By Lauren Lopez
Skylar Kergil was born Katherine Elizabeth. At the age of three he requested to be called Mike, but this only lasted for a summer. For most of his life, he presented himself as a tomboy, priding himself in his androgynous look that at times allowed people to mistake him for a boy.
In high school, he hung out with the lesbian crowd, wore baggy clothes, and joined a punk band, but he still did not feel he fit in. It wasn’t until his friend introduced him to a transman at a concert that he knew who he was. Afterward, he came out to his parents, who had their concerns about how he would be received, but ultimately were supportive and let him see a gender therapist.
In 2009, Kergil started going by the more gender-neutral name, Skye. He also began taking testosterone pills so that his college peers would only see him as a man. 2009 was also the year that Kergil created his YouTube channel in order to document his transition.
As his view count escalated, Kergil’s classmates at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York began to recognize him from YouTube. It’s for this reason that he decided to stop presenting as “stealth”—only a man—and share his story with others.
Now, Kergil visits high schools and colleges across the country to speak about his transition. Recently, he met President Obama after being invited to attend the LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House. He also attended TrevorLIVE in November 2014. The semi-annual event is hosted by The Trevor Project, an organization that provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention to LGBTQ+ youth. Kergil won the Youth Innovator award, which is given to LGBTQ+ or straight people under the age of twenty-five who work to support, inspire, and empower LGBTQ+ youth.
In addition to being a public speaker, Kergil is also a singer-songwriter. He has two recorded works of music, both of which were kickstarted. In 2014, he released his debut album, Thank You, and in February 2015, he released an EP titled Tell Me a Story. He also posts songs on his YouTube channel, such as covers or collaborations on songs off his records that he films with his friends. His channel is also home to his poems, such as “I Will Mean Everything” and “Relapse/Flux.”
Additionally, Kergil has a separate channel called Skylark’s Music with three videos of original songs. The videos feature him singing two songs that eventually made it onto Thank You, as well as “Lost and Found,” which is from an album titled 236 Days. The album was released on his Bandcamp account in 2012. The account also has other digital albums available for sale.
On November 5, Kergil visited Emerson College as part of Transgender Awareness Week. The first part of the night consisted of him sharing his story. Then, he read a poem titled “Some Days It Feels Like,” which he wrote in a poetry workshop in college about the waves of emotions he feels regarding his transition. He also played four songs on his guitar, which he named Betty Lou (after his grandmother). Kergil introduced “Brothers” by calling it “top secret,” because he’s only been playing it live until he can share it with the friend he wrote it for after his friend undergoes his bilateral mastectomy, also called “top surgery,” which is the removal of the breasts and shaping of a male contoured chest.
Throughout the night, Kergil was very honest with everyone. As he started playing “Brothers,” he stopped to inform the audience that they should not be alarmed if he started crying, because the song always made him emotional.
He played “Tell Me a Story” right before his question and answer session, which is about some of the absurd or rude questions people have asked him, and how he responds to them. Afterwards, he encouraged everyone to ask questions, saying it’s his favorite part of the night and promising to answer “just about anything.” He shared the stories behind his tattoos, listed some of his favorite musicians and LGBTQ+ icons, and offered advice to someone wanting to talk to their family about being transgender.
After it was over, Kergil stuck around for those who may not have wanted to ask a question in front of the rest of the group, invited everyone to add him on Facebook, and even took selfies with a few people. He was overall very approachable and it definitely made the event enjoyable.
Kergil’s music, speeches, and poetry may all seem like very separate projects, but they are all mediums used to share his story with different audiences. The combination of the three creates a unique blend of personal narrative and creativity that is part of Kergil’s appeal.
For more information on Skylar Kergil, visit his website.