My website has been re-vamped and in the course of this change my blog has moved from this URL to be imbedded in my website https://www.liamklenk.com
I hope to keep seeing you there for regular, thought-provoking, and inspiring content!
The new website includes this blog, infos about my book, as well as infos about my public speaking engagements (and the possibility to book me for one.)
So, if you ever hear of a company or individual who would be interested in having someone come speak about what it means to be transgender in an uplifting, insightful, and compassionate manner (in-person or virtual), please share my website with them.
Cheers, and very much looking forward to seeing you on my Website! Liam Klenk
For a second time, I had the pleasure to be invited as a guest to Kurt Aeschbacher’s talk show. This time not on television but life on stage at the Kulturhaus Haebse in Basel. It’s been – once again – a special honor and precious life experience, whilst at the same time also an opportunity to raise awareness for the transgender community and do something good.
After I published my book ‘Paralian – not just transgender’ in May 2016, I was invited to do many radio and magazine interviews. At the time, I wondered what I would do if I’d ever get approached to be a guest on a talk show.
Because, inevitably, when I watch most talk shows, they feel over the top to me, pretentious, inauthentic, disrespectful, exploitational, and wrong on so many levels.
Except Aeschbacher. He is a Swiss TV legend and hosted his own talk show, unpretentiously called ‘Aeschbacher’ for 30 years on Swiss television. I’ve always loved his shows and the way Kurt Aeschbacher dealt with his guests.
There was a lightness of being and a deep understanding. All at the same time.
There was also true curiosity, compassion, and respect. Kurt always invited four people and focused on each of them for 15 minutes in his 1-hour-long show. He led the interviews with a beautiful, subtle sense of humor, and an enormously big heart.
So, I really dreamt of one day being invited to ‘Aeschbacher.’
And then, all of a sudden, in January 2018, I received a letter from the ‘Aeschbacher’ production team, asking me if I wanted to be a guest in the show.
It was lovely. And the positive impression I had gained of Kurt Aeschbacher from a distance over the years was confirmed. He welcomed us, his four guests of the evening, with open arms at the TV studio. He told us, he didn’t want to discuss the questions with us in detail beforehand so as not to take away the authenticity. But he also said that, should we feel uncomfortable at any time, we could always choose to just not answer a question.
After the show, he approached each of us and asked us if it had been ok, and if we had felt comfortable. And all of us had felt very comfortable indeed.
Fast forward five years from spring of 2018 to now – spring of 2023.
We got back in touch this year and I was delighted to hear that Kurt Aeschbacher had decided to continue his talk show concept live on stage in a theatre in Basel after his TV show had been shut down after its successful 30-year run.
So, it was a no-brainer to say ‘yes’ when Kurt asked me if I wanted to be his guest again. This time for his matinee show ‘Sonntagsgaeste’ (Sunday Guests), which he performs together with artistic director and musician Phil Dankner, who is just as much of a good soul as Kurt.
Thus, last Sunday, on the 16th of April 2023, I found myself on stage again, live, and as always very nervous in sharing a story as personal and intimate as mine. It always feels equivalent to leaning far out of the window on the top floor of a 30-story building.
The overall concept of the talk show was still the same. Yet, far more comfortable somehow, in a stage setting which resembled a cozy living room.
The conversations between Kurt and his guests were still inspirational, delightful, entertaining, as well as educational.
As I watched the conversations with my co-guests, I learned about moulages. About incredible Ticino architects. And I was inspired by young Swiss singer ‘Elle,’ who I am sure will make all her dreams come true.
I was the last of us 4 guests.
Kurt and I chatted for 25 minutes about my life, about being transgender, and the challenges of transitioning 30 years ago, when no one was aware yet, and being trans wasn’t discussed on every news and social media channel.
We also talked about the importance of mutual respect in all of our dealings with each other, no matter if we understand one another’s journey or not.
I believe, Kurt, Phil, and I made a difference that evening. Many audience members shook my hand after the show and thanked me for giving them a better glimpse into a subject they had up until then not really understood.
