'Homophobia Doesn't Exist': An Open Letter By Will Mayrick

I'm yet to meet someone who's unscathed by growing up LGBT
- Olly Alexander

I think it’s fair to say that being a 19 year-old guy is difficult. Society dictates how you should look, how you should dress, how you should act, oh, and did I mention the added ‘challenge’ of being gay? Yes, we’ve come a long way but it’s not over. Homophobia in 2017 is still very real and sometimes I can’t help but feel that we are sweeping it under the rug. To the outside world, civil partnerships, gay marriage and Sam Smith winning an Oscar are tick boxes towards eliminating homophobia in the public conscience. Yes, there has been so much progress, but there is a long way to go. I still have friends who feel uncomfortable holding their partner’s hand in public for fear of being abused.

On the way to Sink The Pink just over a month ago, I came face to face with modern day homophobia. I was on the tube with a group of friends and two young guys closed in on me. May I stress the word, young, here. This cannot be blamed as generational. I was attacked and put into a headlock to the point where I couldn’t breath. I was told that, unless I apologised for my sexuality, they were going to stab me. I had no choice but to say sorry. It still makes me feel sick thinking about being forced to apologise about who I am, because I am not sorry. I have insurmountable pride about who I am and the strong and resilient community that I belong to.

Being 19 and only to have been out as gay for just over a year it has been a really interesting experience. It has been so lovely having the support of friends who have been there for me every step of the way and meeting so many new incredible people. There have been some real highs and lows. In the days and weeks following the attack, the people around me were incredibly supportive. When you go off to university, you want your parents, family and friends to know you will be safe. You don’t want them to have to worry about you and the new stage of your life that you are embarking on. For them to hear what happened to me breaks my heart.

As if the attack wasn’t enough, when the press caught wind of the story this week, the homophobia continued.  People shamelessly posted comments on the articles: 

Good job…the teenager deserved it.

Not thugs, gentlemen instead.

They did a great job, good on em.

Shock treatment works better.

The attitudes of strangers shocked me so much and proved even more that there is much more that needs to be done to combat homophobia. I just didn’t expect to be attacked in one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the world. Growing up in a tiny village in the Cotswolds, London seemed like a safe haven away from the conservative views of home. We must stay vigilant, this can happen anywhere.

Despite all the hate, I know I am lucky to have such a supportive group of friends who have been there for me so much throughout this journey – thank you! Sadly so many LGBTQ+ individuals don’t have this support. Being president of the LGBTQ+ society at university I want to help those who have had a tough time too- by rallying together, we will get there!