WASHINGTON - Addison Moore doesn't use textbooks and students aren't taught in a classroom. Instead, this complex individual uses life experiences and a sometimes misunderstood perspective to change the attitudes on what gender is.
For 18-year-old Addison Moore, video games allow them to choose the character they feel most confident and comfortable with. That's not unlike what Addison has done outside virtual reality. In real life, Addison doesn't fit in to the gender stereotypes that come with the words "male" or "female."
It's why we refer to Addison as not "him" or "her," but "them."
"I don't really feel male, but I don't really feel female as well so I just kind of exist in my own little box," Addison said.
Addison is gender non-binary, an identity that usually falls under the umbrella of the LGBTQ community.
Early on in high school, Addison was less comfortable with their identity. So, they came here to Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL), a non-profit after-school program and safe space for LGBTQ youth in D.C.
"I don't have to worry about not being able to be myself and still get to do everything I love. I can just be Addison," they said.
Addison has blossomed, learning to be comfortable in their own skin, and is now taking those lessons and using them to teach others that no one is defined by just one thing.
"I hope one day that you know it's not something that people care about, at least, it's not what makes a person who they are. Like, I do identify this way, but that's not the only thing about me that there is," they said.
In many ways, Addison is like any other young adult: passionate about music, playing guitar and piano, and channeling their creative juices into photography, animation, filmmaking-- and the occasional video-game obsession.
However, Addison's gender identity has played a role in their burgeoning leadership abilities.
"I really have considered them to be like a coworker or a colleague," said Francisco White, programs coordinator at SMYAL, where Addison has been a youth fellow.
Addison has run workshops for other youth, planned the after-school programs and gone out into the community and taught organizations about LGBTQ issues.
"People generally want to see themselves in others. I think it really helps that Addison looks like a lot of the youth that we serve, relates to a lot of the youth that we serve, but also is just like a down to earth approachable person," White said.
They hope to channel that approachability into a career making movies that educate the rest of the world about LGBTQ identities.
"I kind of would want to be a voice for people who feel like they don't have one, or can't have one in that moment in time," Addison said.
Addison's voice is inspired by the collision of their black and gender non-binary identities. It's a voice, not afraid to be them-- no matter who doesn't understand or accept.
"I can't be black without being trans, and I can't be trans without being black, and so when existing, I'm just kind of like if you can't take me as a whole, don't take any part of me and if I put that out in the world, there's no way that someone can tell me, 'Oh you're not trans enough because of this,' or 'You're not black enough because of this,' and I'm like, 'No, I'm me enough,' so I don't really care about the stereotypes that come with any of these identities because at the end of the day, they're just identities and I can define them, but they don't have to define me," Addison said.
Addison hopes after graduation to keep inspiring others through film, making short films and documentaries about issues that affect the LGBTQ community.
Addison Moore is making history today through teaching others.