“To see all of my hard work pay off, that’s the biggest prize ever.”
Kylie Moran found her voice through playwriting, and now she will not be silenced.The 19 year-old alumna of the In-School Playwriting Program battled bullying through much of her life, and struggled to find acceptance as she came out of the closet. But thanks to the power of the arts, Kylie found a strong community that supported her through her journey. Now, as a resident and intern at LGBT organization Casa Ruby, she can finally say what she’s always wanted to say: “I’m here now. You can’t keep shoving me in [a box].”
Kylie’s story began as a young girl growing up in Southeast DC. “I always knew that I was different,” she says. “I wasn’t like other black kids, or even for that matter other girls.” Uncomfortable with her gender identity and drawn to rock music, Kylie remembers “being bullied for trying to be too white,” and getting targeted for her alternative lifestyle.
She began writing poetry, then at age 12 started work on her first play, The Gay Prince. One night, while she was writing the play in a park, a group of kids stole her bag and ran off with it. “I had my play on my clipboard,” she remembers, “and somebody took my pen and shredded my pages. It made me so emotional: I had worked so hard on it, it was almost done...it’s very traumatizing.” Already shy and reserved, Kylie began to retreat into herself—and never returned to The Gay Prince again.
In middle school, however, things started to turn around. Kylie discovered SMYAL, a mentorship and advocacy program for LGBTQ youth in the DC area, and got deeply involved with their arts ensemble. There, she met for the first time a community of black LGBTQ youth, and “felt a whirlwind of acceptance. And that’s the one thing I’ve been looking for my entire life: acceptance.”
Through SMYAL’s arts ensemble, Kylie also met YPT Artistic Director Nicole Jost, who was assisting with their playwriting program. A few years later, while at Ballou High School, Kylie took part in the In-School Playwriting Program, and her artistic journey began anew. “The play I wrote is called It’s a Gaaay World Out There!, [and it] was just my interpretation of what it’s like to come out,” she says. The play ‘flips the script’ on sex and gender stereotypes, asking, “What would the world be like if...it was the straight people that were oppressed?”
Alternately funny, dramatic and heartbreaking, It’s a Gaaay World Out There! was selected for YPT’s 2013 New Play Festival. In dramaturgy, Kylie was reunited with Nicole for what she describes as “a dream collaboration. ...I love Nicole,” she says. “It is no secret: I love her.” Nicole helped Kylie finish her play, and on April 23, 2013, she proudly took the stage to introduce her work. Her mom, who was often too busy at work to come to Kylie’s performances, took time off to be in the audience. “I was really happy about it,” Kylie remembers; “I could not tell you how happy I was.”
Since that day, the road has not always been easy for Kylie Moran. She left Ballou the following year and enrolled in Job Corps, to learn administrative skills and get her high school diploma. She spent time in psychiatric institutions, and eventually left home to live with a friend’s family. She is now in a transitional living program at Casa Ruby in Columbia Heights. “I like it there,” she says. “the house is nice, it’s in a decent area...it’s just a really safe space, you know?” After only a few weeks in the house, Kylie was awarded an internship, where she is thriving and gaining valuable experience for her next career.
As Kylie transitions into adulthood, she is more comfortable in her own skin than ever before. Much of that has to do with her acceptance of her black identity, which she credits to the Silence Is Violence event that YPT held in January. “I’ve never felt more proud to be black before I went to that event. That was a demon I’d been battling for years.”
With her pen in her hand and her eyes to the future, Kylie knows that there is no demon she can’t defeat. “I’m proud of myself,” she says. “Being looked up to, it’s a great feeling. And all I had to do was open my mouth.”