Tag Archives: #diversity

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.

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)

The Sparkling Rainbow of Creation

LGBT, trans, and whatever shade in between, we’ve always been around. Be it amongst humans or within the plant and animal kingdom. Just another bunch of colors in the sparkling rainbow of creation.

”Oddly, humans are not the only animals that engage in cross-dressing or have transgender identity issues; a lot of animals also have “gender-bender” sex lives… All good and remember to respect all and love everyone for who they truly are. Always.” via  Cute Nopes and https://terriermandotcom.blogspot.ch/2007/05/transexual-and-transgender-wildlife.html?m=1

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You’re Becoming You

2017 liam at devil's eye in lembongan

A little while back, on June 2nd, 2017, I read the following text underneath one of Brandon Stanton’s photographs for Humans of New York (thanks for your inspiring work Brandon. I hope you don’t mind if I share this here):

“I don’t think I’m going to miss eighth grade. It’s been a tough year. A lot of my friends are struggling with depression and self-harm, and it’s hard for me to watch. I just care about them so much. Growing up is so hard for some people. It’s such a big thing. It’s your foundation, I guess. You’re becoming you. It’s such a big thing and we’re going through it right now. Some of my friends are struggling with loving themselves and loving life. I think they forget that we’re still learning. They think that they’re already who they’re going to be. They think they know the future. And it’s going to be horrible. And they’ll never be able to fix it. But that’s not true because we’re still changing. And we’ll always be changing. Even when we’re old, we’ll be changing.”

As I read the musings of this insightful teenager, what she said struck me as such a profound truth. She talked about herself and her teenage friends, most likely never realizing that, by doing so, she described the human condition in general. Most, if not all of us, face similar existential questions and troubles no matter our background or age. Many of us are struggling with loving ourselves and loving life. And yes, we’re all continuously changing. Life and change are one. Irrevocably. We spend our entire lives becoming who we really are… learning, un-learning, growing, evolving with each experience we make throughout our turbulent life journey. There is nothing to do but to face those waves as they crash over our heads. Some breakers will pummel the crap out of us. They’ll push us down like a bully in a kid’s swimming pool until we can barely catch our breath. Other rollers will lift us up and carry us further than we ever imagined.

Presentation at Zurich Insurance Group

Yesterday, I was invited by the Zurich Insurance Group to give a presentation on diversity, inclusion, and transgender, combined with reading from my book Paralian. There are no quick fixes, no recipes, no instruction manuals. But I do believe there is nothing more valuable than personal experience. So that’s what I gave, as always striving to be straightforward and honest… and simply sharing my journey whilst leaving space for people to come to their own conclusions.
It was a great evening!
The organization was superb.The audience was delightful and the questions I was asked during the Q&A session were thought provoking. Thank you so much to my awesome audience, to Zurich Insurance Group, and to the PrideZ team in particular, for welcoming me with such warmth and enthusiasm. This was definitely a highlight for me as a public speaker and an event to be fondly remembered!

This is to you Dad

2002 dad liam and sami

For my Dad. I love you.
Check out my story here on Bored Panda.

Or, of course, you can read it right here:

When you were little, you had a tame chicken, then a crow, and later an Alsatian. You named them all ‘Jakob’. No points for creativity but, most definitely, for purity of heart.

When your wife couldn’t have children of her own, yet craved to be a mom, you said “yes” to adopting me from an orphanage, even though at the time you weren’t even sure you wanted to be a dad.

While I grew up, you struggled with responsibility, your marriage, and your sexual orientation. You weren’t a poster book dad during those times. But being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world and you did the best you could.

After school, I frightened you many times with my rather adventurous career choices. You voiced your concern but never tried to press me into your mould. You let me be my own creation. And, no matter what I did, even if it took me far away from you in every sense of the word, you told me you were proud of me.

Whenever I was impatient with you, even when I was cruel and judgmental, you forgave me. You beamed when you saw me and had tears in your eyes each time I left.

During the many times I couldn’t handle my financials, you lent me money. And when I was too broke to pay it back, that was ok, too.

When I told you I was transgender, you struggled for a while, but nevertheless gave me my very first straight razor and a bottle of Davidoff Cool Water early on during my hormone therapy, long before there was any facial hair to shave off.

Whenever I fell in love, even if sometimes it must have been obvious to anyone but me I’d run headfirst into a wall, you didn’t question my decisions. You let me discover the bewildering universe of relationships for myself.

When I wrote my first book ‘Paralian – Not Just Transgender’, you paid my rent for a year so I could stop working at my day job and write full time. You trusted me. This even though I lived halfway around the world and, when you asked, I didn’t give you a clear description of what I was writing. All I said was, “It’s going to be a book about my life.”

When Paralian was finally published two years later, you read it. I was authentic, at times painfully honest. Amongst other things, I outed you to the whole world as gay. You weren’t upset. “This is a great accomplishment,” you said, “Amazing really. I am so proud of you.”

My wife and I travel over to see you once a month now. You instantly accepted her and love her with your marvellous, warm-hearted open-mindedness.

I’m still haunted by my childhood memories at times. When they come, like dark clouds covering the sun, I can’t help being angry, or impatient and too tough on you even now. You can be so naive, so utterly out of this world. It’s your greatest strength and Achilles heel all wrapped into one.

No matter what though, I know who you are Dad. You’re my best friend. My true family.

You are a thoroughly authentic man with the kindest heart I’ve ever known.

I love you.

And I am immensely proud of you, too.

Shuffle Those Cards and Start a New Game

2008 liam and milo

The other week, when giving a presentation about my life journey, someone asked, “Why did you go and work in, for example, muslim countries, and travel worldwide to places where, as a transgender person, you were often potentially in danger of becoming the victim of a hate crime?”

The answer to this is really quite simple: “Why not?”

First and foremost, I am a human being who loves life and values his freedom. I greatly enjoy traveling all over the globe. I don’t think about being trans all the time. It doesn’t factor into what my next move will be. Rather, I look at a map and ponder which corners of our gorgeous planet I’d like to see next, where the best dive sites, the best wildlife encounters, the most beautiful landscapes are, and which points on my bucket list I want to tackle next.

I love connecting with people along the way, no matter what their background. The more diverse the better. There is so much we can learn from each other. And good people can be found anywhere. Going on an adventure together (like here in Palau with one of my best friends), or enjoying a cold beer with a couple of like-minded souls on a hot summer evening, chatting about our experiences, thoughts and dreams, is as close to heaven as I can imagine.

Nothing and nowhere is ever completely safe for anyone. No matter what we do or who we are. So why should any of us let ourselves be limited by the cards we’ve been given? Why not take charge, shuffle those cards, and start a new game? I’ve always looked ahead and tried to make the best of things. I’ll follow my heart and I’ll give it a go. Depending on where I am, I will exercise a healthy bit of caution as well, but I don’t see any reason why I should put limits to my existence. Author Helen Keller who overcame great adversity spoke straight from my heart: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”