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Before I Had the Words
Cover of Before I Had the Words
Before I Had the Words
On Being a Transgender Young Adult

At the beginning of his physical transition from female to male, then-seventeen-year-old Skylar Kergil posted his first video on YouTube. In the months and years that followed, he recorded weekly update videos about the physical and emotional changes he experienced. Skylar's openness and positivity attracted thousands of viewers, who followed along as his voice deepened and his body changed shape. Through surgeries and recovery, highs and lows, from high school to college to the real world, Skylar welcomed others on his journey.
Before I Had the Words is the story of what came before the videos and what happened behind the scenes. From early childhood memories to the changes and confusion brought by adolescence, Skylar reflects on coming of age while struggling to understand his gender. As humorous as it is heartbreaking and as informative as it is entertaining, this memoir provides an intimate look at the experience of transitioning from one gender to another. Skylar opens up about the long path to gaining his family's acceptance and to accepting himself, sharing stories along the way about smaller challenges like choosing a new name and learning to shave without eyebrow mishaps.
Revealing entries from the author's personal journals as well as interviews with members of his family lend remarkable depth to Skylar's story. A groundbreaking chronicle of change, loss, discovery, pain, and relief, Before I Had the Words brings new meaning to the phrase "formative years."

At the beginning of his physical transition from female to male, then-seventeen-year-old Skylar Kergil posted his first video on YouTube. In the months and years that followed, he recorded weekly update videos about the physical and emotional changes he experienced. Skylar's openness and positivity attracted thousands of viewers, who followed along as his voice deepened and his body changed shape. Through surgeries and recovery, highs and lows, from high school to college to the real world, Skylar welcomed others on his journey.
Before I Had the Words is the story of what came before the videos and what happened behind the scenes. From early childhood memories to the changes and confusion brought by adolescence, Skylar reflects on coming of age while struggling to understand his gender. As humorous as it is heartbreaking and as informative as it is entertaining, this memoir provides an intimate look at the experience of transitioning from one gender to another. Skylar opens up about the long path to gaining his family's acceptance and to accepting himself, sharing stories along the way about smaller challenges like choosing a new name and learning to shave without eyebrow mishaps.
Revealing entries from the author's personal journals as well as interviews with members of his family lend remarkable depth to Skylar's story. A groundbreaking chronicle of change, loss, discovery, pain, and relief, Before I Had the Words brings new meaning to the phrase "formative years."

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  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2017
    A transgender person tells the story of his transition.At an early age, Kergil, an activist for the transgender community, began wearing his older brother's hand-me-down clothes, cutting his hair short, and playing games more readily associated with boys than girls. His birth name was Katherine, but that didn't feel quite right to him. It was only when he reached his teens that he began to learn about transgender people and suddenly recognized he was also a man born into a woman's body. In youthful, enthusiastic prose, the author tells the story of how he shifted to thinking of himself as a boy and the fears, anxieties, and doubt he experienced as he gradually told his closest friends and family members of the change he was going through. Some people accepted him readily with warmth and love, while others had difficulties with this shift. Kergil recalls the harassment he endured from a wide variety of people, but despite the physical and emotional pain, he continued to push toward a goal of full transition. He explains the exploration stages he went through with various girlfriends and the process of physical transition, beginning with hormone treatments, then top surgery, and beyond. Kergil's straightforward account gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of being a transgender person. He shares how difficult the road has been toward acceptance and some of the tactics and words that have helped him. Although the writing tends toward immature, Kergil's story should help many who are in the beginning stages of gender identity exploration understand they are not alone as well as aid those who want to be more empathetic to the transgender community. An unremarkable but honest account of the young life of a transgender person.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2017

    Gr 7 Up-Kergil first came to prominence as a YouTube vlogger documenting his transition from female to male while in high school. Nowadays he tours college campuses as a trans activist and singer-songwriter. At the request of his fans, he wrote this memoir which spans from birth through the present day. The book starts off slow in a series of meandering childhood anecdotes and references to the popular toys of the era, but Kergil hits his stride when recounting middle and high school. He finishes the book with a series of recent interviews with members of his family, which bring an interesting external perspective to his story. One important note when recommending to readers is that Kergil reveals his birth name and many details of his transition-his surgery recovery process, for instance, is rather graphically described. These details will likely endear the book to most readers, but some may find them triggering. VERDICT While the writing is at times lacking, this is a solid purchase for libraries, especially those with a need for more LGBTQ-focused memoirs.-Shira Pilarski, Farmington Community Library, MT

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2017
    Transgender activist, YouTube personality, and multitalented artist Kergil felt secretly a boy in childhood, feelings that intensified during adolescence, resulting in her beginning transition from female to male at age 15. He legally changed his name from Katherine to Skylar and began his surgical transition at 17. From being a tomboy with his older brother JT and sometimes being mistaken in public for a boy to binding budding breasts, his true self was always apparent. Kergil tells his story in a conversational tone, sharing deeply personal, sometimes funny revelations, including one about his first prosthetic, all told from a position of self-acceptance bolstered by his loving, adaptable parents and therapy. He includes interviews with his parents, and, most affectingly, his brother, who was initially upset and angry at losing his little sister, but who eventually accepted his little brother. Kergil's openness and authenticity has made him a speaker who inspires hope, especially in young adults and their families, and this encouraging transition chronicle, distinguished by his eloquence and inclusion of other voices, will do the same.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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Before I Had the Words
Before I Had the Words
On Being a Transgender Young Adult
Skylar Kergil
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