Category Archives: True Stories

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.

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.

Sparks and Dreams

2017 liam on a train

Ever since I began writing Paralian four years ago, my childhood dreams have come alive again. A storyteller is what I always wanted to be. I’ve longed to write and publish books for as long as I can remember.

Since I began doing just that, finding enough money and time to keep on writing has been a tight wire act. What day job should I take so I don’t get too disenchanted, too disillusioned about life? How can I commute with thousands of others every day, whilst at the same time remaining inspired, creative sparks lighting up my horizon like millions of fireflies on a warm summer’s night? How far can I reduce working hours to keep on writing but still be ok and provide for my family? Do I need to worry about being almost fifty years old, with no savings and no real life plan to speak of?

Mostly, I am following my gut. It is telling me, at this point I need not be concerned with financial success. It is telling me to ignore my age and live life to the fullest. I have a supportive partner who loves me no matter what and believes in me. This alone makes me wake up with a smile every single day and gives me strength. I need to keep up the momentum. No one who has played it safe has ever gotten anywhere. Being dedicated, focused, and trusting the process is essential. Working hard and never giving up on my dream will in the end make me happier than any material wealth ever could.

Paralian is a first book I can be proud of. I tapped into something magical while writing it. If I just keep going, I will be able to create a few more books over the years. Maybe, at some point, those books will even be sold in actual book stores with posters saying “coming soon” and people asking for the latest “Klenk”, then heading to a quiet corner to immerse themselves for a couple of hours. Maybe, some of them will even be unable to stop and read through the night, just to see what happens next.

Imagine that…

Benji

Benji 3

Here, finally, an excerpt from the 1st draft of the book I am currently working on. This chapter tells about my first canine companion, a cute albeit rather enormous English Mastiff puppy I was given at the age of 7. Sadly, his stay with us was brief, but he will never be forgotten:

“Oh no, he’s done it again.”

My dad looked a curious mix between erupting volcano and deflated marathon runner, arriving last over the finish line.

I followed his gaze downward and saw a fresh layer of deep scratches marking the inside of our wooden front door. Following my dad’s gaze further, I saw books lying shredded in the hallway all the way to the artificial horizon created by the far wall. Puddles of pee glistened on the tile floor like miniature golden ponds. Scraps of torn book pages floated in them like water lilies. If not for the acrid, far too intense toilet smell, this could have been a rather romantic scenario.

Dad sighed a deep rumbling sigh. We had only been away for half an hour to buy groceries at the corner store. I did my best to look understanding and crestfallen even though I relished this rebellion and disaster more than I dared even admit to myself.

We slowly went further into the apartment, coming across what looked like the remains of what looked like one of Mom’s shirts and our TV remote control.

Finally, in the living room sat the culprit. Clearly aware that he had done something he shouldn’t, for otherwise he’d have greeted us at the door. Nevertheless, considering the circumstances, he looked far too delighted to see us back. Tail wagging; thump, thump, thump, into another puddle of pee right behind him. Little, golden drops flying in all directions.

(From ‘Word of Mouse’, Chapter 3, Benji)

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