Myles Sexton / Canada
“When I think about my childhood, I reminisce about the hours I would spend lost in my imagination, escaping my reality within the pine forests surrounding my home. I remember the sound of the ocean meeting rock and sand as I search for shells and sea glass that I believed to have magical powers. I return to my home when I eat pistachio and smell wild roses and lilac in the wind. These are the memories I like to remember and not the ones that have created so much shame and unconscious pain within me.
I was born in a small rural town in Nova Scotia, Canada called Brooklyn. I used to pretend at summer camp I was from Brooklyn New York because I thought that it made me sound cooler than my pumpkin growing town. Maybe that lie foreshadowing for my longing to leave. I was an awkward child with a dirty blond mushroom cut, harry potter glasses and a big scar through my left eyebrow thanks to a fish tank that fell on my head as a baby. Though all these physical traits were just fragments of how I would define myself at that time because everyone around me defined who I was before I could really form my own opinion. Looking back, I realize how hard it was on my soul to be told that I was different, gay and feminine before I even understood what those words actually meant. Whenever I would ask my mother why people called me such things, she said it was because I was just so happy. Of course, this came from a place of love, it nonetheless caused me to hide all my happiness when I left my house on the edge of that forest.
The years that passed during my early education blur together a lot in my mind, it’s hard to remember times. Every day I was just trying to survive because each time someone called me a faggot, or feminine, I hated myself and my happiness more and more. I felt powerless against the amount of daily abuse I went through, and that no matter how hard I tried to dress in their drag, act in their drag or speak in their drag it never stopped. I had no idea though that soon a failed suicide attempt would liberate me for the very first time. I danced with death and it taught me that I would never know what the hope that lives in tomorrow would bring. It also made me realize how fucking miserable I was living in the thoughts and opinions of others and at the end of the day I needed to start living my femme queer truth. This was my first coming out…
I left that little town with the salty air on my back and moved to Toronto, Canada on my 19 Birthday. I survived death and high school, and nothing was going to stop me now. I brought with me a suitcase full of disproportionate vintage clothes and a bunch of dreams and spent the next 5 years accomplishing every single one of them. I became an international model, celebrity makeup artist, jewelry designer and co ran a self-created fashion magazine. I have to say I am pretty damn proud of baby Myles for accomplishing all of that by 24. The only thing is though is that I never got to fully experience the joy within those accomplishments because I was too numb. Some people numb with sex, drugs, and alcohol but my poison was to be a designer bag holding workaholic chasing validation and sprinkle in all the above. I realize now that I replaced my suppressed happiness, with years of internalized shame and it was forming avoidant behaviors and habits in my life I was completely unaware of.
In February 2018 I received a phone call from a doctor that told me that I was HIV positive. There was no stiletto high enough that could help me escape the shit storm of shame that hit me in that moment. I knew nothing about HIV other than what I vaguely remember from high school and the stories of how many people died from it in the 80’s. I thought to myself in that moment that my life was over and I only had myself to blame. Luckily that was only the dramatic uneducated naive story I told myself. After seeing a HIV specialist, I was told that I was going to live a very normal life thanks to modern medical science. After four months of taking medication I became undetectable and untransmittable (U=U.) Medication though is only the first of many steps on the journey of healing.
It was now time to stop numbing and heal my soul. Finding the courage to be vulnerable, reclaiming my power from stigma and shame and most of all practicing forgiveness within and outwardly were my next big steps I had to face. For so many years I avoided all communication out of fear of what my darkest parts of myself would say but when I became positive it forced me to make a choice. Do I let this destroy me, or do I hold onto hope in the darkness? To find a place where the sun shares the sky with the moon.
Almost 3 years later and after a lot of education, reflection and hard conversations I publicly shared a video with my social media following disclosing my status, coming out and liberating myself once again. Though my journey living with HIV has just begun, I want to help educate and fight against the stigma attached to HIV / AIDS that still lives within society. Through sharing my story, I hope to be a positive example of a POZ queer person standing tall and proud for my community.”