Live show tonight at 10:30 PM

Heather and I will be having a live show on BlogTV tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern time. If you haven’t been to BlogTV before, it’s essentially a chatroom attached to a live stream where people can talk with us in real time. We get tipsy, play with trolls, and generally have a lot of fun for a few hours. There tend to be around 500 to 600 viewers at the peak of things. If you want to stop by, just go to http://www.blogtv.com/people/zjemptv tonight. It’ll probably be pretty awesome!

Do you have a gender identity? Want to find out?

“How can you know that your gender doesn’t align with your body? What does it feel like to have a gender, anyway?” These are common questions from cis people who want to understand what it’s like to be trans. They want to know how we can be so aware of our gender that this internal sense of identity overcomes what our anatomy would seemingly dictate.

One of the usual replies is to turn this around and ask them how they know that they’re the gender they identify as. This is often explained through a thought experiment: we ask them to imagine how they would feel if they unexpectedly woke up in a body of another physical sex. Wouldn’t they still know that they were their true gender? And wouldn’t they be uncomfortable with a body that doesn’t match their identity?

While this argument may be elegant in its simplicity, it’s not always effective. Many cis people do realize that in this hypothetical situation, they would still have an awareness of their gender and its mismatch with their new body. But others don’t really think it would be a problem. They sometimes reply that they would be okay with this surprising turn of events, and that they wouldn’t have an issue with being another sex. This can make it difficult for them to understand why trans people can’t just accept having a body of any particular sex.

It’s sometimes tempting to tell them their answer is simply wrong, and that they’re lacking in the necessary experiences needed to understand our situation. It can be difficult to have an explicit awareness of your internal gender when it’s never bumped up against the confines of your body and you don’t feel constrained by the social roles attached to it. This is often compared to how people don’t pay much attention to the feeling of the clothes they’re wearing, unless their clothes are uncomfortable and poorly fitting.

That’s the standard response. But it’s also possible that these people may just have genuinely different experiences and understandings of what gender means to them. Ozy Frantz recently theorized that while some people, cis and trans, have a strong sense of their gender, it could be that others actually don’t feel like they have much of a gender at all.

This wouldn’t be unheard of. It’s a common misconception that trans people all share the experience of knowing our true gender from a very young age, and that it’s as unambiguous as a flashing sign that says “male”, “female”, “non-binary”, and so on. But it’s not like that for everyone. Plenty of trans people never had any awareness of gender incongruence in our youth, and it can take us a long time to figure out who we are and what we want to do with ourselves. Even among those of us who do decide to transtition, we might not always feel that life as the wrong gender is totally unbearable, and this can draw out the process of self-discovery even further. For some people, their gender might be clear as day, but for others, it’s a long road to being comfortably certain that our identities have more to say about who we are than our bodies do.

So I wouldn’t really be surprised that some cis people also don’t have a clear sense of gender identity. Just as I didn’t really mind being a man until I started to realize that there was a better option, they might not object to having a body of any sex. But while this could explain why they find it difficult to relate to those of us who are aware of our gender, it can still be frustrating when they question our own need to transition based solely on their own experiences, especially because there’s no way of testing how they really feel about the relationship between their gender and their body. We can go through any number of thought experiments, but there’s no concrete evidence we can gather to clarify the situation, and we end up at an impasse of subjective experience versus subjective experience.

Or not.

The people who ask these questions want to understand what it’s like to be trans. The matter of what it’s like to feel that you have a gender is merely a proxy for this, and there may be ways to simulate the experience of being trans more directly. For example, people who choose to transition often exhibit a distinctly different pattern of reactions to sex hormones. Before cross-sex hormone therapy, while we’re still experiencing the effects of the hormones that are native to our physical sex, many of us report feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, and general discomfort. Of course, much of this could be attributed to gender dysphoria itself, as well as its comorbidity with other mental health conditions, and the prevalence of negative attitudes and discrimination toward trans people in society. But after starting HRT, trans people often notice that this discomfort becomes less severe. This likely has something to do with the satisfaction of feeling our bodies take a more comfortable form, but even before the physical changes appear, many people experience a sense of relief and calmness. They simply feel better.

This stands in contrast to how cis people respond to the presence or absence of certain sex hormones. Cis men with low testosterone tend to experience anxiety, depression and fatigue, which can be relieved by testosterone supplementation. Cis women experiencing menopause suffer from various symptoms tied to a reduction in female sex hormones, and those symptoms can be alleviated by replacing those same hormones. However, despite sharing the same physical sex as cis men, trans women tend to do much better when their testosterone is suppressed by anti-androgens and replaced with estrogen. Trans men likewise respond well to testosterone, even as it suppresses the effects of estrogen.

