Tag Archives: #family

When I Found Home

devils tear liam and hanna

When I found home…

“Our relationship had grown like a table coral – and still did. Tree-like, it fanned out, each tiny branch connecting to others to build a magnificent structure – tough and brittle at the same time.
Both of us knew how easily such a delicate formation could break. For the first time, however, I was confident to have found a partner who was as committed to our common cause as I was. We were different in so many ways, yet together our universe expanded. We challenged and supported each other in equal measure.” (Excerpt from Paralian, Chapter 33)

… And five years later, we’re still braving life’s turbulences together.
Thank you for being the beautiful soul you are. Thank you for being in my life.

My Thoughts Are With Macau

typhoon hato 35

Since last week, my thoughts are with Macau and with my dear friends who live there. Typhoon Hato went through my former home with wind speeds of up to 250 km/hour.

My work buddies and I used to get excited each time a typhoon would come our way. Because if it made it up to T8 strength, it would mean we would have a day off, to chill at home together with a cold beer, gazing out at the storm. The storms rarely went above a T3. But sometimes, when they did, we would even venture into the tempest. To feel its raw power and brave the salty gusts, feeling as if sea monsters had wrapped their muscular tentacles around us. I cringe now, thinking of how often I wished for the storm to strike, barely noticing how much it affected the lives of the people in its destructive path on its way to Macau.

Now, Typhoon Hato has topped the scale. It was a T10 and squarely fits the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” The entire city was flooded, eerily reminiscent of movie scenes from “The Day after Tomorrow”. Some people lost their homes. Others even lost their lives. This was, quite frankly, shit-scary. Even from afar.

Amazingly, this natural disaster also made me realize just how much of a home Macau has become for me over the years. Living in Switzerland at the moment, too far away, unable to lend a hand in the post-Hato clean-up and rebuilding, I feel more connected to this unique, East-Asian town than since I left it.

I see now, more than ever, how much Macau has given me. There was hardship, too. Even trauma. But overall there was learning on a scale like never before. There was abundant adventure, happiness, despair, soulfulness, friendship, and camaraderie. There was even family… and a special one at that. I still miss my House of Dancing Water show family. Nothing is quite the same after living and working with such a diverse and spirited group of people.

Their theatre has been closed for a week now. Cast and crew are heading out into the city every day, actively helping with the relief efforts, even taking care of the four-legged victims at Macau’s pet shelters. I’m thinking of you guys. I’m with you. And I’m proud of you. Be safe.

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)

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.

Remembering Oma

1972-with-oma

Remembering my dear oma, who was born on this day in 1909 and passed away on 26th of December, 1996. What would I have done without you?

“Frida carried herself with dignity. She was delicate, and small, but very strong. When she made spaetzle, a Southern German pasta delicacy, the recipe called for her to beat the dough continuously for half an hour. She did so without a problem while I barely managed five minutes before it felt as if my arm was falling off. Her skin felt like soft, warm leather with thousands of fine wrinkles. When she smiled, her entire face seemed to shine with her strong but tender soul.

My dear oma (as we lovingly call our grandmas in Germany) was modest. All of her clothes were handmade. Her kitchen was cozy and stocked with very few items for herself. The shelf dedicated for me overflowed with cookies and other delicacies she knew I loved. Oma was calm and had a German proverb for every occasion. The one I still remind myself of, whenever life seems to spiral out of control, is: “The stew is never eaten as hot as it is cooked.” Sometimes Oma got upset. On those occasions she would clap her hands together above her head and exclaim, “Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay!” The effect would be so comical, I wouldn’t know what to do – laugh at her or fold my arms around her in an attempt to comfort her. When Frida listened to me, the world stood still and gave me a chance to catch my breath. When she took me in her arms, I felt safe and loved unconditionally.

