Tag Archives: #diversity

The Amazing Zurich PRIDE Parade

Yesterday, on June 18th, 2022, the annual Zurich PRIDE parade took place in the center of town. It was the first parade after the pandemic. And it was fabulous in so many ways… let me tell you more…
 
Arriving at the meeting point, I already thought, “Oh, there are way more people here than in the years before.” However, at the time, I didn’t see all the PRIDE participants who didn’t fit into Helvetia square but were waiting in the adjacent streets for the parade to begin.
 
When the 8 trucks started going, everyone cheered and our parade slowly, slowly began making its way through downtown Zurich. As soon as we all filed into one of the larger streets it became quite obvious that we had far surpassed the usual approximately 10’000 participants.
 
All around me was a sea of rainbows, goodwill, and happiness. It was so strong and tangible in the air, you could almost touch it, bottle it, and take it home with you as an antidote for dreary, less inclusive days.

I wondered why people had turned up in such high numbers in our small metropolis. Maybe it was a general urge people felt to throw themselves into the masses after being cooped up at home for so long? Or maybe it was the fact that on July 1st, 2022, the same sex marriage will be officially legalized in Zurich? Or, maybe, times really are changing and have changed much more than we even realize?
 
This year’s parade motto was “Trans – Living Diversity.”
 
We had gone as a team with members of the PRIDE network of our company, BCG. A few allies came along as well which was fabulous. All of us together had a great time and we spent most of the day losing each other, then searching and finding each other again in this sea of joyful human beings.

As we immersed ourselves more deeply into the parade, we began following one truck in particular. It was bright green and offered by far the best DJ of all the trucks in the parade. The music was fantastic. Getting your body moving all on its own.
 
Even more fantastic was that on the side of the truck was written in large letters “Trans Rights Now” and on the back of the truck the creative organizers had written in flowers “Heroes.”

Letting the beat go through me, I felt the words and actions of the people around me going through me as well. And I was in tears (joyful ones!) most of the time.
 
When I transitioned 27 years ago, it had been such an isolated, lonely road. And definitely no one considered us to be heroes.
 
I had been luckier than most to have amazing friends who, for the most part, stuck by me and still do, to this day. I had also been lucky to live in a country where I didn’t need to fear for me life due to being a trans man.

But, nevertheless, I had needed to jump through way too many, emotionally painful, bureaucratic hoops. And, over the years, living and working abroad in 11 different countries, I often did need to fear for my safety and my life.
 
But in the first few years of transitioning, the bureaucratic and medical processes were the hardest. The doctors who did the surgery to remove my breasts didn’t care much to do a good job and left me with enormous scars. For many years this made it hard for me to take my shirt off in public.

Then, I was assigned to a psychiatrist who sabotaged me when giving his professional evaluation needed by the authorities. This man deduced I wasn’t manly enough because he felt my handshake wasn’t strong enough. So, he wrote that I wasn’t truly transgender. Thankfully another psychiatrist supported me all the way and ended up being the heavier weight on the scale.
 
After injecting testosterone for the first time, it took 10 years until I was finally allowed to change my gender in all official papers. For most of those 10 years, I already looked like a man and spent way too many moments needing to explain to total strangers in official places why I looked like a man but had a passport that stated me as female.
 
I always tried to move on and see the positive side of life. For the most part, I succeeded (interspersed by the odd depression and anxiety attacks). Overall, however, if I am completely honest to myself and to you, there were way too many long years of challenges, adversity, hardship, and pain.
 
So, seeing this wonderful, boisterous truck in the parade, and seeing so much evidence of support for trans people, I was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions.
 
Never had I thought I would ever see a pro-trans parade like this. Never had I expected to see a truck like this, loudly and happily proclaiming “Here we are!”

Several of the large businesses along the streets we were marching through put up enormous rainbow banners.
 
It was scorching hot. In some houses people were throwing fans from their balconies into the crowd (when I say “fans,” I mean the kind you use to refresh yourself by propelling air towards your face, not the human kind).
 
In many other houses along our route, the inhabitants were using hoses, buckets, water bottles, anything that could hold a little water to pour over the crowd. Each squirt and drop of water raining down on us from above resulted in loud cheers of thankfulness from hundreds of people.

We even passed a church where several old ladies helped rehydrate us as well. A sight which again brought me to tears in its infinite kindness and clear display of love, mutual respect, and open-mindedness.
 
Overall, a day to remember forever.
 
And, as we found out afterwards through the news, it had been 40’000 people who took part in this year’s Zurich PRIDE parade!
 
40’000! Plus the amazing supporters all along the parade who were showering us with water and preventing us from sun stroke.
 
