Red Nose

2009 my divecenter picture-soon off to circus

“I’m going to run off to an aquatic show in Macau, China!” I told my teammates in the Maldives in 2009 with a bright smile on my face. The next day, my staff picture in the dive center was lovingly decorated with this charming red clown’s nose.
It’s been a hell of a ride since then. In no way negative, but definitely lots of ups and downs and what feels like an exponential learning curve. What will 2015 bring I wonder? More red noses? Or other adventures?

Oceanic Bliss

2005 snorkel guide

Exploring the Indian Ocean as a snorkel guide in 2005, I was happy. I still remember the soft sand, like a flowing, velvet carpet under the soles of my feet; the bright equatorial sun; the crisp, clean, salty air; and the many hues of turquoise and blue. Hermit crabs scuttled everywhere. Manta rays glided by as casual as a taxi might pass you in a large city. Most of all, I loved living on an island, surrounded by ocean as far as the eye could see, away from the often mind-numbing hustle and bustle of our “civilized” world.

It is done!

liam writing at papas

It is done! As of tonight, my 5th draft is finished. All that remains for now is to read through the entire book one more time, do some minor cosmetics and check transitions between chapters. Then, just in time for Christmas, after fourteen months of continuous writing, my manuscript will be ready to be sent out to agents and publishers. Keep fingers crossed my dear friends! I’ll keep you posted of any new developments.

Only Days

IMG_3866

I am only days away from finishing my 5th draft.
For the moment, I am keeping my working title, ‘The Fortunate Nomad’. But I am seriously thinking of something more metaphorically connected to my story. I want my readers to envision aquatic environments rather than camels and desert. ‘The Blue Line’ seems a good option. Like a life-line, rivers, lakes, oceans, and pools have been with me every step of the way.
Here a photo from the very beginning. Even back then it was very difficult to get me out of the water.

The Origin of Strength

1995 self portrait

Two days ago, I was “on stage” for the first podiums discussion of my life. It was a very good, fascinating experience. Best of all, it moved something within me and gave me pause. Amidst differing opinions, I recognized my own stubbornness and realized my discussion partners and I all wanted the same, even had similar histories. We had just somehow taken slightly varying paths. These winding roads seemed to have led us to the same idealistic goals: to be ourselves no matter what and to make the world a better place, for everyone, if only slightly.

Listening to various stories and notions, I also began to question, “Where does my strength come from? Why can I overcome hardships that might break others? Do I have stubborn genes?”
Don’t get me wrong. I often pondered committing suicide in the past. I often battled depression and despair. But I would somehow manage to grab myself by the ears and pull myself out of the swamp – over and over again. And I would berate myself, “Liam, stop this nonsense and stop feeling sorry for yourself. It doesn’t lead anywhere.”

Overall, I think, I was able to deal with the transgender-related issues in my life in a reasonably positive manner because I saw them in perspective to everything else that was happening. (By the way, the picture shows me nineteen years ago when I was twenty-four.) Brazenly put, my life was a “shit-storm”, and in relation to all else, being a transgender man was just one of my bigger problems. I am an orphan; had a heavy case of spasticity as a child and could barely walk; my adoptive mom is a paranoid neurotic who turned my childhood into a minefield; and I was married twice under rather traumatic circumstances. I could continue. The list of challenges is long.

Nevertheless, self-pity or giving up was and is not ever a solution. A sense of humor is essential. And recognizing that everyone we look at has their own story to deal with. As cliché as it sounds, we are not alone in our pain.
When I look at myself and at my gift of compassion and understanding towards others, I am almost glad life kept throwing obstacles in my way. My soul definitely grew because of it. And the more happens, the more I survive, the more I know I can survive anything – WE, dear friends, can survive anything – except, of course, our inevitable death.

Here is to life! Let’s make the most of it.

Respect and Understanding

2013 goodbye bbq hodw

Just yesterday, I talked with another transgender man from Zurich, Switzerland. He asked me: Do you seek out other transgender people wherever you travel? And he proceeded to explain to me how much is wrong with the world; how we trans people are not understood as who we are; how society needs to change and embrace us; and how disrespectful it is to call us transsexuals…
I was reminded from the bottom of my heart why I usually avoid these encounters. I avoid them as I would avoid any other form of fundamentalism. It is unhealthy, judgmental, and paradoxically disrespectful by its very nature.

