Boston College continued its National Coming Out Week events, which began on October 5, with a presentation by Skylar Kergil, a prominent transgender singer-song-writer, activist, educator, writer and artist, on Tuesday night.
National Coming Out Week began in order to better educate the student body on issues regarding gender and sexual orientation and to celebrate the LGBTQ community's importance on campus, and Kergil’s presentation on his transition from female to male brought transgender identity issues to the forefront of everybody’s minds.
Kergil caught the attention of the public in 2009 when he began documenting his transition from female to male on YouTube, where he is better known by his alias “skylarkeleven.” When he first started recording his transition and posting it online, Kergil stumbled upon the power of the YouTube comment section. Kergil said in the talk that a member of his college had seen him on campus and although they had never met, Kergil’s presence on campus made this person feel comforted and safe, indicating to Kergil that support could indeed be found online.
When he began the talk, Kergil reflected on whether or not he felt that he was always destined to be a man by describing his first public display where he revealed his true self.
"Ultimately my bowl cut was more successful [than my brother's] because my hair wasn't as curly and I had this jean jacket on and I was just rockin' this whole androgynous three year old thing,” Kergil related, as he began to describe a family trip to the hardware store. “I'm wearing this yellow sundress, I had my bowl cut going on and the owner just puts his hand on my shoulder and says 'What's your name?' and I just turn around and go 'You can call me Mike.'"
Before Kergil could even recall prominent events in his life, he was already acting in a way that would define the rest of his life. Throughout his transition he met many people that inspired him to feel empowered in knowing that there are "other people out there like me in the world, I am not alone, and it is physically possible for me to be known as the boy that I feel on the inside."
Getting to the stage in his life where Kergil could feel accepted for who he is proved to be a difficult journey. Kergil beginning to identify himself as male was new for his family and the transition took some getting used to. The reactions of his parents were an intertwining mesh of love, concern and scepticism.
"My mom cried, she said that she was worried that the world wouldn't love and accept me, that I wouldn't find a girlfriend some day, that I wouldn't go to college, that I wouldn't graduate from college, that I wouldn't find a job," Kergil explained. Kergil felt his mother's concerns were justified as "back then there really weren't any laws protecting transgender status.” Ultimately, however, his mother became a loving support system, choosing to accept Kergil for the way he identifies himself, not the way societal norms try to identify him.
Despite the various challenges Kergil faced, his discovery of the term transgender, a term that encompasses everything he felt himself to be in life but was unable to describe, was an empowering experience for him. This discovery liberated Kergil, he could suddenly place himself and his identity into a term that promoted a positive energy of acceptance: "It was like this word all of a sudden where I was raised a girl but I was always a man on the inside".
Kergil now feels confident and happy with his life. He is currently dating a cis-gender 23 year-old woman who completely accepts him, works at a bank and is pursuing his dream career in music while also being an activist for the LGBTQ community.
"I only speak on behalf of myself, so this story is totally mine, it is by no means typical or normal or the average or great or successful, there's no such thing as a 'normal' transition or a 'successful' transition, except that my definition of success is happiness,” Kergil explained. “If you're happy and transitioning then that makes it successful. But, in any case, there's no one way to be a person, in the same way that there's no one way of being a transgender person and there are so many ways of telling the story of coming into one’s identity -- of coming out as transgender."
Those who attended the event had positive reactions to Kergil's openness and to the way that BC is handling Coming Out Week. One such BC student was Caroline Rooney, MCAS, '19, who said: "I thought that [the event] was really well done and I'm finding that the LGBTQ community in BC, being a Jesuit institution, is more welcoming than I would've expected. I come from Chicago, like a crazy liberal city, very accepting; so then coming to a Catholic institution, I'm pleasantly surprised."
The line-up for this week features a variety of events that aim to increase the BC community's knowledge of all things LGBTQ; events such as an opening BBQ and a closing ceremony as well as several talks: Wear Your Label, LGBTQ&A: Coming Out, Town Hall: LGBTQ Resources, and Guess Who's Gay.