Here is to diversity and inclusion, and the freedom to be exactly who you know you are!
💛🧡❤️💚💙💜

Paralian at Paranoia City

Since yesterday, my book is available for sale in Paranoia City, a wonderful, little, independent book shop in Zurich. Paralian is officially out of print, so these are the last 6 copies available for now. What better place to sell them at than in my old home which inspired a large part of this book anyways. On Amazon and other ebook providers Paralian is still available in e-book format as well https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/autobiography/paralian/

Learning From Each Other

We hiked through a forest of vocabulary and grammar again at the Alliance Francaise in Montpellier. I was exhausted after. It’s only a few hours each morning, but my brain needs to get used again to studying… and to actually retaining information.

Besides learning and opening my mind, I do enjoy collaborating with my classmates. Usually, when I’m working backstage for a show, I am immersed in an international team, a show family. I love connecting with all those people from a myriad of backgrounds, listening to their thoughts and experiences on a daily basis. I miss it with all my heart. At the school now, we are only working together in the classroom for a few short weeks, but it’s still heartwarming to connect with people from other cultures again.

The four of us come from all corners of the world. Harry is British and lives in the UK. Nadja is Brazilian and lives in France. Sangee is born in Nepal and lives in India. Every day, we discover a bit more about each other’s world and its fascinating.

Sangee, especially, inspires me a lot. He is 24 years old and a monk in a Buddhist monastery in India. He told me that up until a few years ago, they focused exclusively on religious and spiritual studies in his monastery. But, due to their culture, every now and then, a monk who is the oldest son in his family has to leave to take care of his parents. Those who did in the past, entered life outside the monastery completely unprepared and clueless. Thus, Sangee’s monastery now makes sure to teach their monks as much as they can about the outside world. The monastery provides classes for them in the sciences, history, geography, and other subjects. And, their elders encourage the young monks to travel the world and study cultures and languages. In this way, if they ever have to leave, they will not be entirely lost in the “outside” world.

Sangee already speaks Buthanese, Hindi, Nepali, and Tibetan. Recently, he has travelled through England and has studied 4 weeks of English. His grasp of the language is already phenomenal. This is now his 2nd week of French. Without any prior knowledge, his French is about the same as mine even though I know far more vocabulary since this is my 3rd atttempt at learning the language.

Sangee and I have many wonderful conversations during our breaks. Also, through our exercises in class, all of us learn a lot from each other. Today, for example, Sangee told us (in French!) about the Indian human rights movement and about Babasaheb Ambedkar who campaigned against social injustice towards the untouchables.

I have to say, besides loving to learn from each other, Sangee also reminds me of my life and travels around Asia. His soft-spokenness and calmness, everything about him, reminds me of how much I love living there. It triggers an ache, a longing, as well as a feeling of happiness in me to be able to spend a little bit of time with this lovely, inspiring man.

I Am Liam

Ever since writing this blog, I’ve noticed how I lose followers when, for a while, I don’t specifically write about being transgender. I guess some people are hoping for specific insights into a trans existence. But what is a trans existence? The truth is – and I can’t stress this often enough – we are all the sum of our experiences. That being said, no matter what I do and write, being trans (or being categorized as trans in our society) is undeniably part of who I am.

However, when you are trans it isn’t foremost on your mind every single day. It isn’t what you think and talk about all the time. It just is. I transitioned 25 years ago. Yes, I have faced and still face many challenges because of being trans. But, in essence, I am facing what everyone else does. Like every other human out there, I fight my battles, struggle, grow, love, hurt, long to belong, long to be loved, and aim to find a healthy balance between taking care of myself and taking care of others.

Over the years, what has become most important for me is to open my mind wide and see beyond the labels. If I am any sort of activist, then this is it: I fight for a world of compassion and mutual respect. A world in which labels become obsolete.

The more I experience life all over the globe, the more I realize that, rather than focusing on what makes us all different, it is so much better to focus on what connects us. The best I can do for myself and for everyone else out there is to be authentic, ignore the labels, and rather write about life in all its rawness. I want to observe the world around me with empathy. I want to understand those around me, no matter what their background, and write about the beauty and painfulness of our shared existence.

The longer I think about it, I even wonder, “What does transgender mean?” I was born as who I am. The gender assignation of the body I was born with did not match with my soul. But my soul was always human. I was just another splotch of color in our diverse universe. No matter what my physical shell looked like at any point in time, inside of it I was always beautiful, flawed, unique, struggling Liam. Society will classify me as a trans male. I classify myself as male. But in the end, does it even matter?
I am Liam. And I believe that is enough.

1996 liam in seebach 3

Photo by Susanne Stauss

Review for Paralian

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Hello 😊 Shout-out to all of you, who have read my book ‘Paralian’. If you haven’t done so already, can you be so kind and write a little review for it? Even if it’s just one word? Like a thought shared with buddies around a camp fire, books live on and grow through word-of-mouth.
If you search for either ‘Liam Klenk’ or ‘Paralian’ on any Amazon page, you’ll find my book immediately. Scrolling down, you’ll find a link where you can add a review.
And/or you can write a review for it here on Goodreads.
The more the merrier. Cheers! Much appreciated!