I love people and I love life. I love human beings in all shapes, colors, and forms. I love them for their diversity, their passion, their goodness, their stubbornness and their fallibility.
Why should I consciously seek out other trans people during my travels? Why should I limit myself to such an extent? Why should I not just walk the streets and open my heart towards any encounter? I have been blessed by meeting so many unforgettable characters already. Even the people in this picture, representing ‘only’ a four-year period of my life, are as diverse as they come. Crossing paths with them has changed my life forever – for the better. If you are going bald, will you henceforth travel the world only looking for bald people?

Yes, there is a lot wrong with the world, and there always will be. Human nature is what it is. But we can choose to look at the bad and see a threat in everything – or, we can choose to see the good and make the best of everything.

It is hard for human beings to understand what they do not know. How can someone who hasn’t been born in the wrong body ever really know what it feels like to be stranded in your own skin, like a traveler in an airport without a valid passport? How could I be so arrogant to ask them to change their entire world view just for me? How could I judge them? We all have very different journeys and are battling our own challenges and demons.
I have dozens of examples of what is hard to comprehend from my perspective. For example, I have trouble understanding strictly religious people. Or I don’t understand people who spend their entire lives in the same village. But it is their life, not mine. They have a right to their own freedom of mind. Who am I to say what is right or wrong for them? I don’t think anyone helps their cause by being judgmental or wagging a finger. We don’t help matters by taking ourselves too seriously.
What truly matters is respect and to let each other live the lives we have chosen to live. We don’t have to understand everything, and we can’t expect others to do so. We can only try, to the best of our abilities, to embrace each other the way we are.

Addressing the matter of being called transsexual: it doesn’t really mean much of anything. It is simply a way for people to try and give a label to someone like me, who was born in the wrong body – a body I needed to thoroughly change to become who I truly am. “Trans” essentially means to go from one thing or place to somewhere else. It can mean across, beyond, or changing thoroughly. “Sex” in English is simply another word for gender.

Problems seemingly horrendous for any of us, might not be as big as they seem. Many people are suffering, trying to fit in, trying to find themselves. We shouldn’t blow things out of proportion. I was being told, transgender people can get attacked or lose their jobs for being different. Yes, they can. But someone might also get attacked for being a foreigner, a christian, a hippie, a homosexual, a soccer fan rooting for the ‘wrong’ club, or maybe for simply being a student, wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes to school. I once got beaten up just because I asked some young men to be quiet during a movie. They had no idea I was a trans man.
People all around our planet lose jobs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are replaced by someone younger and cheaper, or maybe they don’t even get the job because someone doesn’t like their skin color or personality. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. We all face obstacles. I will not seek blame in others but take responsibility for my own actions. And if people tell me it can’t be done, I will try again and again until I find a way.
You don’t have to be transgender to find a multitude of problems in your life. And even if you are trans, 95% of your troubles will most likely be caused by things unrelated to your gender history.
Important is to remember our humanity. And to forgive each other for our shortcomings. Life is supposed to be hard. It is, in part, what makes our existence so beautiful and desirable.

I will keep doing what I have always been doing. I will try not to judge others. I will reach out and let myself be fascinated by the lives of my peers – and in my heart this term includes literally everyone. I will accept other humans as the beautiful people they are.
I will keep checking myself, for we all harbor prejudices, and sometimes those of us on the fringe of society are more prejudiced then your average Joe. I will keep positive and believe in the good of people – because I see evidence of it all around me every single day.

If we want respect, we have to first give respect to others. Some people believe, the only way to change the world is to make yourself heard, to force the issue. Sometimes, maybe, it can be necessary. But overall my life experience has shown me a far better way: life your life well, kind and compassionate and lead by example. You will touch the lives of those around you, creating a ripple in the ocean called humanity… and who knows where we will go from there… Anything is possible.

Sharing and Growth

2014 liam revisits aesch

A few days ago I passed by this beautiful old farmhouse. It was my very first home in Switzerland. I shared our half of the house with five amazing people who showed me what family and friendship are all about. We inspired each other, and were there for each other. Even though I stayed for only one year, I learned more than ever before.