Category Archives: Memoirs

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.

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)

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)

Surfer’s Nipples

2004 finished tattoo and scars

“In the past, I had often been stared at and asked about the sizeable scars on my chest. At The House of Dancing Water, no one asked. My fellow divers seemed curious, but no one ever approached me. As for our performers, I knew they had seen so many scars in their lives, they had stopped asking each other for such details a long time ago.
Our moto riders once saluted me as a fellow surfer, after seeing me bare chested in the theater basement. I had stared at them, uncomprehending. “Many professional surfers surgically remove their nipples to avoid the agony caused by abrasions,” they explained to my astonishment.
Apparently, I had surfer’s nipples. Who knew?”
(Excerpt from Paralian, Chapter 30, “Macau Pool”)

For many years, I had agonized about my scars, had felt self-conscious and shy about taking my shirt off in public. I dreaded open stares and questions. I worried too much about what other people might think.

Then, I “cured” myself by confronting the issue head-on and chose to become a SCUBA diving instructor, later an aquatic performer trainer, jobs which required me to work with my shirt off most of the time. People sometimes stared openly. But it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. They talked. But people always do, don’t they? What and how much they talked didn’t have any relevance to my life. Even more important, as I looked around, I saw scars of all shapes and sizes. I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t gone through life unaffected.

Gradually, I relaxed. All was fine. I wasn’t a freak, standing out from the crowd. Alone. Apart. Isolated. Instead, I learned, I was one of many. A small pebble in the diverse and forever changing sea of humanity.

Discovering the Ocean

2017 at devils tear lembongan

“During my early years, we would go to the North Sea every summer for a long family holiday. I was enchanted from the first moment I laid eyes on the dark blue endlessness. My senses were alert and I felt intensely alive. Nowhere else had I felt so invigorated. Every cell of my small body tried to absorb as much of the beauty around me as it possibly could. I breathed deeply, tasting and smelling the salty air. It seemed to be dense and alive with the power of the ocean.

The sand dunes rolled softly under my feet, making me feel rested and at home. Rabbits bounded around the tall dunes, sea gulls screamed and fiercely defended their territories. Sometimes, when we stumbled unawares into a nesting ground, we had to fend off the enraged birds by wildly swinging our umbrellas. Hildegard would be terrified, Konrad, amused, and I, delighted at the sight of these huge birds as well as the exhilarating sense of adventure. At low tide, we hiked far out into the mud flats, my young soul inquisitive about every tiny worm and crab we encountered. The mud flats felt like frozen velvet, for the North Sea water temperatures were cold even during the warmest months of the year.

Discovering the ocean changed my young life. I threw myself into the cold churning waves, balloon-like arm floats encircling my tiny arms. Goose bumps quickly covered my entire body as I savored the taste and the sensation of a living entity enveloping my body. My soul felt rested and at home while at the same time sensing danger and fragility. Whatever might happen to me in the years to come, I would always draw solace and strength from the ocean. I had discovered the love of my life.”

(Excerpt from Paralian, Chapter 3 “North Sea”)

http://www.liamklenk.com/books/