Vibrations

2015 liam at street parade

Truly Magical Moments. I am not even a techno fan… and I don’t like crowds… but I absolutely love the intensity of Zurich’s annual Streetparade.
People of all ages and nationalities are dancing and letting go together. Even 80-year old couples are joining into the party. Old ladies are wearing Hawaiian Leis, their eyes lighting up at seeing their historical city transformed into something not quite from this Earth. For just one day, it becomes an ocean of myriad colors, of glowing bodies vibrating with energy and happiness.
I am feeling intensely alive and so happy that I want to simultaneously holler, cry, yodel, and hop up and down like an over-caffeinated kangaroo. Life is meant to be lived.

Zugspitze

1987 on top of zugspitze

When I was sixteen, my dad brought me along for a trip to Berchtesgaden with his lover. During one of our days there, they wanted to have some time to themselves. I welcomed having a day to explore on my own and decided to hike all the way to the top of Zugspitze. I didn’t know the first thing about hiking, pacing myself, proper shoes… and it never occurred to me to research beforehand how long the hike would take.

Late morning, I set off at a brisk pace, inevitably finding myself completely winded after a little less than an hour. Even worse, I was wearing new hiking boots and my feet were hurting as if they were being squeezed in a medieval torturing device. I could feel tenacity rising within me while I caught my breath. Nope, turning around was definitely not an option.
So I pushed on at the same rigorous pace. Half an hour later I felt myself unable to take another step. My lungs were burning and my feet felt as if I had stepped on multiple razor blades. I sat down on a bench and gingerly took off my socks. They seemed to have merged with my feet. Both feet were covered in blisters. Most of those had already been rubbed raw and blood was everywhere.
All the hikers I had overtaken on my way up so far, began catching up with me and gave me odd glances. Thankfully one of them stopped and, in a very practical approach, handed me some disinfectant wipes and plasters.
“You really need to slow down kid.” he said. “Get yourself patched up and then walk slowly enough so you can go the distance. From here it’s at least another four hours to the top.”
So I improvised my first ever field-dressing, gritted my teeth, and went on… step by step, by little slow-paced step.
I reached the summit about five hours later, handed my little Kodak Instamatic to another fellow hiker, and posed for this shot. Absorbing the magnificent landscape all around me with every fibre of my being I knew it had all been worth it. This was a sight and a feeling of sweet exhaustion and accomplishment to remember.

Dad

papa and liam

As a child I adored my dad. Come adolescence, he began to seem old to me, a stranger, far removed from my own world. In my eyes he was unable to truly comprehend what happened in my life.

Many years later, when I turned forty, I noticed with astonishment that deep inside I hadn’t changed much from the teenager who had always been so full of positive energy, hopes and dreams.
And I wondered.. had my father always remained a young man inside as well? His character and emotional predispositions might be quite different from mine, but we could have more in common than I ever thought possible.

As small as this epiphany seems, it went a long way in helping me to understand my dad better. He still triggers tidal waves of emotions in me but, our worlds have moved closer together. Instead of being offended at how different our planets are, we have finally arrived — if not on the same star, than at least only a few light years apart instead of thousands.

Writing my book has done wonders as I re-experienced so many key events involving Dad. As I dove deep into my own story, I remembered him vividly and he came alive within me: his warm smile, his calm loyalty, his limitless generosity, his boyish behavior, his tears, the trauma of his marriage, his love affairs, his struggle with depression, his breakfast tomatoes, his passion for swimming, and his kindness in giving me my first razor and a bottle of Cool Water at the start of my hormone therapy, long before I had my gender reassignment surgery.

Now, moving back to within an hours drive of my dad is another huge geographical as well as emotional step towards each other. We meet and we talk. And even if sometimes I still get impatient, I am profoundly happy to have him in my life.

New Beginnings

liam and cats

My apologies for keeping you waiting with my weekly post. Our move from Malta to Zurich has brought all else to a standstill. After weeks of planning, searching and moving from apartment to hotel room to Airbnb, we have found our new home. We have unearthed long forgotten mementos from the bottom of dusty boxes bearing the scents of crumbly autumn leaves. We have bought a comfortable sofa and have enjoyed a few breakfasts on the balcony with our cheeky cats.
My introductory week at work has passed without major incident. It has been challenging, relaxing, and enjoyable, all at the same time.

Today marks our first real day off since cramming our belongings into that Maltese rental car four weeks ago. There will be no shopping, organizing, worrying, or hammering nails into walls today. Instead, we will stare into space and let ourselves sink ever more deeply into the cloud-like cushions of our new couch.

Confidence

2002 hat and suit session 3

In 2002, a friend took this photograph. I felt very confident at the time, like a forgotten orchid suddenly receiving the right amount of sunshine, water, nutrients, and inner strength to bloom into an amazing being.

Still though, at that point, I found it hard to take off my shirt, because I was worried far too much about how others might react to the sizeable scars across my chest. It had been a few years since my gender reassignment surgeries but, like a fugitive on the run, I expected trouble from all directions at any time. Everything was still too raw emotionally. No matter how unhappy and incomplete I had felt growing up in the “wrong” body, my mind now wasn’t just at rest after the reassignment. I needed some time to get accustomed to my “new” body, in all its beauty and imperfection.

I was far too tuned to my surroundings and got upset about the smallest comments. I even gave up a friendship once because my buddy chose the somewhat unfortunate phrase “you’re neither fish nor fowl” to describe me. Years later, I smiled at my lack of confidence and my consequently harsh response. In a state of emergency it had been hard to see the bigger picture and relax about simply being myself. My friend had never meant me any harm. Like me he had merely dealt with adjusting to sizeable changes.

Over the years, I pushed myself into extreme situations to learn and grow. The remedy to overcoming feeling awkward about people seeing my scars, for instance, came in the form of me working four years abroad as a snorkel guide and diving instructor, in a strict Muslim country, in nothing but my swim shorts. Today, I don’t even think about my scars anymore, and, as it turns out, neither do those around me.

The overall issue of confidence is a lifelong struggle. Words or looks can still throw me off balance. I know now, however, that I am not alone in this. Depending on our daily form and a combination of factors we all have days during which we feel less stable, and others during which even a tornado wouldn’t be able to throw us off base.

I guess the main thing is to forgive ourselves our imperfections, be they protruding ears, pimples, a lack of six-pack, being born in the wrong body, or any number of underlying reasons. After all, it is our imperfections just as much as our strengths that make us unique and beautiful. How humble and kind we deal with both shapes us and defines our character. It is a long-term learning process I am immensely grateful for.

He to She

2015 gzira barber

When we first arrived in Gzira, Malta, I couldn’t help but notice this cute sign. I would pass it every day, chuckling to myself as I imagined this tiny space to be a secret clinic for gender transitions. Of course, Gzira’s “He to She” is only a small neighborhood barber shop. Being a transgender male who doesn’t take himself too seriously, I became a regular. As imagination and humor swept me away, I would just barely manage to contain my laughter each time I went for a high-speed Maltese haircut.

Coming Home

2008 palau-liam and dave

Not in the jungle right now, but on the move again… just like in 2008, when I explored the Palauan rain forest together with my best buddy Dave, I am excited and happy. This time, however, it is an adventure of a different nature: In two days, Hanna and I will pack ourselves, two cats, and quite a few heavy bags into a rental car and drive from Malta to Zurich, Switzerland.
For me this move marks a coming home after ten years of exotic adventures as well as an entirely new beginning. Even more amazing, I finally feel I am mature enough to enjoy settling down in a place I’ve always loved.