It didn't take long for him to discover that he had an aptitude for hair and thrived in a beauty setting. "I also loved being around women at the salon," he says. "For the first time, I felt like I didn't have to perform. No one had any expectations for me other than to be myself. I was able to relax in my own body."
Within two weeks of working there, he shaved his head and coloured it bleach-blond. "I tried to look as different as I possibly could as a rebellious act to say, 'I'm not going to just try to make everyone else feel comfortable anymore and sacrifice myself while doing that.'"
That summer forever changed him. "It was the start of my life on my terms." When it came time to go back to school in September, he only made it three days. He refused to go back, eventually convincing his mom and the guidance counselor to let him leave for good.