New era

EXCLUSIVE: Miss Peppermint is talkin’ ’bout an LGBTQ revolution

Agnes Moore is an actress, singer, and reality TV star who’s shaking up pop culture and politics. Better known to her fans as Peppermint, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native was the first openly trans woman to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race, in 2017 (season-nine runner-up), and, the following year, a second-season guest star on the Emmy-winning TV series Pose as well as the first trans woman to originate a main role on Broadway. She hit New York City’s Hudson Theatre as Pythio in Head Over Heels, a musical featuring the songs of the ’80s all-woman pop band The Go-Go’s.

Now, she’s diving deep into political activism with #WeAreHere, a campaign she launched to advocate for LGBTQ rights and bring more awareness to the issues the community faces. She reached out to her celebrity friends like Younger star Nico Tortorella, Pose’s MJ Rodriguez, and Laverne Cox and got them to pitch in. Oh, and she soon may be a Queerties winner. She’s up for the “Future All-Star” award. On the eve of the Valentine’s Day release of her new single, “What You Looking For,” we talked to Peppermint about her activism, her busy career, and why her Queerties nomination had such perfect timing.

Hello, Miss Peppermint! Do you know you’ve been nominated for the “Future All-Star” award at the upcoming Queerties? Congratulations! 

Of course, I know! I’m so excited about it. I’ve been staring at it. I’m so excited.

How does it feel to be recognized by the LGBTQ community?

It feels amazing. It doesn’t happen that often in terms of a specific recognition, so just to be nominated is such an honor because when it doesn’t happen, sometimes you can feel kind of down on yourself. A nomination like this is very rewarding, and it can fuel your your creativity and your artistry. I’m super-excited.

A couple of days ago I was a little bit down in the dumps because I’m currently writing a new album, and I’m about to release a single on the 14th, on Valentine’s Day, called “What You Looking For?” And I had to go into that frame of mind. It’s a very different album. It’s a new softer side of Peppermint, all ’90s R&B love songs about my relationship that has ended. I was kind of down in the dumps. But of course, getting this Queerties Award nomination makes me feel fabulous.

On a more serious note, can you tell me about the new #WeAreHere campaign and why you decided to launch it?

As we know, the LGBTQ community is under attack from this current [presidential] administration in so many ways, from the bathroom access to the transgender military ban. At the end of last year, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Supreme Court during the Title VII hearings, which were the employment discrimination hearings. There were three different cases all involving people in the LGBTQ community who had been fired from their job, simply for being LGBTQ.

The next step is for the justices to hand down their decision. If they decide that it was legal for these people to get fired, then it will be setting a precedent that people in other states can then decide to follow. So it really makes it difficult for us to feel safe in our jobs, and I wanted to get that word out so badly.

I tried a couple of different things last year, unsuccessfully, and then I said, “Let me pull together some of my friends who [have] platforms and see who I can get involved to get the word out.” I thought it would be a shame to, as a community, lose the ability to work and have our jobs be protected without ever even knowing. A lot of people in the general public and even in the LGBTQ community are unaware this is even going on.

So how are people getting involved?

We have thousands of people posting the #WeAreHere graphic, which is the LGBTQ pride flag that sort of fades to black and white. We all kind of collectively had different ideas that we contributed. Nico Tortorella’s idea was to have the colored flag that faded to black and white, and it was his idea to have the actual words “We Are Here.”

We had several different ideas on what the slogan and graphics should be, and we settled on that one. Then it was [Peppermint’s #WeAreHere partner, actor Sander Jennings’] idea to use the graphic to get attention [on social media]. This past week, our campaign was trending for just a moment on Twitter, and so it felt like a really big accomplishment.

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Today, we rise up to fight for not just the #transgender community, but the future of #LGBTQ equality. As you're aware, the #SCOTUS will hear three historic cases on whether federal civil rights law protecting against discrimination in the workplace based on sex covers the LGBTQ community, and you better believe we are here, and we are ready to defend our rights, history and voices with our spirit and love. ??? I'm so deeply humbled and proud to be a part of this historic moment amongst thousands of beautiful souls, and to also join @LogoTV to provide on-the-ground coverage from their Instagram for the day! Be sure to follow both our stories for today's updates! #riseupoct8 #supremecourt #transrights #transrightsarehumanrights #misspeppermint #transvisibility

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What do you think of South Dakota’s Republican U.S. Representative Fred Deutsch, who sponsored the bill that would make it illegal for doctors in his state to perform gender-reassignment surgery on anyone under the age of 18? He actually compared it to the medical procedures done during the Holocaust!

It’s a fear tactic. Whenever anyone mentions the Holocaust, people bristle. This is clearly using their tactics to scare adults to make them think that these doctors that are seeing these transgender patients are somehow experimenting on them without regard to their humanity or their dignity or their life.