Thank you, dear Kurt and dear Phil, for creating such a wonderful platform for us, the guests on stage as well as the audience, to learn more about each other and celebrate the diversity of human lives and our life experiences, together.
On Sunday, April 16, 2023, come see me on stage in Basel, Switzerland.
I will be one of four guests of Swiss talk show legend Kurt Aeschbacher. And he will surely have an amazing conversation with each of us. For 30 years, Kurt Aeschbacher had his own talk show on Swiss TV. Now he is continuing this legendary, engaging, and inspirational set-up in a new form together with artistic director Phil Dankner, live on stage, in a matinee show at ‘Kulturhuus Haebse’ in Basel.
We will talk about my life, my book, and we’ll try to build bridges and further understanding of what it means to be transgender.
Kurt Aeschbacher’s talks are always compassionate, thoughtful, respectful, and full of a kind curiosity. I won’t know in advance which questions he will ask and where the conversation will lead us. But I am sure it will be a beautiful, memorable morning.
Currently, I am traveling in Aotearoa, mesmerizingly beautiful New Zealand. On my own, in a camper van, catching up with friends, and attending a wedding along the way. I love this mix of meeting wonderful humans whilst at the same time being able to enjoy lots of quality alone-time. Just me and the breath-taking natural world all around me. In fact, I’m enjoying every moment. Laughing out loud in the van sometimes when the beauty of the world and the joy of being alive hits me full force.
What a contrast to how I felt in 2019, when I was so down, so tired of life, and of fighting to make it in this world, of longing to be loved, that I had to consciously avoid pharmacies, because I knew if I’d set foot inside one, I’d give in, buy a few hundred tablets and take them all in one go. I was so incredibly tired. And so defeated.
The three years since that awful time have been an odyssey during which I’ve gone from having lost almost my entire sense of self-worth and self-confidence to re-building myself yet again. This through finding the courage to look at all that had transpired with a hard, honest eye. To then, eventually, be able to say, “Life is beautiful and you deserve better.”
Even my identity as a trans man, which had taken me a painful twenty years to grow into with confidence, had been seriously shaken in its foundations. I had transitioned when I was 25, in 1996, when I finally understood that I had always been a boy, a man, inside. But it had taken me those two decades to be ok with my scars, to grow into my body, to feel confident in who I was, and to not feel apologetic about being trans anymore.
Then, a statement from a woman I had loved and trusted with all my heart – my now ex-wife – had been the beginning of our lives together and my sense of self unraveling. At first, it had just been one cruel statement. A statement, which still haunts me to this day. When she said to me after living together for 5 years, “Yes, I have an affair. And I don’t feel bad about it. I needed it. For the first time after 5 years I finally feel like a woman again.”
In that moment I felt like someone had detonated an atomic bomb in the room. And just like radiation, her words began eating away at me from the inside. This first statement and many others after about how I just wasn’t good enough, literally reduced me to ashes. And any Phoenix-like antics felt like a million light-years away from being possible.
I felt unseen, worthless, not enough, almost existence-less. And to make matters worse, hearing these thoughts from someone I had thought valued me triggered old traumata from way back. Traumata which were responsible for me not having a sound base to weather an assault like this in the first place.
I’m still overcoming. Growing back into my skin slowly. Learning to love myself again. At this point, I am still scared of ever falling in love again. Scared of ever kissing a woman again and holding each other. Still worried I might not be good enough for anyone. And scared of trusting someone so deeply ever again.
Thankfully, by now I also know that my heart and all the love I feel inside of it, all the love I’m able to give, are strong enough.
Strong enough to eventually help me overcome this feeling of ineptitude.
I will, eventually, embrace another person intimately again and allow myself to be embraced. Yet first I need to keep working on embracing and loving myself fully and unconditionally. I need to learn to show myself the same kindness, love, compassion, patience, and understanding that I always give so easily to others.
For the moment, I am learning to set better boundaries, prioritize my own needs, my own emotional, and mental health. I am looking at my entire life with an honesty and clarity greater and deeper than ever before. And I aim to grow, better myself.