Because of these clear differences between how cis and trans people tend to experience the effects of sex hormones, HRT is often administered to trans people on a trial basis to see how they respond to it. While not all trans people use HRT, it is a very common treatment, and it’s part of the established standards of care. If they find it helps them, they can continue it indefinitely, and if it’s not right for them, they can stop taking it. Many people don’t know this, but HRT doesn’t have to be a permanent, all-or-nothing decision. There is room for experimentation here.

So, what could this mean for cis people who don’t believe the sex of their body is important to them? Is there a way for them to put their money where their mouth is? Might we be able to show them, in some small but concretely biological fashion, what it’s like to be trans? Ozy noted that we can’t really go around covertly giving cis men HRT for trans women to see how it affects them. But I think we could circumvent most of these concerns if they agree to it first.

I must point out that I’m in no position to give medical advice, and nobody should start taking any kind of medication like this without the appropriate supervision and a full awareness of its possible risks. That being said, it would be surprisingly easy for cis guys to obtain HRT for trans women without once seeing a doctor. While testosterone is a controlled substance, limiting the options for trans men or curious cis women, estrogen and anti-androgens are not. They’re not over-the-counter, but they can be purchased from overseas at a rather low cost. There are even places where you can order the necessary blood tests to ensure that it’s safe for you.

Theoretically, it should be entirely possible for cis men to experience what it’s like to have a poorly-fitting set of sex hormones, without permanent effects. If they were to stop after perhaps a month, any physical changes should be minimal and fully reversible. There would likely be hardly any breast growth, and this would recede after discontinuation. Any erectile dysfunction or reduction in fertility would probably be temporary. Once their testosterone is no longer suppressed, everything should go back to normal, which is why it’s considered relatively safe for gender-questioning people to try out HRT for a short time without having to commit to it.

But while any serious physical changes are unlikely to occur within a month, mood changes are another story. As illustrated by cis women and trans men with their own monthly hormonal cycles, the mental and emotional effects of sex hormones can manifest on a scale of days. The self-reporting of their subjective experiences would obviously be compromised by a lack of blinding and other biases, but no more severely than the self-reported experiences of trans women on HRT. Without a randomized controlled trial to study the effects of cross-sex hormone therapy on cis people who either do or don’t feel a strong sense of gender identity, this may be the best we can do for now.

Again, I certainly can’t recommend that anyone should actually try this. But if they wanted to, the option is always there, and the results could be interesting. This isn’t just for the sake of proving a point – I’m in no position to predict how any one person would respond to cross-sex hormones, especially when they don’t even feel like they have a gender. For all I know, they might like it. But this is something they would have to find out for themselves – just like I did.

Live show tonight at 10:30

Heather and I will be hosting a live BlogTV show tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern time. If you haven’t been to BlogTV before, it’s basically a live stream with a chatroom attached where people can talk with us. It’s usually a lot of wild, drunken fun, full of vigorous discussion of the usual awesome topics you’ve come to expect. If you’d like to stop by, you can come to http://www.blogtv.com/people/zjemptv tonight at 10:30. See you there!

Update: The show is now concluded. Thanks to everyone who came by!

Why I outed “ex-gay” Matt Moore

When I was tipped off that an “ex-gay” writer for the Christian Post may have been using a dating site for gay men, I had two options. I could keep quiet and let others handle this, or I could do something about it. And when I saw that no one else was going to address this, I made the decision to go public about it. I first wrote about the simple facts of the matter: that someone on Grindr was using the name, age, location, and photo of Matt Moore, a self-declared former homosexual. I then contacted Moore himself, who personally confirmed to me that this was his own profile, and I published this admission as well.

Some people have argued that outing Moore was an invasion of his privacy and an unnecessary exposure of his personal life. Others say this is little more than shaming someone who’s obviously struggling with his sexuality and his faith. Some have even claimed that since Moore regards his orientation as an addiction he’s fighting, much like that of an alcoholic or drug user, exposing him publicly is tantamount to criticizing someone for “falling off the wagon”.

I don’t see any of these critiques as legitimate. Matt Moore has already made what would otherwise be his private life into the cornerstone of a very public argument. As recently as last week, Moore was writing about the “real power” of his testimony of “leaving homosexuality”. Moore stated:

…what I believe speaks volumes of the grace of God and the power of the gospel, is that year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day – I continue to fight the fight of faith. I have sought after Jesus and I have turned from sin daily.

