Tag Archives: #trans

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!
💛🧡❤️💚💙💜

Thanks to UBS Pride Switzerland

Capture

I gave a presentation yesterday evening on my life journey and being transgender. We’re the sum of our experiences. The audience was wonderful, attentive, and engaged. A flood of questions after my talk. Great, in-depth conversations afterwards in the bar. Thanks so much to UBS Pride Switzerland for hosting this event!

Which Way To Go…

liam holding pup

I’d love to hear your honest opinion:
While writing the first draft of my second book, it’s becoming clear that I need to make a decision whether it should include me as a character or not.
As you might know already, the book will be a collection of stories about the animal companions I’ve shared my life with and how they have inspired me and helped me grow as a human being.
It will focus on moments when these animals and I forged a special bond, when each of them taught me something… about them, about life and, in turn, about myself.
At the moment, I am not quite sure how to proceed with the overall concept. See, because the animal stories are connected to my life I am not sure if I should tie in my being transgender or not. In a way it has no real relevance to my friendship and experiences with these animals. But of course first a little girl is together with those animals and over the course of time she turns out to actually be a boy. As the years pass and other animals come into my life, we go from “she” to “he”.
Somehow it wouldn’t be quite truthful to refer to myself as “he” as a little kid when I didn’t yet consciously comprehend who I truly was.

I feel there are two ways of writing this book:
1) If I don’t want being transgender to become a theme in this book at all, I need to create a fictional character, just any kid who grows up with those animals and learns from them. Then it’ll be rather fiction than non-fiction.
2) I leave it as a book telling the story of my animals and me. The book will focus on the animal characters of course. But it will then be a semi-autobiographical piece as well. And it will be necessary to somehow gently add being transgender… (or will it?) … to be as authentic as possible.

I am totally torn, because I don’t want to be stereotyped in the future or even now as a “transgender author”. But I am also aware I have powerful things to say that can potentially make a difference. I have a unique view of the world which maybe I should simply own up to. Then again I’ve always seen myself as “not just transgender”, but as a human being who is the sum of his experiences. All my life I’ve fought stereotypes and felt that it is mostly our obsession with labelling other people and ourselves that creates the most trouble for humanity and prevents inclusion.

So what to do? Any thoughts dear friends and readers? I won’t hold you to it. I could just really do with some honest input and gut feelings from people who can still see the wood for the trees.
Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts with me either here in open discussion or in a PM! xoxo

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

No Limits

2017 paralian-no limits

25 years ago, when I had my gender reassignment surgeries, I vowed to never let this important decision of aligning my soul with my body hamper or limit me in any way. I was going to continue going after my dreams. And I wouldn’t take no for an answer. Part of this meant to be able to retain my flexibility and spontaneity. In order to be able to live abroad and travel over longer periods of time, I overcame my fear of needles and learned how to inject myself. Since then, no matter which cultures or corners of the planet I go to, needles and vials are always part of my luggage…

“Sitting on an airplane bound for the Indian Ocean, with all relevant possessions in one bag and no return ticket in my pocket, I felt like an explorer about to make his greatest discovery. When would I take to the skies again? And where would I fly if I did? I had no idea, but anything seemed possible now.
Before leaving Switzerland, I had asked my doctor to write me a special prescription: thirty-six ampoules of testosterone. Not being able to produce enough of the male hormones on its own, my body needed a little help on a regular basis. My checked luggage now contained a two-year supply of testosterone injections, vials, and needles. My doctor had written a letter, attesting to the fact that my bodily functions would be severely disrupted without the medication I carried. Nevertheless, I was nervous. What if my stash was confiscated at Maldives customs? What would I  do?
Maldives immigration was easy. I presented papers from my employer and within five minutes, my passport sported a big, new ‘work visa’ stamp.
Then came the hard part. Already sweating with apprehension, I collected my luggage and headed for customs. There, my heart skipped more than a few beats when my luggage was singled out for inspection. Vials and needles were easy to see on the bag scanner’s screen. Even I could spot them, as I nervously snuck a peek over the customs officer’s shoulder. Surprisingly, he waved me through. Just like that, maintaining my manhood was ensured for the immediate future.”
(Excerpt from Paralian, Chapter 6 “Indian Ocean”)

Seeing More Clearly

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From 2005 to 2009, I divided my time between serving customers at the dive center and guiding them in the Big Blue. Being back in central Europe at the moment, I know more than ever that life is infinitely better the more ocean I have around me. Things shift back into perspective. And I am reminded of what is truly important. Apart from being a universe of boundless beauty and tranquility, underwater is also where I began to see more clearly…

Watching coral reef life became the perfect metaphor of human daily life. For example, tiny fish who defended their territory taught me how important it is to stand up for yourself no matter how giant the opposition may seem. The myriad of reef fish and other critters in all colors of the rainbow mirrored the infinite diversity of life on land… of human life… Nothing was perfect. Life was even cruel, unpredictable.. Yet to a neutral observer like me, hovering motionless only a few feet away, observing quietly, this was the most delicate and beautiful web of individuals I had ever seen.
Then, there was the interaction amongst divers. Developing a stronger sense of self first was crucial to being able to take care of others.
When I became an instructor, teaching underwater taught me even more about life. The SCUBA instructors’ mantra “stop, think, act” turned out to be great advice no matter the situation or environment. Because, when something goes wrong during a dive or in life, it’s never just one thing but a multitude of smaller and bigger difficulties and challenges that need to be addressed and navigated. Prioritizing is key. Step by little step, we remove one obstacle after another and what seemed insurmountable at first all of a sudden becomes manageable.

The Perfect Moment

2006 lunch on dhiddu

The perfect moment. Sunshine. A group of delighted scuba divers whom I had guided throughout the morning. Jackfish. Chilli Sauce. Sand as soft a velvet. Palm Trees. A blazing azure sky and turquoise sea all around us.

I enjoyed myself. Enjoyed to guide, coach, and drink in our surroundings with all my senses. It didn’t really matter who we all were that day. Social status, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and all those things tending to divide us, gave way to simply breathing in the untainted tropical air and enjoying life together. Just for a little while, yesterday and tomorrow became so insignificant as to be non-existent.

What Would an Ocean Be…

2005 free diving in maldives

“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” by Werner Herzog is the quote I chose for the beginning of Paralian.
Because this is life. No matter what our backgrounds.
There is no sleep without dreams. No growth without challenge. No clarity without ambivalence. No happiness without heartache. No light without darkness. And thankfully so. Were life more easy, foreseeable, and bearable, we’d be the poorer for it. It is an intricate balance, monster and all…

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.