I spent four days in Budapest last week. It’s a beautiful old town with breath-taking historical buildings and a romantic river, meandering through the heart of the city. As I soaked in the sights and smells all around me, I found myself traveling to places I had never expected.
The steaming hot lentil stew and sausage from a humble restaurant around the corner transported me into my grandma’s living room. I remembered how I would explore the depths of an iron pot with my fork to find the hidden sausage pieces, leaving only lentils for everyone else. It seemed like yesterday when Grandma would shake her head and, with a big, exasperated smile say, “Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay”; then continue to let me fish for sausage pieces because she loved me too much to be concerned with trifles.
The rich, suddenly familiar aroma of gigantic bread loafs in Hungarian bakeries reminded me of how I had once come back from summer camp with a recipe for organic bread. I had run to my grandma and asked her to help me bake it. Grandma sacrificed a big lump of her pension money for the expensive ingredients. She then dedicated an entire afternoon to our endeavor, enduring my impatience with the baking process in Zen-like serenity. Self-absorbed, with true teenage obliviousness, I behaved horribly and shouted at her when the bread didn’t turn out the way I had expected.
Throughout my stay in Budapest, bitter-sweet memories flooded me. I watched the calmly flowing Danube River and wished I could jump on a float and be transported upstream towards a past horizon, into the arms of Grandma. One more, long hug, enveloping her like a warm, soft but firm cashmere blanket, letting her know from my adult self just how deeply grateful I was and always will be for her unconditional love.
Traveling is never just a search for new horizons. Inevitably, our sensory impressions along the way trigger memories and, while past and present merge in our minds, our sensual experiences become the true landmarks.
If you have a moment, take a look at this list of transgender individuals who have been murdered so far in 2015.
How can this gruesome list still be so long in our day and age? I am not much of a politician, and never will be, but I hope with all my heart to be able to make a difference in the years to come. As a human being, a fellow transgender individual, and as someone who loves life and the diversity on our planet with all his heart.
Here we go… final typeset for ‘Paralian’ is done. I’ll spend the next days going through it all once more to look for any remaining typos and grammatical errors. Right after that we’ll be ready to shoot for the stars and the production of my memoirs will begin in earnest!
Here I am, working as a hyperbaric chamber operator in the Maldives. Running the chamber from the outside was great. I loved being able to help and make a real difference.
Tending to the patient on the inside, however, wasn’t so groovy. Being stuck together in a space smaller than a broom closet for up to six hours, both of us drinking water to avoid further decompression illness, my bladder felt like a volcano close to eruption. There was no privacy. The only way to relieve ourselves was to do it right in front of each other.
I got more desperate with every minute but never peed in the chamber. Considering the struggling patient was already scared to death, worried to end up paralysed for the rest of his life, and counting on me to literally hold his hand throughout the ordeal, taking off my pants in front of him, revealing that I don’t have a penis, felt like a horribly unprofessional move to make.
Over the years of working on Kuredu, I went into that chamber as a tender several times. Call me stupid or stubborn. I just couldn’t give in and in the end it all came down to will power. I didn’t want to be a liability, didn’t want to ask my boss for special treatment. I promised myself I’d make it work and keep my cool in there. And I did. Every time. While gritting my teeth, every muscle in my bladder screaming for rescue, I made sure to follow all protocols and looked after my patients during every minute of our pressure ride in the rumbling tin can.
Most days being trans isn’t a big deal. I go about my business just like everyone else, dealing with all the usual problems and insecurities of everyday life.
Then, there are other days…
The media coverage you see every now and then about transgender people being badly harassed or even beaten to death aren’t just myths. Sadly, these things are still happening. Consequently, depending on where I lived and traveled, I exercised a healthy level of caution.
For example, in most Asian countries or in Mexico I’d never get very drunk or join my buddies to smoke a joint. As they danced in the street or relaxed on a park bench, blowing smoke rings and stretching their legs, drawing attention to themselves, I excused myself and instead enjoyed the sunset on a quiet beach or went home to my cats and books. I imagined them getting stopped by the police and body-searched on a street corner. Most likely, after a little bribe they would be sent on their way, a bit shaken perhaps, but fine. If those same policemen would search me and grab between my legs, they’d come to feel there to be even less in those pants than they expected. From that moment on, anything could happen. Human beings often react violent towards what they don’t know. It scares them and so they lash out. Having a “freak” in their grasp might just lead the over-anxious policemen to drag me into a deserted alley where they’ll have a little “fun”.
Traveling extensively through the infamous US “bible-belt”, I – speed-obsessed German driver – always drove as slow as a half-blind granddad on tranquilizers. I simply heard one too many stories of trans people dying by the hands of uninformed hillbillies in those parts.
While living in Macau, after an evening in a bar, I’d drive home very carefully. Roadblocks were a frequent occurrence and expats were always asked to do a Breathalyzer test. Macau has a zero-tolerance law for driving under the influence. If you get caught, you spend a night in jail. So I learned about all the little back streets I could use to avoid the police. Nevertheless, I’d never drive home hammered but rather stopped after my third glass of beer. Then, mindful of still being over the limit, I’d munch on some mints before getting into my car. Being left to my own devices overnight in a Macanese jail, maybe being strip-searched surrounded by Chinese policemen, just didn’t sound promising.
Thankfully, it’s a big planet with many great places to travel to and… there are many inspiring, kind people to meet. And, while I am aware of the bigger picture, I’ll never let it stop me from enjoying life and exploring as many corners of our world as I can.
We’ve taken a major leap forward: 1st press coverage ever for my book ‘Paralian’ in one of Britains largest free newspapers ‘Metro’. Click on the link below to access the huge article journalist Deni Kirkova wrote about my story.