I Was Born A Girl…But I Always Knew I Was Supposed To Be A Man – Transgender Man Speak
Liam Klenk, now 40 years old and pictured below, says undergoing gender reassignment surgery has saved him from a life of unhappiness.
|Liam as a young girl|
Twenty-seven years and several operations later, Stephanie is now Liam. He said:
“I’d always felt a little confused about my gender identity, but I hadn’t thought too much about it as a child.
But when I hit puberty, I began growing the most enormous breasts, and it was very distressing for me.”
Tentatively, Liam (then still Stephanie) began to date boys, but it stirred up a lot of emotions.
“I really couldn’t figure it out,” he says. “I didn’t feel gay, and I wasn’t really interested in men or women. I didn’t enjoy sex, even when I fell in love for the first time.”
Liam muddled along unhappily until one day something happened that would change his life forever. At the age of 21, he got a job in a cinema.
“It was a very boring summer, so I read a lot of library books,” he remembers. “There was one book which had a story about transgender people. I was sitting there next to the popcorn machine, turning the pages and I had the sudden realisation that I was transgender.”
In those days, transgender people such as the Kardashian’s former stepfather Caitlyn Jenner and boxing promoter Kelly Maloney were less common in the media, so Liam hadn’t had anyone he felt he could relate to. But that afternoon, he suddenly understood a part of himself that he’d struggled with for his whole life.
“The realisation was a huge relief, but I was also completely terrified,” explains Liam. “There was no choice, I had to become a man – even if that meant losing my friends and family.
“I knew that if I didn’t begin gender reassignment, I’d probably end up either killing myself or being horribly unhappy for the rest of my life. With surgery at least I’d have a shot at happiness.”
Liam wanted to look at his change in a positive light, so decided to see his doctor. After psychiatric tests, he began hormone therapy. Over the course of a year, he injected himself every 20 days with drugs that started to make him more masculine.
“I felt excited but also scared,” he says. “But it felt like the only way forward and I had a funny sensation that everything would be okay. It was like a second puberty, and for a while I was a weird hybrid creature, a woman with big breasts, a budding beard and a deepening voice.”
|Liam as a girl with her mum|
Still working at the cinema, Liam had struggled to explain his changing body to his colleagues. As his voice broke during his ‘second puberty,’ he had pretended he had a cold. But one day he decided the time had come to tell the truth.
“One evening, I just sat them down and told them I had an announcement to make,” says Liam. “I was so freaked out and nervous, as a lot of them were older and quite conservative . I said, “Guys look, I’m not really a woman I’m actually a man and I would really appreciate it if you could all call me Liam.”’
The reaction from his co-workers was overwhelmingly positive.
Liam’s mother found it difficult at first, but did her best to understand her son. His father, who later came out as gay, was more understanding.
“He told me he’d always suspected there was a boy inside me because of the strange things I’d done as a child,” he says. “He gave me a present, it was a bottle of cologne and a razor. It was so touching it made me cry.”
|Liam with her father|
At the end of the year, Liam had some further gruelling psychiatric tests to establish that he was ready for surgery.
“I wanted my female organs out of me because they felt so foreign and alien.”
At 22, Liam had two major surgeries.
“I had my ovaries removed first, and I woke up after the operation and felt great,” says Liam. “Three months later, I had my breasts removed. I was so happy – straight away I said, “Oh my God I can see my feet!”
“It was an awesome feeling and, even though it was a big operation, I didn’t have any complications, just a few annoying weeks of wearing bandages and taking it easy.”
|Liam after breast removal surgery|
Eventually, Liam moved to Hong Kong in 2012, where he met his wife Helena.
“I’d had some lovers before, but they were very frantic affairs – when I met her it was very calm. The more I talked to her, the more I realised there was so much depth to her.”
Of course, any new relationship for Liam means he needs to explain his gender history. Although he has had the surgery to remove his female organs and has had hormone therapy for years, he took the decision not to have a penis constructed – a choice which his psychiatrist says shows just how sane he is.
“At that time, it was a very dangerous procedure, and would need about 30 follow-up operations,” explains Liam. “But I don’t need a penis, it isn’t what makes you a man. Plus, I didn’t want to lose my sensation while having sex.”
Helena was completely relaxed about Liam’s revelation, and the couple went from strength to strength. Now blissfully married, Liam says he could not be happier.
“The things that I’ve been through have made me a more compassionate person,” says Liam. “I’m grateful that I experienced part of my life as a girl, because I can understand the world better.
“I’m never going to whistle at women in the street, I’m never going to be disrespectful towards them because I know how it feels to be both a woman and a man.”
Culled: UK Mirror