Build an inner base so strong, I’ll be able to navigate all tides and currents around me, and within me, far better. Be vulnerable, yet also rest peacefully within myself.
Being on my current road trip around beautiful Aotearoa, I am amazed at being able to feel unbridled joy again. I’m amazed at how much I enjoy my own company. I speak to myself, and tell myself, “You’re alright.”
Millions of thoughts are going through my head. And I let them all in, allow them to stay for a moment. Because I am, in fact, alright enough for now. I can weather them.
And while I look inward, my eyes, my whole body and soul also look outward, to absorb the magnificent natural wonders all around me.
I’m saying hello to a new lease on life. A new chapter. A better me. Life is beautiful. And so profoundly worth living.
With all the discussion about abortions and many people courageously putting themselves out there sharing their personal experiences, I thought I’d share a little tidbit with you as well.
A little over 52 years ago my biological mother lived in Stuttgart and had a boyfriend from Italy. She had just moved out at home and was trying to make it on her own. He was a foreign worker who came from Southern Italy.
Both were 18 years old when they met, and both came from very strict, Christian families. Sex was never talked about in their families, and contraception was definitely a taboo.
Like any teenagers who are in love, they soon did have sex, yet had no idea what to do to protect each other.
So, they did the best they could come up with, which was that he always tried to pull out before ejaculating… Until… one night, there was a vehicle collision in the intersection where they lived and one of the cars slammed into the wall of their apartment building exactly when my biological dad climaxed and should have pulled out.
He didn’t, of course, being startled by the deafeningly loud impact of the car which made the entire building shake in its foundations.
His sperm went its merry way, and I was conceived.
It took my mom ages to realize she was pregnant. When she did, my dad and her both panicked. He ran away to Italy, and she tried to go back home to her parents who promptly disowned her because they wanted nothing to do with a sinner who had sex before marriage.
My biological mom had no choice but to go to the only place back then that would take her: a refuge for pregnant prostitutes, where they were allowed to stay until they gave birth.
Abortion was never discussed. She was never given a choice. And thus the road to disaster was paved.
As soon as my mom gave birth, she was told to leave the shelter. Then the German state took charge and declared her unfit to raise a child due to not having any family support.
They took me away from her at 3 months old and brought me to an orphanage.
What ensued from there were incredible hardships and struggles for both her and I.
Traumata and pain that never healed on both sides.
So, I ask, what gives anyone the right to tell a young woman who finds herself at a dead end what to do? It is her life and the life of her child which hangs in the balance. It should be no one’s decision but hers.
And adoption is, from own experience, a bit like Russian Roulette. You can get lucky or plunge from one nightmare straight into the next one…
Outlawing abortion is about as far away from being pro-life as I can possibly imagine. It is a blatant violation of human rights.
And no one, especially not a bunch of privileged white males, should ever be allowed to tell women what to do with their bodies.
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! 💛🧡❤️💚💙💜
It’s time to stay close to home for a while… simply to be careful with finances… and also because, quite honestly, I just love my rooftop apartment with its little terrace. Even more, I love sitting on said terrace for hours together with my room mates JoJo and Luna, two adorable felines who I can’t imagine living without at this point. They soothe my soul and make me happy every moment of every day.
But I do get out for walks as often as I can, exploring the neighbourhood, downtown area, as well as the outskirts of my home town Zurich.
Water is what defines Zurich most of all. Lake Zurich, the old moat called “Schanzengraben”, the river Limmat, and the river Sihl. I never get tired of strolling along those bodies of water. In most cases they are lined with beautiful cityscapes as well, interspaced by parks. Or, further down the river Limmat, the riverside is lined with cozy cafes. And graffiti, glowing brightly in all colors of the rainbow.
After many years of living and working abroad, I am rediscovering my home and learning to love it with fresh eyes.
During the last few months, I didn’t get out much except for short walks around the neighbourhood. Work was intense, and the weather was just too grey and wet for me to want to go on big excursions.