This is not merely a personal stance of his. It is a message to a wider audience. In his earlier document, “A Biblical Perspective on Homosexuality”, Moore wrote:

The Spirit of Christ transforms the persons life – day by day, making them more and more into the likeness of their Lord – and ridding them more and more of the corruption that the presence of sin has caused in their hearts.

He’s also targeted children with his call to “conversion”. In a post titled “Dear Gay Kid”, he describes his life as an openly gay man as being full of meaningless and unsafe sex, and devoid of healthy and fulfilling relationships. He claims this “lifestyle” is “driven by sex and indulgence, not by ‘love’”. And he tells queer youth that they need God to “rescue” them from “eternal condemnation”.

So, how has that been working out for him? This is a relevant question. Of course, there are already plenty of other angles from which to attack the Christian “ex-gay” movement. Its metaphysics are just as unproven as those of any other religion, its interpretation of the Bible is just one among very many, and its notion that celibacy is the proper response to homosexuality contradicts both scientific evidence and human decency. These are all completely valid points, and even if Matt Moore did remain entirely abstinent, this would in no way support these ex-gay beliefs. But when he and the Christian Post have turned his personal testimony into a promotion for this movement, it’s equally crucial that we examine just how true that testimony really is.

Moore has set out to engage in a discussion about the morality of homosexuality, the desires of God, and the possibility of personal sexual change through faith. He has cited his own experience in support of the notion that devout Christianity can help people diminish and resist their homosexual inclinations. But if he has any interest whatsoever in an open and honest discussion about that, why should he be the only one who’s privy to the fact that this religious program has failed even himself? This fundamentally compromises the value of his testimony as evidence.

Why should the rest of us have to remain unaware of this, while he continues to deceive people about whether religion can change their sexuality? Not only is it hypocritical to present oneself as a model of sexual reformation when one is clearly anything but reformed. Such a substantial omission is just unfair to all the participants in a public debate such as this. He knows something we don’t, and he’s withholding information that impacts the soundness of his argument.

Revealing this vital information is anything but an act of shaming, and this is not some malicious and arbitrary outing of a random person who was simply going about their business. Plenty of people go looking for partners all the time, and this is certainly not deserving of shame. It’s not a problem that a gay man happened to be seeking the company of other gay men. Indeed, I hope he enjoyed himself. But his public complicity in the ex-gay movement is what makes this publicly relevant, and that complicity is what’s truly deserving of shame here.

I also don’t care if Moore regards his own inclinations as an “addiction”. I might consider it unhealthy and maladjusted of him, but that’s his business. However, it’s no longer just his business when he proposes that the rest of us ought to regard ourselves similarly. And we are in no way obligated to humor a twisted belief that treats our own loving relationships as no more than a relapse into an “addiction” that we would have resisted, if only we had been stronger.

This is about more than just Moore. There are people who are going to read his story, and it will lead them to believe that their gay son or daughter could become straight if they were just willing to try hard enough. By keeping up this charade, he continued to promote the idea that prayer was an effective remedy to homosexuality. Now, people can see for themselves just how effective this really is. And the sooner people understand that sexual orientation can’t be forcibly changed by this or any other means, the sooner they’ll stop trying to force such ineffective change on themselves and others.

Ex-gay Matt Moore confirms he was on Grindr

After my last post about a profile on Grindr using ex-gay writer Matt Moore’s photo and personal details, I contacted Moore, who responded as follows:

The grindr profile was really mine. I’ve been on it on and off for the last couple of weeks.

Like I told the guy who sent you the picture, I am wrong in having been on grindr. I haven’t changed my views on homosexuality, the bible, etc.

Creating a grindr profile and talking to guys on it was major disobedience on my part….disobedience to Christ. Disobedience to a loving and gracious God. Thankfully, I believe that He forgives me for this disobedience. I believe the blood of Christ covers this disobedience. And I won’t be on grindr again….ever.

The pastor of my church and the church body I am a part of were informed about me being on grindr (I told them) before all of this came out, publicly.

While I’m glad that Moore chose to own up to this rather than continuing to make excuses as others have done in the same situation, it’s disappointing that he ever put himself in such a deceptive and hypocritical situation in the first place. So-called “ex-gays” publicly promote the notion that LGBT people are sinning against a god who will torture them eternally if they fail to suppress and deny their true nature. But privately, they often seem to have trouble practicing what they preach. They proudly tell queer youth that their lives will be cursed with misery, illness, violence, addiction, a lack of meaningful human connection and an untimely death, unless they follow a faith that demands nothing less than the utter negation of who they are. Then they turn around and happily jump right back into a life that supposedly carries these most terrible consequences. And isn’t it wonderful how easily they can choose to forgive themselves for all this?