Frida was my guiding star. She was strict, yet generous. She was serious, yet had a beautiful sense of humor. Most importantly, she was loyal and had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known. She became my knight, or rather, dame in shining armor and made it her purpose in life to make time for me whenever Konrad and Hildegard did not. She quietly saved my soul, by being an indestructible protectress who was always there no matter what happened to me, no matter what I did, no matter how devastated she felt herself. My oma became the only rock in the raging tide, keeping me sane throughout my childhood and teenage years.”

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

You’re always with me, never to be forgotten.

Adoption

1971 christmas

“For years, I had puzzled over being the only dark-haired, darker-complexioned person in our family. My emotional make-up and character didn’t quite seem to fit with the rest of my family either. I had kept searching for similarities between my parents and me, as every child does, and had found none. But my mom Hildegard had been very convincing as to our shared blood. She had scared me with stories of how her multitude of hereditary afflictions would manifest themselves in me as I grew older. She had a large goiter on her neck as well as suffering from acute asthma. I had inherited both from her, she insisted, and would suffer as she did eventually. No matter how unpleasant the knowledge, no matter how lost I felt, and whatever life threw at me while growing up, at least I had always been secure in the knowledge of who my family was. It proved to be quite dysfunctional at times, but it was a family. But now, with my dad’s revelation, the truths on which I had based my life shattered into a million pieces.” (Excerpt from Paralian, Chapter 1)

Most of our decisions are based on prior experiences. In the case of my parents, my adoptive mom came from a traumatized post-war family and my adoptive dad tried his best to somehow neutralize her neuroses. This all led to a string of lies that, over the years, became longer than Pinocchio’s nose.

Based on personal experience, I urge all adoptive parents to not underestimate the instincts of their adopted children. When you have been given away early in life and have lost your mom, an instinctual memory manifests itself, a sense of homelessness, a longing for something the child itself can’t even define. On top of this underlying time bomb there is a more conscious awareness of something always being slightly “off”.
As I grew up I remember getting my bearings – or at least trying to – by comparing myself and my actions and emotions to those of the people in my immediate environment. Of course everyone is different but, still, I was puzzled as to how I always seemed to be so different to practically everyone else around me – not only in soul and spirit, but also in appearance.
On really bad days I fantasized about being adopted, seeing it as a good thing. On good days I rationalized how genes skip generations and how maybe there was a dark-haired, temperamental grandpa somewhere whom I’d never met. Surely I had inherited all traits from this mystery person hidden somewhere in the dense forest of our family ancestry.

What always prevailed though, like a menacing shadow following me wherever I turned, was a feeling of deep homelessness and loneliness.

My parents were terrified of telling me the truth, because especially my mom feared I’d run off to my “real” mom as soon as they’d disclose my real identity. I honestly think no adopted child would ever do that. Our “real” parents are the ones that have been taking care of us, have made sacrifices, and have been our safety net over a long period of time. We share a history together. And after some time, history becomes stronger than blood.

When my dad finally revealed the truth I was shocked and uprooted. A myriad of conflicting emotions rocked my entire world for a while, like an earthquake, complete with landslides and falling debris. Still, through it all, and after I came out of it, my adoptive parents remained – and always will be – my parents. I never even call them “adoptive” parents. When I found my biological mom she was a stranger. Blood, in the end, was not enough in and off itself.

Don’t be afraid to tell your kid he or she is adopted. Do it as early as possible. It’ll preempt the hurricane of conflicting emotions that will be sure to rage within once all thought processes properly kick in.

Told at a very late stage – in my case when I was twenty years old – the revelation can have disastrous effects. In truth, I could have easily killed myself. Pure stubborn strength (a strength I didn’t even know I had at the time) prevented me from exciting well before my time. Everything I believed to be the base of my existence vanished in the blink of an eye. All that was left for a while was a deep, dark vortex opening its ugly maw beneath my very feet.

I wish I had been told from the beginning. What a privilege it could’ve been to know I was loved even though I had arrived in my biological mom’s womb. If you think of it, how beautiful to be chosen by a couple because they want YOU and no one else to become the center of their universe.