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Before I Had the Words: On Being a Transgender Young Adult
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Before I Had the Words: On Being a Transgender Young Adult

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  393 ratings  ·  52 reviews
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 an ...more
Hardcover, 257 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Skyhorse
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018, ebooks

This was great! I was a huge fan of Skylar Kergil's YouTube videos back when I was in Middle School so when I found out he had a memoir I got VERY EXCITED. This was a great look into his life growing up and transitioning to male. I felt like I knew a lot of what was in this book between his YouTube videos as well as he's been in several news stories because he lived fairly close to my hometown - so our local stations did stories on him a lot. But, I really enjoyed reading his words on pa
Kansas English
Review by: Nathan Whitman & Sean Williams

Spoiler-Free Plot Premise/Overview:
Skylar Kergil’s Before I Had the Words: On Being a Transgender Young Adult (2017) tells the true story of Kergil’s transition from female to male in the form of a multi-modal memoir that uses a non-linear structure. Original song lyrics, interviews, reflections, and prose weave their way together to tell his story, which serves not only as an inspiration to trans youth who are just beginning to understand themselves bu
Joseph Crupper
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t read too many memoirs, so I have little to compare to in terms of gauging writing style. However, I don’t feel like Kergil was trying to write the most artistic memoir in existence. His writing is unpretentious, and I think serves more as a valuable story/teaching tool for questioning individuals and people close to them.
Kergil succeeds in providing a useful, riveting, and needed story for the trans-masculine community, continuing the lived advocacy he’s practiced for years. He touches a
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who want to ask their trans friends a bunch of invasive questions instead of googling it
Recommended to Z by: Bookbub
If I didn't already know about a dozen transgender people, I'd have probably rated this higher, but I'm so used to it that it seems pretty unremarkable. It's really all anyone could want, for the memoir of a trans man to be something so ordinary that everyone reacts to it without batting much of an eye. I hope to see a day in my lifetime where trans people are so universally accepted that someone reads this and wonders why it even needed to be published, because this could really just be any ran ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I enjoyed this book more than anything I've read recently. It's the story of a young transman named Skylar. He always felt that he was different as a child, but he didn't know the name for it. When he was 15, he met his first transperson and knew that he needed to transition. He started transitioning in his senior year of high school and has become a trans-advocate and Youtuber who speaks about trans issues. I learned a lot from this book and enjoyed the honesty in this memoir.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to finish this book I bought last year because I found one of Sky’s videos on YouTube and his transition completely captured my attention.

I’m a slow reader, but I sure enjoyed every single story and emotional moment written in this book. I could relate with what Sky felt, because I’m gay, and coming out was a big step for me.

Before coming out myself, I was judgmental about the LGBTQ+ community, and who wasn’t before coming out? I hated myself for feeling different and I didn’t
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender-identity
Skylar Kergil shares the fear, pain, and frustration people who are transgender go through before, during, and, sometimes after they finally begin living life as their true self. His strength and courage have been a great source of support to many other young people who are in the throes of discovering their true self. It has been an honor to have Skylar's YouTube videos play in our home for many years in the past and I hope his videos will continue to play in homes for years to come.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a truly eye-opening story that delved deep into the transitional experience of transgender youth. What I especially loved about this was that it was raw and personal, but it was also accessible for people who know very little about transgender struggles or about the LGBTQ+ community at all. I think stories like this are so inspirational because they are so brave. Skylar never had to bear this inside perspective of his personal life to the world, but he chose to so that he could advocate ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For transgender youth this is an amazing book. My mother bought for me for my birthday since she knew I was having a rough time figuring out who I was, a transgender woman, it really relates to people like me, who their whole life have felt a void of something or feel like they're in the wrong place. It's nice to have someone to relate to and in a way this is that relation. I've never felt more connected to the author after this book understanding his transition and how it started and ended, for ...more
Enne (they/he)
3 stars

I think society has progressed past the need for white queers who idolize the Obama administration. I mean, obviously this memoir had a lot to offer outside of that and I really appreciate the author for his transparency and his willingness to put so much detail about his personal life out into the world. But in the end I just could not get past the way this author constantly idolizes the Obama administration and puts the president and the VP on a pedestal for legalizing gay marriage as i
Julia Luckett
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great read that brings you into Sky's experience transitioning to the man he is today. His voice comes through clear and unfiltered. I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially teens or parents who aren't familiar with what it means to be transgender - Sky's shares his story with a friendly attitude and is always honest throughout.
☁️ priya ☁️
4.5 stars

“But maybe because in many ways, American society favors men, they could understand why a girl would act like a boy. The idea of the opposite, however, likely seemed preposterous."

“All I wanted to ask was, “So … how can I go through that puberty instead of this one?”

“Slowly, over time, I let that community drift into the back of my mind as I figured out I was simply a boy who looked like a boy. Not a girl who looked like a boy. Not a girl pretending to be a boy online. Just … a boy.”


I will live and I will exist. There is more than enough light for every one of us; we just need to share it.

