pride (in the name of love)

For some reason, the Christopher Street Day (the German version of the Pride Parades) takes place here in July. I have a feeling that it is also a lot more political, though it is certainly not lacking in color. Two years ago was the first time I had the occasion to witness the exuberant joy and cheer from the sidelines. Last year I sadly missed it, as it was on the precise day of my moving. This year I joined and marched along some 100 coworkers from the LGBT network of my employer, taking turns at carrying the banner that adapted the company motto to a message of affirmation and support.

It was certainly a different feeling. I did not get to “enjoy” the march like a show from the sideline, watching as trucks and cars and walkers carried their messages – cheeky, thoughtful, activist, humorous and kind – by in a rainbow swirl. What I did get to do was walk alongside others, through onlooker crowds 175000 strong. Signaling I am here, I stand and walk with all the others, for everyone’s right to love and be loved, to be safe, to be accepted, to be open and free to be who they are without hiding, to live and breathe and go through each day without double checking every word or action – things that many others have the luxury of taking for granted.

I carried the banner. I sang silly pop songs. I waved and smiled and laughed at people. I petted pups. I hugged everyone I saw with a Free Hugs sign. I sat down exhausted at the end with a silly grin on my face and some moistness in my eyes. Some of the folks I hugged were teens. Two of them had Free Hugs sign, but it turns out or seven or eight of them wanted to hug. They were wearing trans and ace and bi and rainbow flags around their shoulders. And I still find it amazing and wonderful that they can grow up in a time and a place where they have the resources to find out about themselves. That they can fill out a “I am…” sentence without thinking about how best to describe it or even better, how to dodge an answer, because it would be too awkward to explain or because the vocabulary is simply missing or because they have to fear the consequences. They can grow up knowing for certain that they are ok, they are not broken and there are others like them. I am finding some comfort in the thought that they probably do not even realize just how much that is worth. I am not wearing rose tinted glasses, I am well aware that while acceptance here is greater than in other parts of the world, there are a lot of less fortunate folks than the ones who cheered on Saturday who still struggle with who they are and how they are perceived. But I like to think that we are making progress.

In the name of love
What more in the name of love?
Continue Reading

feels like home

In February of 2013, me and a friend first came to Germany for four months – training for our new job. Maybe it would have been puzzling, if not for another friend who had already been in Stuttgart for almost a year and guided our first steps both through the city and our new department.

The first adjustment was to the schedule of the stores, which are all closed on Sundays. This was a lesson learned during the first weekend. But you learn to plan ahead and around that.

The second adjustment was the annoyingly slow internet. If I were to single out the best thing about my home country and town, it is incredibly fast and incredibly cheap internet. Not much you can do during a short stay when you rely first on hotel wifi (unreliable) and then mobile internet via stick (slow and limited). Issue solved when you stick around long enough to make a 2 year contract – good money will buy you good internet.

Third adjustment was the water. Again, good money will buy you good sparkling water (something not hard to find back home). Depending on the area you live in, the tap water is hard enough to mess up your skin and hair though. Nothing you can’t solve with care products, or, if you own a tub, balancing out the the water’s ph levels.

The thing that sometimes still puzzles me, however, is the weather. I distinctly remember the last days of our stay. It was a mixed feeling of regret at leaving and a glimmer of hope that maybe somehow I can arrange to come back for longer. Or for good, if possible. If not here, then further up North – maybe Sweden. I had tasted life somewhere else and wanted a slice for myself. The other two things I remember: I couldn’t send my winter jacket back home with visiting friends/relatives, because it was the end of May and I was still wearing it to work; and I was bummed because on June 3rd, Depeche Mode were having a concert in Stuttgart and I was missing it by a couple of days. I would catch them later that year in Budapest, but still.

Yesterday, realization hit me out of the blue.

The friend who guided our first steps here gifted me a typography/inspirational poster for my birthday after my return. It starts with ‘live your life’ and I have always viewed it as an encouragement to pursue the goal of emigration. It has been taped to the wall on my bedroom wall since the autumn of 2014, when I came back to Stuttgart for a short term assignment that kept getting prolonged, always keeping me hanging and hoping.

Since February, the ‘abroad assignment’ turned into ‘local national contract’.

Yesterday, the 7th of June, I was shivering in my apartment despite wearing a hoodie; heating was off and it was incredibly cold.

However, I had mail waiting for me. And I took the papers out of their envelope and laid them on my table. So… there they were, side by side: my concert ticket for Depeche Mode in Munich on Friday – alongside the freshly signed contract that had arrived in the mail. It has a pretty red seal and constitutes official proof that in less than two months I will own a place to call mine, for the first time in my life.

I have come a perfect circle and it is just beginning to sink in what a huge relief it is (and conversely, what a huge and constant background stress it has all been) and how at peace I actually am, despite the annoying shit that regularly goes down, both in my life and around the world.

I will buy a pretty frame for the poster, to hang it at the new place when I move in.

Finally, I found that I belong – feels like home.
Continue Reading

don’t bend; don’t break; baby, don’t back down

If I were to improve just one thing about myself… That is one of those uncomfortable self-assessment questions that I hate. Because in order to truly answer it, you must look in a really unpleasant mirror. Most of the times, I single out my willpower for the “needs urgent improvement” award. But now that I think of it, it is not really that. I can get my act together, if I find sufficient reason to do so. My real issue is that it’s just a bright blaze that burns out quickly. I am not a long distance runner. I want either immediate results or fun in the process. Without any of those, my willpower just hisses and sputters and dies out like a lit match in a bucket of water.

I am attempting to dangle the proverbial carrot in front of my own nose. I am patting myself on the back for the little steps and calmly trying to explain to myself the thousand other little steps needed for the journey make a difference. But I need results. I need to taste the little victories. Something abstract like “you are now one step closer to the goal” doesn’t cut it. And if it doesn’t feel like I am moving in any direction… lord, please let it be fun at least. Let me feel good about it. But nope… nothing on that side either.

Still, nothing left to do but soldier on. Good little marching ant. Eyes on the prize. Keep calm, don’t let things get to you.

You better stand tall when they’re calling you out. Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down.

Well, either that, or cuddle up and take a nap. It’s been a nap-heavy time lately…

Continue Reading

and if you listen very hard, the tune will come to you at last

So many things changed. And so many things stayed exactly the same. New horizons that immediately felt like home. Some friends stayed, some friends came, some friends went, some friends died. New jobs that are actually old jobs. New scars – some inked and pretty, some sown and ugly. Old loves that never die. New worries and ancient anxieties. Feelings of never having grown out of my old skin and feelings of having shed multiple layers since. Sometimes I don’t remember how the day has gone by and have no time to ponder it, some other days I do nothing but ponder on their passing. The same old demons visit me on quiet nights. Sometimes they whisper the same old stories that I know by heart, some other times they drip creative new innuendos in my ear. On some nights I slip away from them into the world of sleep, some others I lay awake and listen to them till the early hours of the morning.

It was many years ago and seemingly a lifetime away that during a long and quiet night shift, I was talking to a friend and trying to find words for the whirl of half-formed thoughts and feelings that I was choking on. I groped at other people’s words for help and mentioned some lines from Stairway to HeavenA decade later, the sheet music is etched in my skin and that verse has come to pass. And that sometimes feels too big, too scary, too crushing. Mostly though it is liberating, whatever the price.

Continue Reading