The truth is, in my personal experience and all the friends of mine who are trans and have spoken about the health care they’ve received, it’s completely different than that. These doctors are taking care of their patients, the same way they would take care of any other patient, with the patients’ health and well-being in mind.

For many of us who are trans, many people are dysphoric [acutely depressed because of dissatisfaction with their male or female body], not everyone, but many people have dysphoria, which means that they view this as something that’s extremely important. It’s their health, and it’s extremely important to them to be able to receive the care that they need properly by someone who will listen to them and who understands them.

That is not the type of care that [Deutsch] was describing. I don’t know which doctors he’s talking about, but all the doctors I’ve come in contact with are extremely methodical and well thought out and compassionate about the needs, both physically and emotionally, of their patients. This is care that 18-year-olds, people who are younger than 18, and their parents and families are seeking out together. It’s still not possible to have surgery under 18 without the guidance and permission of your parents. It’s not like children are going into the back alley and getting surgeries without their parents even knowing.

Why do you think so many conservatives are obsessed with managing other people’s bodies?

I really do think they are grasping at straws. I think it’s apparent that people who are of marginalized communities, different types of minorities, are gaining stronger voices. I believe when someone is in the majority, whether they’re conservative or it’s a racial or ethnic majority, or cultural, when you see any minority group gaining ground, gaining equality, gaining more space, you feel as though your rights are being taken away. So many of these people believe they are fighting because their way of life is being threatened.

We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s regarding school and segregation. These people were fighting like it was a war. We’ve seen it during Marriage Equality in this country. It was a war. People were fighting like their literal marriages depended on it. And that’s what we heard: “This is a threat to the sanctity of marriage. This is blah blah blah” No-one’s marriage has exploded or imploded — not because of Marriage Equality. And so, I think this is just people panicking.

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#WeAreHereWeAreLGBTQ ???????

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Moving on to your acting career, you appeared as Euphoria on Pose, in the season-two episode “Butterfly/Cocoon.” I was so moved by the scene where Euphoria recalled getting beat up by her john. You’ve spoken about being bashed when you were in high school. Have you had any similar experiences as an adult?

No. Thankfully, no. I certainly have had my fair share of trials and tribulations, but nothing like what Euphoria faced on Pose. But these stories are not foreign to me, because I’ve heard stories many friends have told me, whether they were working professionally as a sex worker or not, of instances of violence. Many are committed at the hands of people who are either romantically or sexually involved with them.

But personally, I’ve been really focused on trying to keep myself out of situations that might be risky. And sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, and I’m very grateful that I haven’t been attacked

Pose has really enlightened me about some of the internal issues trans women face. Can you relate?

As a trans woman, I think about the same issues that many other trans women think about. And that’s not necessarily to say that all trans people are the same or all think the same. I live in the same country as the character Elektra. I live in the same city, New York City. And so I face many of the same conditions and considerations.

When talking about surgery, it’s something that a lot of people think of, and it’s not necessarily because people are surgery hungry. The dysphoria that people can feel comes directly from how everyone else treats them. When you’re told over and over again, “You’re not a woman because you don’t have a vagina,” obviously, you are going to think, Well, how can I get one? What can I do? What are my options?

So, yes, I can understand that state of mind that Elektra was in. I think freedom will come from, instead of us pressuring transgender people to get surgery and making it difficult to do so, making sure everyone feels good about who they are in the body that they have and allowing them the tools they need to do what they want, without making it your business. Whatever your genitalia is, if this person says they’re a man and that’s the restroom they want to use, then they should be able to have that protection.

What has been your most meaningful acting assignment so far?

The one that resonated the most with me so far was Pose because it’s about our community, and it’s very real-life circumstances that have happened in the past. The other shows that I’ve done, like [the CBS dramedy series] God Friended Me, and I was even on an episode of [the TLC series] I Am Jazz, and I’ll be on another one coming up soon, the characters that I’ve played recently have been great because I can look to the future.

This is the type of casting that I think should happen. Every story told about transgender people doesn’t have to be one where we’re getting beat up in the alley. Even though this is very valid and realistic for many people, I’m also looking for roles that can include us without having to focus only on the trials and tribulations.

One final question. Last year, VH1 announced an upcoming fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Who do you think should win?

That’s a great question. I’m just going to pull someone out of thin air cuz I don’t know who’s in the cast. I would love to see someone like Ivy Winters or someone like that win. She’s always been a favorite. We’re very close friends. And I’d love to see them bring a trans woman on who actually wins. That would be fabulous.

Queerties voting runs now through February 21, and remember — you can vote once per day in each category. The winners will be announced live at a special reception in Los Angeles on February 25 and on Queerty the following morning. Use hashtag #Queerties to share your votes and help your favorites.

What are you waiting for? VOTE HERE.