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.
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! 💛🧡❤️💚💙💜
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/
It’s been a long long time since I have posted about Paralian.
With Covid, and things that happened in the year before Covid, I have been so absorbed, and left to fend for my survival, I could not really (and still can’t) keep up-to-date with all social media channels.
I also realize, I want to dedicate far more time to daily life instead of spending too many hours online. If this year has taught us one thing, then it is that life is precious, and our face-to-face relationships are more than precious.
I do want to update you all on the situation of my book though.
It is still and will keep being available as ebook on Amazon and on other platforms like Kobo, Apple iBooks Store, etc.
But it has gone almost out of print. Troubador Publishing still holds a few copies.
But there can’t be more than 10 copies left. You can find and order used copies of Paralian online though.
And, once borders can be crossed again without quarantine, I also still have 30 books under my father’s bed. So, if any of you want to buy a signed paperback version at some time in the future, let me know. As soon as I have a chance to go visit my dad, I can send the book on its way to you.
I hope, one day, I’ll find an enthusiastic publisher who will pick it up and re-print it. And, I am still dreaming of having Paralian translated into other languages as well. I am so sure it will do well on the German market.
But for the moment, it is what it is. Still available, but rather low key 🙂
As for me, I am slowly getting back on my feet. Thankfully, I currently am spending the cold winter days only thirty minutes away from the Mediterranean Sea as well.
As soon as summer will come along, I’ll need to get underwater. I am missing the big blue with every pore of my body. For now, it’s just walks on the beach, inhaling the salty air and dreaming of getting my toes wet.
Only 6 more days until I’ll be on my way! I’m getting quite excited and a bit frazzled. As always, the closer the date comes the more it seems like time is racing way too fast, and there is still quite a bit to prepare and test.
One of the toughest things in organizing this trip has been to find a solution for carrying my meds. Being transgender, I need to give myself an intramuscular injection every 20 days. Testosterone doesn’t grow on trees unfortunately, and it can’t just be bought over the counter either. On top of that, it should be kept in the fridge so it stays stable. Yet, I’ll be hiking in mid-summer in France and Spain, with temperatures most likely spiking up to 30 and 40 degrees Celsius…
Almost all travel refrigeration systems I looked at were useless to a hiker since they involved little ice boxes which were way too heavy and large.
Then, friends of mine (thank you Maggi and Abel!) alerted me to pouches for travelers which are being sold in Australia. There are crystals sewn into the sides of these pouches and when you put them in cold water for a couple minutes, the crystals turn into a cooling gel, which stays cool through evaporation and keeps meds safe at 8-10 degrees Celsius for up to 50 hours… by which time I’ll need to find a cold creek again to re-dunk the small pouches and re-activate them.
I wasn’t able to order these fantastic little (and also light-weight!) travel essentials in Australia, but ended up finding out that, nowadays, they are being produced in every country. As you see, the pouches have arrived and are ready to go. Nothing’s gonna stop me now 😉
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.
It’s been a while since the publication of my first book Paralian.
From the very first word I typed into my laptop in October 2013, to the publication of Paralian in May 2016, it was an amazing experience. I felt whole. Driven. For the first time in my life, I did something that felt entirely worthwhile and meaningful.
Considering the business side of it, I was naive when first getting started. I thought I’d be able to sell thousands of books. To this day, I sold only about 900. But I am told, for the first book of an unknown author, (and it being in the hard-to-sell memoir genre to boot) this is a fabulous outcome. Paralian won 5 literary awards. I’m so grateful all the hard work and soul I put into it has been recognised. However, the real success of Paralian lies in how many lives I was able to reach. I loved being in touch with some of my readers, being accessible and doing my best to be there for them. Someone once quoted Spiderman to me, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I agree wholeheartedly. I have powerful stories to tell, and have the power to write well enough to be able to share these true stories and tales in a natural, authentic, compassionate, and honest manner. I believe I do have the power to touch people’s hearts. It is a responsibility I take very seriously.
One thing I also discovered through the entire publishing journey is that I am a gifted public speaker. I enjoyed these face-to-face moments with small and large groups of enthusiastic listeners as much as they did. The Q&A sessions after each event were surprisingly engaged and open. I enjoyed putting myself out there, building bridges, and making a real difference, no matter how small my contribution might have been in the grand scheme of things.
Last year, family and work led me from Europe to far away Southeast Asia. As soon as I left the Western World, all opportunities to give presentations and continue building my author network dried up instantly. As much as I treasure all new life experiences, I feel as if I have lost part of myself. Every day finds me longing to write (but mostly being too physically exhausted to keep my eyes open when I come home from work). I know I’ll have to fight exhaustion and make time, even if this means getting up early before work every morning to find 2-3 hours of uninterrupted writing time. So far, I couldn’t. In the long run, I hope I am tenacious and strong enough.
I also long to get out there again, connect with other writers, readers, kindred spirits. I long to find ways to continue giving presentations and make a real difference in my passionate, personal, and soft-spoken way. If this is impossible in Southeast Asia, who knows, maybe I will be coming back to the Western World again in due time. Or, hopefully, I’ll find a way to build the necessary connections from afar, travel long distances to get to the events where speakers like me are needed.
My second book is currently still in its first draft… slowly developing… The aim for the months and years to come will be to finally find a literary agent who will believe in my potential. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that I suck at negotiating business deals. Plus, it takes too much energy away from me. It distracts me from focusing on the creative process.
Keep your fingers crossed on all fronts, dear friends. I’ll always keep you up-to-date, even if sometimes there will be longer pauses in between.
(for the photograph, a big thanks goes to Literally PR who have been nothing but fabulous in all our work together)
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!