However, as soon as spring kicked off here and the days got longer, warmer, drier, and sunnier, I took a week off to go where it was still cold, grey, and wet: to the fjords of Norway.
What brought me there initially was a concert by Ludovico Einaudi I just didn’t want to miss. Then, I figured why not leave Oslo straight away and head to the area around Bergen to explore some of the far larger fjords in the west of Norway a bit.
It turned out to be an amazing trip. Each fjord I visited was more beautiful than the one before it. Especially the Naeroyfjord, with a ferry trip from Gudvangen to Flam, was absolutely, mesmerizingly beautiful and invigorating. Even more so since the sun came out for most of the day, bathing everything in a crystal clear light, enhancing the hues of white and blue all around me to an eerie brilliance.
It was my first time ever traveling to Norway or the European North in general, and I’ll most definitely be back. For hikes, road trips, and boat cruises around even more fjords. And to explore other northern countries as well.
In addition to the landscape which was almost unreal in its beauty, I loved the general atmosphere in Norway. There was a distinct politeness, calm, and relaxedness which felt like blessed relief. Time seemed to slow down and whatever stress I felt still lingering from the months of working before soon vanished without a trace.
Everything seemed so easy, quiet, accessible, and open-minded. I never quite felt anything like it anywhere else during my abundant travels through many countries around the world. It was simply enchanting.
Do you have moments when you feel utterly lost? You might even have a roof over your head, great friends, food on the table, and a regular income. But something has shaken your world to the core. And it’s been like a wake-up call. Everything has shifted since then. Your world is in the process of re-aligning… or maybe aligning properly for the first time ever… whatever that may mean. Maybe, you’ve been given a chance to get to know yourself better. And become a better person through deeper introspection. To right some wrongs you’ve done to yourself and others. Or, at least, to find some peace in your mind and heart.
But you don’t really know anything. And, even though it feels as if you are currently in limbo or at least slow motion in some kind of process, you can’t be sure where you are in this process. Or if you’ll ever arrive anywhere.
Sometimes, you wonder if you’re even made for this world. You seem to lack the aggressive drive most other people have. You seem to lack their self-confidence and natural sense of entitlement. Your values seem so different from theirs. As seem your needs. Your dreams.
Looking around you, you want to get a sense of who you are, but you can’t. Looking inside you there is only uncertainty and confusion. You seek peace and a deeper, honest, authentic, open understanding of everything. You’ve sought this for a long time. Yet, still, you fail. You fall short. You disappoint yourself and others.
And, when it comes down to it, after a life-time of struggling and trying to find your place in this world, it seems as if with each year, rather than making headway, wherever it is you are headed eludes you more instead of less.
Wandering around the forest of your neighbourhood as well as the metaphorical forest of your life, you can’t help chuckling at yourself and wondering WTF. It even seems as if the forest agrees with your puzzlement and answers as you happen upon a random piece of forest trail art.
I’m on vacation! 2 1/2 weeks off work. Thankfully, as of this moment it still feels as if I’m suspended in time. I have all the time in the world.
In fact, this is my first vacation since beginning of 2019 that is without stress and anxiety. A vacation without existential angst… even though I’m still far from feeling steady ground under my feet again.
Nevertheless, I enjoy many a happy moment. My cat is a great teacher. He shows me how to stay in the Now.
Because often, when I see my social media feed, I get quite depressed.
Every day, there is another “congratulate Blabla for starting a new position as Blabla for this and that show.” I read it, feel happy for my colleague, but also immediately feel this deep ache radiating all the way to my core. A kind of homesickness that is incredibly hard to shake. And to be entirely honest, possibly also hurt pride.
I need to be careful not to dwell on it too much. To not get overwhelmed by sitting on the bench.
The thing is, I love working backstage, especially for circus shows. Yet, no matter how hard I’ve worked during my thus far 10 years in the business… I’ve always found it incredibly hard to get a foot in the door. I blame nepotism. So many times, my skillset and enthusiasm didn’t seem to matter when I applied for a job at a show. Managers would only hire people they already knew well…
These days, I am working in a corporate office. Admin work similar to what I am used to as a stage manager. The work is also just as fast paced and ever-changing. So that is good. Yet, I do miss being backstage running tracks in the evening. And I miss calling the show.