It’s faith-based nonsense. It’s reality-denying foolishness. It’s harmful, hateful, ignorant, irresponsible bullshit that puts shame on innocent people. And it’s all for nothing. Don’t fall for “ex-gays” – they don’t even believe what they’re selling.

I’d like to thank my readers who send me tips about these goings-on. You’re the ones who make this all possible.

Someone is using a picture of ex-gay Matt Moore on Grindr (updated)

Matt Moore, a blogger at the Christian Post, has written extensively about his experiences with homosexuality and his ultimate decision to leave that “lifestyle”. In “My Story: Homosexuality, Drunkenness, Grace and Redemption”, Moore states:

God commands me to repent of my sin not because He’s an evil dictator, but because He’s a loving Father who knows that my sin will destroy me in multiple ways. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and ultimately eternally. If you don’t think homosexuality hurts anybody, just check out the statistics. Check out the number of murders among the gay community. Check out the addiction rate among homosexuals. Check out the average lifespan of a male homosexual. Seriously, just google it. You can see for yourself. …

I can, in truth, firmly say that the longer I keep turning away from my homosexual desires, the less in strength they become. My homosexual feelings have definitely diminished since the night God started drawing me to Himself in September of 2010. Are they completely gone? No, they are not. Will they ever be completely gone? I do not know. …

The main thing that I struggle with the most still is pornography, but even that is changing. I don’t get the same satisfaction that I used to from it. My stomach actually turns at the site of homosexual “relations.” But I also know that if I continue to watch it and harden my heart toward the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I will start to see things again through the eyes of my sinful flesh rather than through the eyes of the Spirit.

In “What Does God Expect From Gay People?”, he writes:

Although I have same sex thoughts on a daily basis, I do not, in any way, feel compelled to ever return to a lifestyle of homosexuality. God has put His Spirit within me and created in me a new heart that views every aspect of life differently because I am finally able to see the world through life-seeking, living eyes of faith rather than the sin-stained, darkened eyes of death that I had always viewed the world through before knowing Christ. …

There are multitudes of people who have “tried out” Christianity for a while, but after a time they turn away from it and resume the gay lifestyle. The secular world uses these cases all the time to point out the supposed inefficacy and ignorance of the Christian faith. But our faith is not inefficient, the real problem is that these once professing Christians never had genuine faith in Jesus Christ; they had faith in a systematic program that they hoped would rid them of homosexual desires. When their desires and temptations did not magically disappear as they assumed would happen, they packed their bags and left the whole idea of Jesus behind.

In August of last year, Moore said:

Yes, their attraction toward the same sex is unnatural and some of them may be extremely promiscuous (as are some heterosexual people) and being indulgent in sexual immorality— but their desire for love and affection is still very real and very much a driving force in their life.

The Lord has used my own thoughts and desires recently to show this to me. There have been instances lately where I have started to feel an emotional pull toward someone of the same sex. Before these recent experiences, I had forgotten that I had ever felt that way before… emotionally drawn toward men (I’m superb at blocking out emotions— so it makes sense to me I would naturally forget certain ones I’ve experienced in the past), but recently, for whatever reasons, I have had an awakening in the cravings of my heart. Not for sex, not for mere physical interaction— but for love and affection.

Recently, one of my readers wrote in to alert me that someone seems to be using a picture of Matt Moore on Grindr, a mobile app primarily used by gay and bi men to find sexual partners. These are their screenshots of the profile using his photo:

Screenshot of Grindr profile using Matt Moore's photo

Screenshot of Grindr profile using Matt Moore's photo

The photo on the Grindr profile is identical to the one used on Matt Moore’s Twitter account, @MattMoore89:

Twitter profile of Matt Moore (MattMoore89)

Not only has the Grindr profile used Moore’s name, but also his age (he was born in 1989) and even the fact that he recently moved to New Orleans. Obviously, someone is trying to make it look like Matt Moore, a noted former homosexual, is now participating in a gay dating network. Whoever is responsible for this should be ashamed of themselves for trying to besmirch the name of a devout, morally upright follower of Christ who has prevailed over his sinful temptations.

Update: Please see my latest post, where Matt Moore confirms this is his Grindr profile.