Tag Archives: #inclusion

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!
💛🧡❤️💚💙💜

Featured in Podcast ‘Mis Coming Out’

For all Swiss-German and German speakers out there, here a little something to listen to on a relaxed Sunday afternoon: Marco Schaettin recently interviewed me for his fabulous podcast ‘Mis Coming Out’ (my coming out) and I told him about my life story… ☺️ 

Click here to get to the podcast episode.

Further information on my website.

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/

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

IMG_7737

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!

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

Bildschirmfoto 2018-04-13 um 15.16.22

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!

Bildschirmfoto 2018-04-13 um 15.24.46

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.

Bildschirmfoto 2018-04-13 um 15.17.32

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. 

Bildschirmfoto 2018-04-13 um 15.27.01

Bildschirmfoto 2018-04-13 um 15.15.29

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!

Bildschirmfoto 2018-04-13 um 15.27.31

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!

Remembering ‘LGBT Talents’ in Paris

06 lgbt talents at BCG paris 2

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!

Trust Your Children

1975 on a boat with mom

Two of the most common questions people ask me are: “When did you know?” and “How did you know?” In a way, I always knew. Even as a three-year old child I instinctively thought of myself as male. My body was female, but I knew I was a boy. This was no clearly defined thought but rather pure instinct, a state of being. Whenever I went somewhere new, I seized the opportunity and immediately introduced myself to the other kids as “Stefan” instead of “Stefanie”.

Over the years, like all of us growing up, I was told who I was supposed to be. Thankfully, and due to all the many tantrums I threw, my parents did let me wear boys clothing at least. I remember each time my mom sent me into the ladies room, I wanted to rather go to the “boys”. Without fail, as soon as I walked into the “ladies”, the flustered females I encountered wanted to throw me out because from the looks of me they thought I was a boy. I secretly loved this, but didn’t really consciously understand why it gave me so much satisfaction.

After puberty, when the Internet took off and I had access to more information, I finally read about transgender people. The fog lifted and I began to consciously understand who I truly was. The mosaic pieces of my childhood fell into place.

There are different kinds of knowledge. There is knowledge based on instinct and emotion. Our souls leading the way… And then there is knowledge based on reflection, education, experience, and comparing ourselves to others…

From own experience, I can only encourage all of you: trust your children. Even if they have no way to put into words yet what they are feeling, they know who they are from a very early age. Be their safety net, love them no matter what, let them be true to themselves, and let them reach for their very own stars!

We’re All Human

2017 i am what i am

Today, as every year on the 20ieth of November we remember all those who have been killed because of their gender identity. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. The sheer numbers of those killed in the most barbaric ways are staggering and break my heart. This year it is 325 individuals that we know of from around the world. One life was taken every 27 hours. Basically, this means one trans person was killed every single day of this year. Simply for who they are. You can find the full list of those we have lost here: https://tdor.info

Just imagine. Lives extinguished, broken. Because people are afraid of what they don’t understand. And, rather than try to understand and open their minds, they choose violence to keep their world the way it is and supposedly always was.

But these murderers and anyone else resisting diversity and inclusion are wrong.
Trans people have always existed.
Being born with a gender identity different from societal norm is not something people choose to be. They are not an anomaly or trend.
They just are.

Individuals of all shapes, colors, identities, and sizes have always been part of humanity. But many societies, governments, and churches have tried to eradicate diversity. Because, the more individual, creative, and colorful people are allowed to be, the harder it will be to control them, to convince them to conform to stereotypes and labels. We are all victims of our societies, of hundreds of years of stereotyping for the “greater good”, for “order”, and “structure”. But peace and order are a sham if they are built upon the dead bodies of thousands of innocent individuals. If we cannot open our hearts, if we cannot include everyone and give people equal rights, then we are as far away from the “greater good” as can be imagined.

The key for me has always been inclusion. Because, at the end of the day, believe it or not, we are all human. I have never cared if someone is white, blue, green, black, purple, cis, gay, lesbian, bi, poly, unicorn, or whatever. These are all just labels.
And labels have nothing to do with humanity. In fact, they distort the picture.
There are no “trans people”, no “fringe groups”, no “normal people”.
If you open your heart and mind, there are only “people”.

So, I live my life accordingly. I try not to judge. I try to accept people in all their many beautiful shapes and sizes. In all their identities and beliefs. And I will not let myself be limited either. According to the current labels I am a trans man. Well, yes I am. But I am also not. First and foremost I am a human being like everybody else. I am far more than just trans. I am the sum of my experiences. I am the man and boy I always was, regardless of having entered this world in a female body. I am an adventurer, a rebel, an introvert, a creative soul. I am impatient, sensitive, compassionate, stubborn, loving, and restless. I love to travel, love to write and create, love to have a beer with my friends, and love to spend a quiet day at home with my wife and our three cats.
No one will tell me who I am because the only one who can truly know is I.
All lives are precious and worth living.
We just need to look beyond our fears.
Beyond the labels.

This is for all those we have lost. You will never be forgotten. RIP.
But this is also a message for all of us still inhabiting this breathtakingly beautiful, pale blue dot. Don’t ever give in to labels and stereotypes. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t be afraid to be yourself no matter what. Because “Life’s not worth a damn until you can shout out: I am what I am!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIryTgUheUs