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.
Photo by Susanne Stauss
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!
This coming Saturday, I will be given the wonderful opportunity to be part of the “LGBT Talents” event in Paris. I will be one of the speakers for the panel “MasterClass LGBT+ : Challenges of the less known letters” and hope to lend my unique perspective to an open and lively discussion.
Thank you so much to the organizers of this event for reaching out to me. I am truly honoured and looking forward to an inspirational day!
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
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.
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.
Uniting my body with my soul meant breaking the heart of the one person who had always been there for me – my oma (grandma). As the hormones took an ever-firmer hold, I tried explaining to her who I was. Unfortunately, she was becoming progressively more senile. Oma sadly asked for me. Countless times, she would ask Dad, “Why does Stefanie never come home to visit us anymore?”
Every time I visited, I would cook her favorite rice pudding. We would sit together at her small dining room table, holding hands and gazing together out the window at the night sky. Sometimes, say when there was a full moon, Oma would happily point and exclaim, “Look! The moon has come to say hello. Isn’t this magical?” It was. But, while my eyes followed her outstretched arm, she would try to hide my, to her palate, unsuccessful attempt at making rice pudding. She would spit the gelatinous mass quickly into her napkin and throw it under the table. I noticed each time this happened, but would always pretend I hadn’t. Immediately after she shuffled to another room, I would quickly grab a rag and bucket and clean up the mess. On other occasions, I would search for her dentures. Due to her ever-increasing senility, they would end up in the oddest places – inside flowerpots, in the oven, or under her bed.
During her clearer moments, Oma would look at me and I would hope to see a small spark of recognition in her searching eyes. Most times, though, her eyes would seek out Dad with a confused, heart-breaking expression on her beautiful, deeply-lined face that spoke of such a long, well-lived life.
“Konrad,” Oma would ask, “who is this nice young man who is taking such good care of me?”
To this day, it breaks my heart if I let myself think too much about Oma’s last years. I hope on some deeper level she understood I was always right by her side. She meant the world to me.
(Excerpt from Paralian, photograph from the year 2000, when I was 29, just after my transition, finally being myself. More info here)
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance #TODR. https://tdor.info
Everyone on this list has lost their lives simply for being themselves, for longing to live their lives as who they truly were.
In honor of those who have been taken from us so violently, let me share a positive story with you of how it could be. A story of hope:
“Even though it was still the early days – I’d had only four months of hormone therapy – it was time to announce to the people in my life what had been happening. I couldn’t pretend forever that my voice sounded deeper because of a cold, and I didn’t want to shave off the rapidly growing amount of body hair. It was time to jump into the bottomless ocean and reveal myself.
In the months following my decision to come out, my faith in humanity was restored many times over. Almost all reactions to my revelations were entirely, and sometimes surprisingly, positive. Many of my friends and acquaintances simply smiled a knowing smile when I told them, and confessed they had always taken me for either a hardcore butch or a transgender person. My behavior seemed to have given me away for years. People had known who I was, long before I myself had re-awakened to my identity.
Some reactions towards my disclosure about my real gender and my new name were outright comical. My team at the movie theater consisted of an elderly, conservative Swiss projectionist, as well as elderly Swiss ladies, stout-looking workers from Serbia, and other unique characters. One evening, I asked them all to gather in our small office because I had an important announcement to make. I was sure they would be outraged. I was sweating buckets and my heart raced.
In short, I told them I was actually a man and was going to change my body accordingly. Forthwith, my name would be Liam. Erich, the projectionist, just emitted a deep, rumbling “Hmmm?!” The elderly ladies exclaimed, “You will be such a handsome young man!” and the Serbians unanimously stated, “You are part of our gang. We’ll always have your back”. I was dumbfounded. Half an hour later, Erich passed by my popcorn stand. He stared at me very seriously and after a lengthy pause grumbled, “Couldn’t you have picked an easier name? How am I supposed to remember an odd one like Liam?” He stared at me for a moment longer, then turned abruptly, and walked away with a big grin on his face.
Only three days later, my company informed me of my appointment with the tailor who would change my work uniform into pants, blazer, and tie as soon as possible. I was in heaven.”
(The picture shows me only a few weeks after my tailor appointment.)