–Re-Humanizing the Transmasculine Community, page 8/8

   I had never heard of Skylar Kergil or his vlogging or anything else he has done before picking up this book. I think I found his book through a book email recommendation list I subscribe to, and so I asked my home library to obtain a copy of the ebook version so I could read it despite the distance between me and my library (an oc
Aleks Renerts
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book in three days, despite having many other things to do. It is written in a colloquial, genuine tone that doesn't just speak to an impersonal audience, but to real people. It engaged my emotions and as I began to feel a personal connection to the story, I couldn't put it down. Kergil's childhood experiences were at times amusing, at times painful, but definitely extremely relatable. As a trans man, I was able to gain a new perspective on many similar or shared experiences betw ...more
Jay Miraldi
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
I thought that overall the content if the book was interesting and because I am a Trans man as well, I saw a great many similarities between Skylar's story and my own. The reason that I rated the book so poorly is because I thought that the writing itself was weak and many times I found that I felt like I was reading a paper for a high school class. That's not to say that I think his story is diminished in any way by this, but in my opinion his prose is not very good which made reading the book ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Skylar Kergil is a transgender male. His true story Before I Had The Words documents his transition from before he came out to the present day. It talks about his struggles and his successes growing up as a transgender individual in the early 2000s. As he started medically transitioning in high school, he began to document his physical changes on his YouTube channel. As time progressed and he went to college and beyond, he started getting recognized on a much bigger level. Not only was he gettin ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting, personal and readable account of one trans man's journey.
Skylar is very clear through that this is his journey and his alone. I think his point that trans folk are not a homogenous group is so relevant and important.
There is a tendency among cis folk to assume all trans experiences are the same, all lives similar and all sensibilities identical. What a ridiculous thing to think! No other group is assume to have identical members, not even identical twins!
I found Skylar's telling
David Torgerson
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not knowing about trans people I chose to find out. Very informative to follow someone from age 4 or 5 feeling like a boy and wanting to be called a boy's name. Skyler is very good at sharing his thoughts and feelings with us since he kept a diary of his experience from early childhood through college. He is an artist and musician. Even though most of his life is in the 21st century, where trans information is more available, he faces constant bullying and rudeness, even from his brother. Fortun ...more
Heather F
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this memoir. It was intelligent, well written and touched upon a lot of important issues in the debates we as a society are having about transpeople. (I also recognized the LiveJournal community he discussed) I also believe this book shows the importance for young people being educated on gender diversity at a young age so that treatment/evaluation can begin early if need be, as opposed to bloody surgery later.

I extra recommend this for people in Massachusetts, as a good percentag
jassira raxlly
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable, raw talent - a story sharing Skylar' s experience as FtM to help and inspire LGBTQ youth.
I could not stop reading. It was such a pleasure to have read about Skylar' s experiences. Sharing the pain, love, friendship, excitement, rejection, and acceptance. I highly recommend that everyone reads this as to help inspire youth. It gives insight as to his experiences and struggles with name change, the medical bullshit, invasive and violating questions of being a transgender man.
A fast,
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lot of his experiences resonated with me on a personal level. A lot of moments of...oh, wow, someone has felt that way too.

The writing seems a little clumsy at times, but this is still very much worth reading because of the unique perspective of the author. It's an important addition to the growing body of work by the community. I hope he writes more when he is older and more practiced.

Overall, definitely would recommend to other trans men and others/allies interested in the lives of transgend
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a little of the traditional transgender type book, talking about a journey of self discovery and living as their true self. Although, it appears not unlike the rest, this one, shows a different aspect of having a family that is mostly supportive. With the exception of an unsupportive older sibling early in transition, this gives hope and offsets all the other transgender youth who may come out to find themselves homeless and without a supportive family. This is informative, while fe ...more
Bianca Berman
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a really good book and is very informative. You truly get to see how Skylar feels every step of the way. He’s a very brave human being. This was an easy read and was written in a diary format, my only complaint is about the number of typos and grammatical/spelling errors within the book. The editor could’ve done a much better job. I laughed and teared up while reading Sky’s memoir. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the struggles of being transgender. I’d als ...more
Ellen Marchessault
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm glad I read this; my daughter has a transgender friend, whom I find to be a very wonderful person, although I don't know him very well personally. I was thinking of him the entire time I was reading this. Unfortunately, I just learned that his mother was not at all supportive of him. I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the book for me was the final three chapters, in which Skylar interviews his mother, his father, and his brother.
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Before I had Words” is a wonderful account of a transgender man’s story. I really loved how reader got his whole experience- from age 4 to his entire childhood onwards. These parts of the story were what other “coming out” stories lack. The small details about strange computer encounters, to his father bringing home a turtle really make the book memorable. It was an easy read with short chapters, and I couldn’t put it down.
Anna Cartier
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This memoir is so honest and true to who Sky is as a person and I am proud to call him my friend. The writing of it is so fresh and different compared to other memoirs, and it was enlightening to read it! I highly recommend it to all teenagers to see that sometimes life will be rough but stories can help others, especially Sky's stories.
Raven Engelking
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book very interesting, helped me understand my brother who is also transgender too. They are f2m too. I found how they can struggle with their body and inner self to become who they truly are. I like how this book helps you understand how a transgender person deals with their body changes and how they transition to be their true self.
Maggie Vanorse
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I am glad I picked this book up. I found it to be interesting and a good way to understand how transgender men or women feel, the troubles they go through with feeling love and acceptance for something that should just be easy. I only wish that the writing was better. It seemed more of a diary. But I feel it is still worth the read for anyone.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
took me long enough but this is a wonderful book. its a good read for anyone questioning or affirmed in their gender as well as loved ones or even just people who want to know more to be better. skylars journey isn’t a an exact copy of the journey for all trans people but it gives wonderful insight nonetheless
Ray Holloman
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was amazing. As a fellow transgender man, so many of Skylar expeirnces he felt growing up I understand exactly how he felt because I felt similar things. It is awesome to read and understand that even though we all walk diffrent paths in this life, that at our core we are human. I love his raw emotion and how he didn't sugar coat anything in there.
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