Navigating identities, high school, and self-expression, Myles Sexton and Mina Gerges had different experiences that led them to the same safe space
For many members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, prom is either a runway or a place to hide. Navigating identities, high school and self-expression, Myles Sexton and Mina Gerges had different experiences that led them the same safe space—where shame ceased to exist, and self-love and self-acceptance could bloom.
They/Them, 31, Content Creator and HIV/AIDS & Sobriety Advocate
Myles’ OGX Favourites:
Prom is like the last chapter of a really good book series, but the author, who happens to be you, hasn’t written the next book just yet. I grew up in a rural farming town with around 2000 people; we were most famous for growing pumpkins the size of a dining room table. So as you can imagine, high school—and school in general—wasn’t easy for me. People around me told me that I was gay or queer before I even knew what that meant. I was trying to discover myself while everyone told me that my existence was wrong and different. It wasn’t easy, but it also helped form who I am in many ways, and it oddly taught me survival skills and gave me the drive that I have now.
Navigating my identity at that time was even more difficult because I didn’t have a reference point. I didn’t grow up with the internet and we had maybe seven television channels to flip through, so there was no reference point for queerness and queer people living their truth and doing so joyfully. As I was trying to figure out who I was with the help of history, science fiction and fantasy books, I also had to hide and protect myself. I had to choose my safety over my authenticity.
Something changed when we finally got internet access and I entered that blip in time during the Myspace days, where “scene kids” were all the rage. I instantly gravitated toward the gender-role-breaking makeup, tight clothes and bright colours. This all came after I survived a suicide attempt and I finally felt like I had to face who I was and what kind of life I wanted to lead. I realized that I could choose joy and choose my authentic self by finding the courage to present myself in a way that I believe is my truth.
I worked at a grocery store during that time and this hairstylist, Sherry, came in and sparked a conversation with me. Not long after that, I walked into her small-town salon and told her I wanted aqua blue hair. She gave me a wave of colour underneath my natural blond layers, which peeked out every time I flipped my hair. For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful. That experience with her was the catalyst to my presenting as my true self.
High school prom was such a big deal in my town; people would line up to have a look at everyone’s outfits and hair. This was my moment. I wore my hair in a high platinum faux hawk, frosted eye- shadow to match and a bright neon blue outfit. As my date held my shaking hand and we walked up to our prom festivities, I heard a woman behind me say, “That boy has so much courage,” which was the little bit of validation I needed. I felt like I was finally “right.”
He/Him, 27, Beauty + Fashion Creative, plus size model and 2SLGBTQIA+ activist
Mina’s OGX Favourites:
When I started high school, we had just immigrated to Canada from Egypt. It was a huge culture shock for me. I got bullied a lot for my name, how I looked and where I was from. For the first two years, I didn’t have friends. I didn’t know how to be around people without feeling judged. So I hid.
I remember finding out what being gay meant because I was bullied for “acting gay.” I had to google what that meant. I guess being bullied for being gay is how I realized.
To be honest, I never felt like I was truly living because I was in a constant state of self-defence. I was just trying to make it through and was on high alert. I wasn’t just the feminine immigrant gay kid, I was also the fat kid. Making sense of my culture was the hardest because I was taught that all the parts of my identities—being Middle Eastern, being Coptic and being queer— were not compatible.
As I was leaving high school, I knew I was gay. I don’t know what the switch was, but I developed an understanding that it didn’t matter what I did, and despite everything I was taught, I could not change who I was. It’s a scary realization to come to by yourself as a young person, but I think that once I realized this, self-acceptance started to come in waves.
I never took many pictures of myself in high school, so there’s a whole chapter of my life that I have no concrete memories of because I didn’t feel like anything was worth remembering. Prom wasn’t a particularly exciting event because I didn’t feel like I had anything to celebrate. And I didn’t feel good in my skin, so I didn’t even want to dress up or do anything special with my hair. Though I wish I showed up as a more authentic version of myself, I’m proud that I had the courage to even show up at prom.
My earliest memory of feeling good like myself was when I was still living in Egypt and would secretly sneak into my mom’s closet when no one was home to try on her clothes, shoes and red lipstick. I felt so free in these moments by myself, and it felt so right. It was the first time I realized that I’d have to live a double life. But by the time I went to post-secondary, I wasn’t around my bullies anymore. I was surrounded by allies, friends and a new community where I could free the feelings I spent my entire life suppressing. I was finally able to explore my identity freely and step into this new way of expressing myself through my hair and sense of fashion.
I’ve always done unorthodox things and on my terms. So I started making up for all the time I lost hating or hiding who I was. As soon as I started accepting myself, I started posting on Instagram, openly and publicly. The moment I felt that harmony within, I started unabashedly and unapologetically sharing myself. From vibrant hair and bold makeup to statement-worthy fashion choices—it was a way of telling my younger self that we weren’t hiding anymore and that we embrace our lives as truth.
So my message to you is: Don’t be scared or shy away from who you are or your feelings. Celebrate and embrace them; that’s where the magic happens.