I’ve adapted to so many things in my life already. Yet this time, the ache remains. It feels as if I’ve lost something forever and it will leave a void I somehow cannot quite fill with anything else. Because nothing compares to the almost electrifying vividness of bringing a show to life together.
I am now stumped and quite a bit lost when it comes to figuring out where I’m headed with my life. I feel uprooted. Wanting to arrive somewhere yet not quite able to do so. Daily, I feel the ache of wanting to go backstage again to work my heart out for something burgeoning with creativity and soul.
As for hurt pride… there is the exasperating fact that everything else I’ve ever put all my energy towards has worked out for me. Except working backstage and being able to build a successful career as a stage manager. Over the years, I have been great in helping others in the industry to kickstart their career. Yet, for myself, the backstage universe seems to remain strangely out of reach.
Well, looking back over the last decade, I’ve had a good run of it, too. I worked for two amazing aquatic circus shows. One of them the largest one in the world at the time. I also got to work with a great international team on the first ever electric vehicle stunt show in the world.
So, I did manage to squeeze more than just a foot in the door every now and then over the years. And I did my best to gather as much experience as I could while I was with each show. In my last job in the industry, I even finally called the show. Meaning, I ran the show from the control booth. It’s sort of like being the bridge between everything. Keeping people safe and the spectacle flowing. Much like being a conductor for a huge orchestra. Just that in this case it’s performer cues, light, sound, special effects, props, and all kinds of things coming together. It’s like creating the same perfect Mandala every night. The timing must be just right. But still, the show will never be exactly the same.
Calling the show was something I had wanted to do for a long, long time.
Now, I seem to be completely out of the loop. As if none of these experiences ever happened. Whereas most of my former colleagues are falling neatly back into place after the pandemic. Like human puzzle pieces in a re-activated live Tetris game.
I wonder if maybe being a stage manager is just not my door? But how can something that feels so deeply invigorating and seems to fit so well to my personality and skillset be the wrong door? Maybe there are things I just cannot grasp and understand yet.
Maybe answers will await further along the road.
For now, my old street cat JoJo reminds me to count our blessings and enjoy every precious moment. To trust that, somehow, the mystery of where we’re headed will be revealed over time.
We do have a roof over our head after being homeless for a good 1 1/2 years (well JoJo was homeless for a good decade or more). Plus, it’s not just any roof. We found a gorgeous little rooftop apartment with a terrace. Our place is flooded with light. Different hues of golden sunlight find their way through our windows over the course of each day.
And I have a job. That’s not to be taken for granted.
It’s also good to have health insurance again. There are some aches and pains both JoJo and I have been struggling with that we can now take care of.
Most importantly, we are surrounded by a group of close friends whom I’ve known for decades. Many of them have always been there. No matter where I went. No matter for how long. And they’ve always accepted me for exactly who I am. We’ve grown in all kinds of different directions and yet have never grown apart.
So, JoJo and I are in a good place.
I’m relaxing into the flow as best as I can.
The person inside me who wants to have a plan would love to know about some deeper meaning in all of this. Would love to know the destination we are headed towards. And would love for it all to instantaneously make sense and feel right.
Most likely, a few years from now it really will all make sense and I’ll know why everything had to happen the way it did.
I know, it’s about the journey, not the destination. The adventurer within me appreciates that. The adventurer within is grateful for all the moments spent now in this current life situation, this current place.
Mostly, I am incredibly grateful for and happy about every second I get to spend with little, old JoJo.
Time together is always limited. I guess it is what makes the happy moments so incredibly, overwhelmingly precious.
But in our case now, I am more aware than ever before of how limited time together is. No one knows JoJo’s age. He might be anything above 10 years old. And he has FIV.
The time we have together. Friendship. Love. Supporting each other is more important than anything else. Be it human to human, or human to animal.
So, here we are, two close friends, cat and man, enjoying some last, golden autumn sunshine together.