Monthly Archives: August 2017

Moments of Connecting

sam and me

When traveling with my dad through Europe, he used to point out all the historical buildings and sites. He was fascinated with the styles and epochs and would lecture mom and me for hours, pointing at the houses we passed, explaining the structure and peculiarities of each and how we could tell in which century or decade it was built. While buildings came alive for Dad, they were just dead, meaningless structures to me. I remember tuning him out and gazing at trees, bushes, birds, clouds, and butterflies instead.

When I began traveling by myself, I stayed the same. Predominantly focused on nature, on characters. I still am. Whenever there are encounters with human beings, flora, and fauna, I am fascinated. Even more so, I feel happy and glad to be alive. Years later, what I remember most, what sustains me, are these moments of connecting.

Like here, I can’t even remember where exactly this was. Just that it was somewhere in Illinois, in 2004. I was there for a friend’s wedding, but I can’t remember the names of the towns the Greyhound bus took us through. Even the actual wedding with its glitter and room full of strangers is but a faint, misty image in my mind. What I remember most from this trip is meeting this little guy. His name was Sam. He was the bride’s nephew and he was fascinated with horses. However, he hadn’t had much chance of getting close to them in the town where he lived. I ended up staying a couple of hours at this paddock with Sam, teaching him how to gently wait for the horses to come closer. How to not spook them with fast movements, and how to soothingly talk with them, letting them get used to his presence. Then we stole some apples and fed them to the delighted animals. Sam’s sparkling eyes made my weekend. I can still hear the pounding of hooves, feel the dust on my tongue as the small team of five horses thundered past us, and smell their strong scent as they slowly approached us in the end. Alert. Majestic. Powerful.

Whatever

whatever

I continue to be amused as well as annoyed (and sometimes a bit alarmed) by the endless gender bathroom debates. I am female-to-male transgender. When I was four years old, I knew I was a boy. Being born in a girl’s body, my parents kept sending me to bathrooms assigned to female gender even though I seemed to be more like a boy from an early age. Funnily enough, I kept getting thrown out of women’s bathrooms because the outraged ladies assumed I was a little man who had wandered into their domain either by accident or on purpose.

From my late teens onwards, and after I decided to go for hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries to fully become the real me, I always went to where I felt I truly belonged when I needed to relieve myself: to the male bathroom. I have done so ever since.

I transitioned 25 years ago… so I’ve gone to the men’s bathroom in public places hundreds of thousands of times as you can imagine. I’ve shared this space with many other men who were never the wiser that right next to them was someone who had initially been born in a wrongly-gendered body. I’m sure they’re all still fine. None of them have been traumatized. None of them were infected with a trans virus. We crossed each others’ paths. Busy with our lives. Lost in our thoughts. A moment in time.

We’re all human. I am a guy much like many others. Even a bit boring at times. And I don’t need a gender neutral bathroom. To be honest, special bathrooms for people like me remind me too much of “only white”-“only black”-water fountains. We human beings do not need any more segregation. What we need is inclusion, diversity, open-mindedness, and compassion.

So I love this bathroom sign. Exactly. Let’s think centaurs, mermaids, unicorns, aliens, and homo sapiens. Just wash your hands. It doesn’t matter who you are. Be free. Be authentic. Don’t “present”. Be.

I am who I am. I don’t “present” as anything. I strongly disapprove of this expression being so widely used lately by the media and even by trans individuals themselves. No one on this planet “presents” as someone or something. The term in itself already insinuates someone being more of an idea or a concept, instead of a human being. It suggests he, she, or they are making a choice instead of dealing with the cards they have been given, trying to make the best of who they were born to be. Thinking of people “presenting” as their gender dehumanizes them, suggests they need to fulfil certain stereotypes to belong and be accepted.

We don’t need to fulfil anything. Stereotypes are highly overrated. None of us need to tick any boxes to belong or pacify most societies’ stubborn holding-on to the gender binary and other outdated constructs.

I am Liam. You won’t even recognise me as transgender when you meet me. And even if you do, so what. I am simply one more individual in the vast rainbow of humanity, trying as best I can to navigate my existence, be kind, responsible, happy, and fulfilled.

Mondays are Writing Days

liam at breakfast

Mondays are my writing days. I am slowly getting into it today, cuddling Nacho, while Pushka is contentedly snoring on the chair behind me. All the while, little Fellini is sitting on top of the fridge, fixing me with his most intense, unblinking stare, no doubt wondering when the silly bi-ped is going to stop fiddling with the rectangular, glowing box so he can have a second round of breakfast.
I am tackling the sixth chapter of Word of Mouse today. As I am developing the book, I am wondering where it’ll go. But then, the next instant, I go “Nah”, stop thinking, and just write. Most important for now is to go with the flow and get my 1st draft done. All fine-tuning will come during the dozens of drafts that are sure to follow.
I won’t rest until it’s an awesome, authentic, gripping read. That’s a promise.

