Tag Archives: #diversity

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.

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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

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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

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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’

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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!

Liam Klenk on Aeschbacher, Apr 15th 2018

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Here is a bit of exciting news:
I’ve been invited to the ‘Aeschbacher’ talk show on Swiss TV!
For all of you who want to watch the show, tune in on SRF 1 at 22:10 on Sunday, the 15th of April, 2018.
The show will be in Swiss German, but hey, it might be worth hazarding a look even if you don’t understand the language 😊.
It’s been one of my dreams to be invited by Kurt Aeschbacher. His show has been around for decades and is still going strong. I’ve always loved his integrity, his kindness, compassion, and his ability to be confrontational with respect, thoughtfulness, and style. He obviously cares about the human beings behind the stories he presents.
The theme of our show will be “wie neu geboren”, which translates into “like being born again”. A perfect fit for me, plus the other 3 guests have fascinating life journeys to share with you as well.
Ahhh, I have to admit, I am giddy with excitement for this dream to come true. I am deeply honoured to have been invited and am looking forward to my chat with Mr. Aeschbacher.
Now I only hope I won’t look like a zombie on national TV, since my cats have been waking me up at 5am every morning for the past few weeks, and the dark rings under my eyes are beginning to take over my entire face.
In case you miss the talk show while it’s airing on TV, you’ll be able to find it here later on under “Ausgestrahlte Sendungen”.

Remembering ‘LGBT Talents’ in Paris

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A couple of weeks ago, I took part in the annual ‘LGBT Talents’ event in Paris. I was deeply honored to have been invited as one of the panel speakers for one of half a dozen inspirational workshops on offer that day. I love speaking at this kind of event. It makes me happy to be able to inspire. To be able to lend strength and support and let others know that, no matter how difficult the deck of cards we’ve been given, we can find our way through and nevertheless play a more than decent game of happiness and personal success. I have no recipes or perfect solutions. All I can do is lend my perspective and be authentic and honest in sharing my own – so far quite challenging and unique – life journey.

Our panel was fantastic. My fellow speakers Alexandra, Rica, and Thomas were engaging, positive, and truly themselves as well. I was delighted to meet them as we talked about “The Issues of the Lesser Known Letters” in LGBTQI+. All of us didn’t hide behind phrases. We were right out there – offering to the audience all of who we are.

My personal highlights of the day were, first, a keynote by Antonia Belcher who told us about her life and difficult transition of setting free the woman who had been hidden away and trapped inside her male body for decades. She told us about her amazingly supportive family. About her open-minded children. And about her wife, who had married Anthony many years ago, then decided to remain by her husband’s side after discovering and coming to terms with the fact that he was and had in fact always been Antonia. So they got married a second time. Former husband and wife now being wife and wife. Still dedicated to supporting each other and spending life together as they always had been, come what may. Call me an incurable romantic. I had tears in my eyes throughout Antonia’s tale. Not even so much because of the hardship she was gently describing, but rather because of her beautiful resilience and conscious decision to face life with positivity, love, compassion, and dignity.

My second highlight of the day was connecting with the workshops’ participants throughout the day. I met wonderful individuals and was inspired by their bravery and quest to be true to themselves. Thank you so much to the organizers of this event for an unforgettable, enriching day!