Man choked on Tube and forced to apologise for being gay in vile hate crime shares powerful advice

In 2017, Will Mayrick was on his way to a fancy dress event with friends when two teenagers attacked him, held him in a headlock and demanded he apologise for his sexuality. He was 17 at the time.

Will was lucky to escape the horrifying ordeal “physically unscathed”. He reported the incident to police and his attackers were convicted. Now aged 23, he’s thriving and refuses to let what happened deter him from being a proud gay man – but wishes he could’ve prepared his younger self for what life has thrown at him. His words of advice, encouragement and resilience – shared exclusively with PinkNews for TfL – are honest, moving and exactly what every young queer kid deserves to be told.

Dear Younger Will,

I want to prepare you for what you’re going to encounter in the next few years. It might seem daunting, but it will make you more resilient. Life is going to be a little harder than you thought, and you’re going to be forced to mature quicker than you’re ready to. But in the end, you’re going to know that the way you are is perfectly normal – and nobody should tell you otherwise.

Right now, for you, life is great. Your parents are supportive and will do anything to make you the happiest you can be. You’re so lucky; you don’t have a care in the world. But you’re beginning to understand that you’re different, and you’re not sure why.

At school, you’re hearing something you’ve never really heard before: “That’s so gay.” It goes unchallenged and you’re wondering what it means. Whatever it is, you definitely don’t want to be it – and you’re thinking whoever is ‘gay’ must be pretty bad. 

Later on you will learn about these gay men, but they will be portrayed negatively and stereotyped. In the mainstream media you won’t see anyone that you will be able to relate to. But finally, at around 17, you’ll realise that you can be gay and happy. You’ll come out to your best friend by typing “I think I’m gay” into her iPhone notes. Finally, after pretending to be someone else for 18 years of your life, you’ll be able to live as your true self. But it will come with some implications. 

People are going to stare if you hold the hand of the person that you love in public. Some will openly tell you that, because of their faith, they don’t believe in your love. Even something as simple as asking for a double room at a hotel reception desk won’t be straightforward.

You will never call out homophobia, something you’ve only encountered in the “casual” sense, or feel safe to confide in others about it. On 21 October, 2017, that will change. Late at night on the way to a fancy dress event with friends, you’ll be dressed as a unicorn (which, you should know, isn’t a great idea when it’s four degrees out). Three guys are going to decide they don’t like the look of you and are going to take it upon themselves to tell you that. They are going to verbally abuse you and your friends. They are going to grab you by the neck to the point you are struggling to breathe on a moving Tube train and tell you to apologise for being gay. While this is happening one of their friends will gesture as if he’s going to pull a knife out of his coat. 

Although you have experienced homophobia many times by this point, you’ve always just palmed it off. You’ve never wanted to draw attention to being different, and you’ve worried that it won’t be taken seriously. You never thought bullies would be held responsible. But this is going to be a turning point for yourself – and for others. It shows you that people have so much hate in them that they were prepared to attack you. They could have altered your life in such a way that 23-year-old Will doesn’t even want to contemplate what could have happened. 

Thankfully, you and your friends were able to escape physically unscathed. You reported it to the British Transport Police and these young men were held accountable for their actions in a court of law. From that point onwards you will be ever more vigilant. The reality is that there will be instances where someone makes you feel uncomfortable. On public transport, you will get off and change carriages, or wait for the next train. You will cross the road if someone is coming towards you that makes you feel uneasy, or pretend to be on the phone to avoid any form of confrontation. Although you feel confident that you can report hate crime to the police and it will be taken seriously, you know that there is still far more progress to be made.

Remember: visibility and open dialogue about your lived experiences will help yourself and those in similar positions. If you take one thing away from this letter, it is that there are people who will listen to you. Don’t be afraid to speak out. You will be taken seriously and you can live your life no matter your sexual orientation. No person who is LGBT+ grows up unscathed, but you are not alone. 

If you experience or witness a hate crime on London’s public transport network, you can report it to:

  • A member of TfL staff
  • For incidents on streets or buses, call the Metropolitan Police on 101 
  • For incidents on Tube or rail services where you may not be able to make a call, text the British Transport Police on 61016. This number is also monitored 24/7.
  • In an emergency, always call 999.

Visit TfL for more.