I Hope, Deep Down You Knew

2000 young man in malta

Uniting my body with my soul meant breaking the heart of the one person who had always been there for me – my oma (grandma). As the hormones took an ever-firmer hold, I tried explaining to her who I was. Unfortunately, she was becoming progressively more senile. Oma sadly asked for me. Countless times, she would ask Dad, “Why does Stefanie never come home to visit us anymore?”

Every time I visited, I would cook her favorite rice pudding. We would sit together at her small dining room table, holding hands and gazing together out the window at the night sky. Sometimes, say when there was a full moon, Oma would happily point and exclaim, “Look! The moon has come to say hello. Isn’t this magical?” It was. But, while my eyes followed her outstretched arm, she would try to hide my, to her palate, unsuccessful attempt at making rice pudding. She would spit the gelatinous mass quickly into her napkin and throw it under the table. I noticed each time this happened, but would always pretend I hadn’t. Immediately after she shuffled to another room, I would quickly grab a rag and bucket and clean up the mess. On other occasions, I would search for her dentures. Due to her ever-increasing senility, they would end up in the oddest places – inside flowerpots, in the oven, or under her bed.

During her clearer moments, Oma would look at me and I would hope to see a small spark of recognition in her searching eyes. Most times, though, her eyes would seek out Dad with a confused, heart-breaking expression on her beautiful, deeply-lined face that spoke of such a long, well-lived life.

“Konrad,” Oma would ask, “who is this nice young man who is taking such good care of me?”

To this day, it breaks my heart if I let myself think too much about Oma’s last years. I hope on some deeper level she understood I was always right by her side. She meant the world to me.

(Excerpt from Paralian, photograph from the year 2000, when I was 29, just after my transition, finally being myself. More info here)

Suzy

suzy and pup 1

In April this year, my wife and I went to Lembongan to do some Scuba diving. The coral reefs surrounding this small island off the coast of Bali have always been amongst my favorite sanctuaries.

On one of our afternoon hikes exploring the island, we came across Suzy, a small dog with five puppies. They little ones looked healthy, chubby, and cute. Suzy, however, gave us a start. Her eyes were milky as she seemed to have gone blind after an eye infection had remained untreated for weeks. A hole in her left hip was populated with worms. Worst of all, she was skin and bone. Even though she lived in the backyard of a local family they seemed to not feed her enough. All of Suzy’s meager reserves went into milk production for her by then only four-week old puppies. While we were there, the pups constantly suckled, literally draining Suzy of life energy. Barely able to see anymore, Suzy navigated by smell, keeping them all together, lovingly licking them and encouraging them to keep drinking. What an amazing, brave mom. It seemed she was hanging on by a thread just for them, prepared to give them the last of her strength, if necessary.

During the remainder of our stay we visited Suzy and her pups every day. We brought her Nasi Goring and mixed it with raw egg and tuna to supply her with as much energy and protein as we could. With the help of a local organization, Paws of Lembongan, we managed to organize a vet who came and looked at Suzy. He gave her antibiotics, treated her injuries and still infected eyes, and gave her some high-energy supplements.

Soon we had to leave. We kept thinking about Suzy and her little family and were glad to receive updates and photographs from our friends on the island. Soon it was obvious Suzy was going to make it. Her ribcage started to fill out and her wounds closed. She’ll remain blind, but we are still glad she’ll be able to experience her babies growing up and continue to roam the streets of Lembongan.

You can find more infos about the efforts of Paws of Lembongan here.

A Global Existence

1991 hanford high school pass

Stepping way out of my comfort zone (geographically as well as mentally) for the first time when I was 18 years old was one of the best things I ever did… It was the beginning of a nomadic life, a global existence, an openness towards things and people unknown, that I wouldn’t trade in for anything.

“During the first six months, my year abroad had seemed like a life sentence. During the last six months, I got progressively into the swing of things. Time started to fly by. The closer the end date came, the more I realized how much good had come from this year in another world and how amazingly lucky I was to have had this opportunity. Living with my Mormon host family, whose life was so contrary to my own, gave me a first glimpse into the extreme diversity of ideologies on our planet. I fell in love with our world. And I fell in love with its people.” (Excerpt from Paralian, more info here)