Matthew Navarre Moore and his mom, Joydianne, share his story
By Mary Reeves | Photos by H.N. James
Matt Moore opened the door to his home, a handsome, quiet, confident young man of 17. Curly black hair, frank blue eyes, a few day’s growth of soft beard on his jaw, he seemed just like any other teenager at his school in Clarksville. So, who is he, really?
“I’m a musician and an aspiring actor,” he said. “I’m the drum major for the marching band.”
He went on to explain that he can play 12 different instruments, from bassoon to bass, and that he taught himself how to play each one. What he didn’t say, as he described himself, is that up until three or four years ago, his name was Evelyn.
“Transgender is not my title,” Matt said. “It’s what I am, but not who I am. I’m more than just that.”
Growing up, he had always felt something was out of sync. He preferred exploring caves and hiking with his German shepherd to playing with dolls. Jeans were comfortable, dresses were not.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” his mother, Joydianne Damiani, said with a laugh. “I look back — putting a dress on the child was like pulling teeth.”
Even when Matt was younger, she said, his preferences were clear. On trips to a clothing store, the child known as Evelyn gravitated immediately to the boys’ section, ignoring the girls’ completely.
By the time he was 11 or 12, Matt knew he was different from his friends.
“I came out in stages,” he said. “First, I came out as bi. Then, I came out as a lesbian. Then, I was back to bi.”
Even then, he was uncomfortable with labels — none of them seemed to fit who he was or how he felt. It was on a summer vacation to his grandmother’s in Minnesota when he had his epiphany. Surfing the internet, looking for answers to questions he didn’t really know how to express, he found Skylar Kergil. Kergil documented his transition from woman to man (FTM) in a series of YouTube videos, beginning in his senior year of high school, 2009.
“I knew this was everything I wanted to be,” said Matt. “In one night, I watched some 200 videos of this man transitioning to where I wanted to be.”
He called his mother — at 2 a.m. her time — to tell her what he’d discovered about himself.
“She said ‘OK, we can talk about it later. You get back to bed,” Matt said.
Joydianne admitted the late hour was not the only reason she delayed the talk. She wanted Matt to think it over carefully and make sure it wasn’t just a phase — and she had to get used to the idea herself. Matt was her fourth child and, as Evelyn, her only daughter.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I think I know what’s wrong with me,’” she said. “That’s kind of funny. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my child.”
Already the mother of a gay son, Joydianne knew Matt was in for some tough times mentally, physically and socially — and she did what she could to prepare him. Therapy was the first step — not to talk him out of his decision, but to make sure that he was sure it was the right decision and not a phase or following a trend. Then came the name change, which was a nightmare in and of itself. Tennessee has no legal form for a minor to change his name. Once they managed to come up with a form, Evelyn became Matthew Navarre Moore. The name, he said, was a gift to his mother.
“When my mom was pregnant, she had no idea if I was a girl or a boy,” said Matt. “Matthew Navarre was the name she picked out. I told myself I did take away part of what was very important to my mom, a daughter, but I could let my mom have (the name).”
“Plus,” Matt grinned, “Navarre’s a pretty cool stage name, you know?”
Therapy continued along with the transition process, now including hormone therapy. Matt takes testosterone shots (which he can now give to himself) and another shot to block estrogen. He hopes to have a hysterectomy once he turns 18 so he will no longer need the blocker.
He had his FTM Top surgery last year and had to go through counseling several times before doctors would agree to the procedure.
“They wanted to make sure I was ready for this and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve been ready,’” Matt said. “That was painful. I had to sleep on my back for months.”
Other painful aspects of transitioning that both Matt and Joydianne feared never really materialized — going to school.
“Actually, it was really easy,” Matt said. “It wasn’t the school that was difficult. It was the kids at school. But even then, there was no direct bullying. I lost friends. Eventually, these people just faded out of my life because they wouldn’t use my name or the right pronouns.”
Even the dreaded transgender bathroom issue did not have much of an impact on his life. For a while, Matt was asked to use the faculty restroom, but Matt felt that it “outed” him to the teachers in a way that made him uncomfortable and uneasy. A new principal cleared the path and he was able to use the men’s restroom like the other boys at school.
The worst reaction he got was on a band trip when he asked the mother of another band member where the restrooms were.
“She told me, ‘If you’ve really got a ‘thing,’ why don’t you just go in the bushes?’” Matt said. “Seriously. Would she have said that to another boy?”
In a few months, Matt is heading to Los Angeles to meet with his agent. Once he graduates high school and is free to take roles, he looks forward to moving out there permanently, but he has no intentions of limiting himself to transgender roles.
“I tell them ‘I’m trans and I’m open to doing trans roles, but if all you’re going to do is put me in trans roles, what’s the point of acting?’” Matt said.
The fact that he’s had it relatively easy during his transition is not lost — or wasted — on Matthew. Even though his bathroom rights were quickly resolved, he and Joydianne didn’t hesitate to come down to Nashville when the bathroom bill was being debated, just so he could show his support. He said he’s received a lot of support and help in his transition — and he wants to be able to do the same for other students facing the same trials. He talks to other transgender students at school offering advice or just a sympathetic ear.
“I tell them don’t spend so much time trying to find yourself,” he said. “Just be yourself. Enjoy yourself and find your passions.”