Respect and Understanding

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Just yesterday, I talked with another transgender man from Zurich, Switzerland. He asked me: Do you seek out other transgender people wherever you travel? And he proceeded to explain to me how much is wrong with the world; how we trans people are not understood as who we are; how society needs to change and embrace us; and how disrespectful it is to call us transsexuals…
I was reminded from the bottom of my heart why I usually avoid these encounters. I avoid them as I would avoid any other form of fundamentalism. It is unhealthy, judgmental, and paradoxically disrespectful by its very nature.

I love people and I love life. I love human beings in all shapes, colors, and forms. I love them for their diversity, their passion, their goodness, their stubbornness and their fallibility.
Why should I consciously seek out other trans people during my travels? Why should I limit myself to such an extent? Why should I not just walk the streets and open my heart towards any encounter? I have been blessed by meeting so many unforgettable characters already. Even the people in this picture, representing ‘only’ a four-year period of my life, are as diverse as they come. Crossing paths with them has changed my life forever – for the better. If you are going bald, will you henceforth travel the world only looking for bald people?

Yes, there is a lot wrong with the world, and there always will be. Human nature is what it is. But we can choose to look at the bad and see a threat in everything – or, we can choose to see the good and make the best of everything.

It is hard for human beings to understand what they do not know. How can someone who hasn’t been born in the wrong body ever really know what it feels like to be stranded in your own skin, like a traveler in an airport without a valid passport? How could I be so arrogant to ask them to change their entire world view just for me? How could I judge them? We all have very different journeys and are battling our own challenges and demons.
I have dozens of examples of what is hard to comprehend from my perspective. For example, I have trouble understanding strictly religious people. Or I don’t understand people who spend their entire lives in the same village. But it is their life, not mine. They have a right to their own freedom of mind. Who am I to say what is right or wrong for them? I don’t think anyone helps their cause by being judgmental or wagging a finger. We don’t help matters by taking ourselves too seriously.
What truly matters is respect and to let each other live the lives we have chosen to live. We don’t have to understand everything, and we can’t expect others to do so. We can only try, to the best of our abilities, to embrace each other the way we are.

Addressing the matter of being called transsexual: it doesn’t really mean much of anything. It is simply a way for people to try and give a label to someone like me, who was born in the wrong body – a body I needed to thoroughly change to become who I truly am. “Trans” essentially means to go from one thing or place to somewhere else. It can mean across, beyond, or changing thoroughly. “Sex” in English is simply another word for gender.

Problems seemingly horrendous for any of us, might not be as big as they seem. Many people are suffering, trying to fit in, trying to find themselves. We shouldn’t blow things out of proportion. I was being told, transgender people can get attacked or lose their jobs for being different. Yes, they can. But someone might also get attacked for being a foreigner, a christian, a hippie, a homosexual, a soccer fan rooting for the ‘wrong’ club, or maybe for simply being a student, wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes to school. I once got beaten up just because I asked some young men to be quiet during a movie. They had no idea I was a trans man.
People all around our planet lose jobs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are replaced by someone younger and cheaper, or maybe they don’t even get the job because someone doesn’t like their skin color or personality. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. We all face obstacles. I will not seek blame in others but take responsibility for my own actions. And if people tell me it can’t be done, I will try again and again until I find a way.
You don’t have to be transgender to find a multitude of problems in your life. And even if you are trans, 95% of your troubles will most likely be caused by things unrelated to your gender history.
Important is to remember our humanity. And to forgive each other for our shortcomings. Life is supposed to be hard. It is, in part, what makes our existence so beautiful and desirable.

I will keep doing what I have always been doing. I will try not to judge others. I will reach out and let myself be fascinated by the lives of my peers – and in my heart this term includes literally everyone. I will accept other humans as the beautiful people they are.
I will keep checking myself, for we all harbor prejudices, and sometimes those of us on the fringe of society are more prejudiced then your average Joe. I will keep positive and believe in the good of people – because I see evidence of it all around me every single day.

If we want respect, we have to first give respect to others. Some people believe, the only way to change the world is to make yourself heard, to force the issue. Sometimes, maybe, it can be necessary. But overall my life experience has shown me a far better way: life your life well, kind and compassionate and lead by example. You will touch the lives of those around you, creating a ripple in the ocean called humanity… and who knows where we will go from there… Anything is possible.

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