend Moses has gone on to fight for a number of civil rights causes, and most recently, lent her influence and voice to help Housing Works’ recent campaign to pass GENDA in New York State.

While GENDA didn’t pass this year, this will not stop Reverend Moses. We sat down to discuss her passions, her history, and what keeps her motivated to keep fighting for social justice on behalf of all marginalized people.

-Sunny Bjerk, Housing Works’ Communications Manager

Sunny Bjerk: Why don’t we begin with your personal background—tell us a little bit about where you’re from and how you became involved in Housing Works?

Reverend Moshay Moses: Well currently I am a Housing Works’ harm reduction counselor, but I’m originally from Virginia.

SB: How did you first become involved in social justice advocacy?

RMM: My advocacy began in the late 60s and into the 70s during the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Growing up I remember seeing so many injustices and horrible things that I couldn’t not get involved. After I moved to New York in 1976, my advocacy only deepened!

SB: Why is it important to you that you advocate for marginalized populations?

RMM: I see almost all issues as a question of civil rights because we’re all human beings. Every person deserves the right to live a healthy and successful live, and we have got to work together to end laws that treat people as second-class or less worthy of protections.

SB: I understand that you’re a minister. Could you tell me a little bit more about your spiritual work?

RMM: Certainly. When I moved to New York in the 70s, I began running a spiritual group every Sunday at MCC (the Metropolitan Community Church of New York) called “Gender People,” which brings together people from all gender backgrounds—transgender, transsexual, androgynous, Two-Spirit, and more—to discuss their experiences, challenges, and triumphs. It’s really a dynamic group of people, and I’m proud to say that this group still continues every Sunday.

SB: How has your work at the MCC of New York influenced your advocacy?

RMM: Through my group at MCC, I met some girls who asked me to speak at Positive Health Project about my own transgender experiences and my spirituality. Through this introduction, I was asked to begin to facilitate PHP’s transgender harm reduction program, which is the longest running transgender harm reduction program in the country!

SB: That’s really wonderful, and Housing Works is so thrilled to have your involvement in our GENDA advocacy. Can you tell us about your long-standing history of GENDA advocacy?

RMM: Oh yes, I have been advocating and working with local organizations to support GENDA for years, first for local protections in New York City, and now, for protections across New York State. Last year, I traveled to Albany for the first time to meet with legislators about the need for the bill and why it’s important that transgender men and women are equally protected by law. It was a great experience and it was a great day to be a part of.

SB: Why did you choose to be a part of Housing Works’ GENDA campaign?

RMM: I chose to participate in Housing Works’ campaign because I thought it was really important to represent myself as a minister, because I think a lot of the hesitation behind transgender rights is because of religious beliefs. I think it is important to show a religious woman of trans experience within the GENDA advocacy movement. The more vocal we are, the more powerful we are.

While GENDA didn’t pass this legislative session, we will continue to fight for the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. Please visit the Housing Works webpage to sign the petition, share it through your social media networks, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

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