First Presentation in Hong Kong

hk ferry terminal view 1

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by UBS Hong Kong to give a presentation about my life journey. It was my first ever speaking engagement in Hong Kong. The audience was wonderful. Curious, openminded, and not shy to bombard me with questions after the talk. Standing in the conference room on the 56th floor of the IFC tower, dramatic clouds piling up across the horizon, I was happy to be alive… and grateful to be given the chance to make a little difference.

Paralian – Not Just Transgender

2016 liam book signing

Flashback to 2016, the year Paralian was first published. Writing this book was one of the best things I’ve ever done, even though letting myself be seen to such an extent was also terrifying. Over the last year, life has been so turbulent, I wasn’t able to focus on anything at all. But, I will keep on writing and will always be the quiet yet gently persistent voice in the background promoting mutual respect, love, compassion, inclusion, no labels, and the basic human right of freedom for us all to be the unique individuals we were born to be. Diversity is a precious gift and privilege, not a threat. (Photograph courtesy of LiterallyPR)

Lost in Space

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I love good storytelling – be it poetry, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, movies, TV series, visual arts, or any other type of creative expression. For the most part, stories engage me when they are about being human, about compassion and about overcoming our shortcomings and challenges.

The other month, I watched the (rather kitschy) new ‘Lost in Space’ series. All of a sudden, in the midst of space oddities and other adventures, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson found themselves alone in an emergency where it seemed only one of them could survive. They had quarrelled for years because she had been disappointed with him and he had made the mistake of not being there for his family as much as he should have. Now, they had to make a quick decision so at least one of them could get out of their current predicament. She was going to use the only space suit they had to get out of some toxic goo their vehicle had sunk into… and he would remain behind and either suffocate or get swallowed up by said nasty goo. Mr. Robinson helped Mrs. Robinson suit up, ready to sacrifice himself, when all of a sudden Mrs. Robinson held him close, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time being angry at you.” It was just another, slightly over-dramatic TV moment. Yet, at the same time, it was so much more. It was a moment of profound wisdom.

We don’t always do the right thing when we are in a relationship. Especially in intimate relationships that last a long time… Without ever intending to, we make mistakes, we hurt each other, we are clumsy, we don’t listen well enough, we don’t spend enough time with each other, and we betray one another. So much can happen, because there is no recipe for life, we often find ourselves lost (in space), and emotions are not always predictable or controllable.

So, when the goo hits the proverbial fan, let’s think of the Robinson’s space slime and of what really matters. Family does. Friendship. Love. And forgiveness. No one will ever be perfect… And when two souls connect on a deeper level of understanding, it is something immensely precious, not to be taken lightly or given up easily.

(Photo by J W on Unsplash)

Looking Forward to ‘Sticks & Stones’

liam at sticks and stones

On June 2nd, if you are in Berlin, come to the Sticks & Stones career fair. I’ll be giving a presentation about my life and about what being transgender means to me. In short, I don’t believe in labels. We are all the sum of our experiences. I don’t ‘identify’ as anything. I simply am. I am Liam, the boy, the man I always was, regardless of outside appearances. For me, it’s all about being human. About inclusion. About respecting everyone around us no matter what their background. About loving and embracing life. And about letting go of outdated societal stereotypes that have nothing to do with who we really are. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts and putting myself out there once again. I am also hoping for an engaging Q&A session after. I do not want to lecture people or tell them what to think. My aim is simply to share a few experiences, build bridges, and encourage as best as I can. I hope to see some of you there! Grab me for a beer after!

Liam on Aeschbacher

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Super kind of the Aeschbacher team to already give us stills to help promote the show. Love it and will treasure these memories to keep. Recording this show in Labor Bar in Zurich last Wednesday was a beautiful life experience in every respect!

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Sooo… for all of you who want to watch it, don’t forget to reserve one hour this Sunday, the 15th of April 2018, starting from 22:10 CET, for the ‘Aeschbacher’ talk show on Swiss TV channel SRF 1.

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I’ll be the last of 4 guests. And, trust me, all four of us will make your day 🙂
In case you miss the show on TV, you can always watch it here afterwards. 

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Haven’t been this nervous in a while. Then, thankfully, once I was on stage the nervousness evaporated. Still, time flew way too fast. I could have chatted with my amazing, compassionate, and open-minded host for hours!

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It was a pleasure to meet this lovely man whom I’ve admired and respected for many years. And it’s easy to be yourself and feel comfortable when you have someone who actually really cares and listens. Thank you so much to the entire Aeschbacher team!