I’m From Austin, TX.

by Wendell Mayes IV

Satellite overhead image of Texas from Google Earth 2022

I don’t remember the details. I remember the location, the circumstances, the friends that were beside me and the strangers that helped them defend me, the way he made me feel, and how far I ran.

It was hot. It was wet. It was a June night and we were waiting for their mother to pick us up from the mall. Lakeline’s facade was behind us as we faced the expanding mass of shoppers being directed by building personnel toward bus stops and waiting areas. An innocuous security guard stood nearby helping to calm the frenzy of kids similar to the three of us by helping locate their parents, showing them the proper bus to get on, and other things generally nice and proper.

It was the 26th. There had been many new discoveries and exciting events and decisions that dominated the various media. Three ancient skulls were discovered in Ethiopia, Nefertiti’s mummy was found to have not been discovered, at least a thousand Buddhist monks were mourned after the discovery of a Stalinist mass burial site, Czech citizens had recently voted to enter the European Union, and the United States Supreme court had just decided Lawrence v. Texas.

Jazmine, Lashey, and I stood quiet and quite still as the summer crowd dissipated. There were still sixty or so people waiting for their various rides and chatting amongst their various groups when the security guard approached us. I don’t remember how it started or what he said, but I do remember a word he used: “Faggot.” Shock swarmed through the crush. This new silence was tactile.

My friends were not the only people enraged by this bullying. They weren’t even the first to respond to him. Two girls older than us by no more than five or six years had already confronted the man by the time they had found the words and the courage to fight back.

I felt raw, minimal, weak, criminal. He made me feel like I was an animal; I was to him defined by an act that had come to define my community’s sexuality. I had lost my individuality. In this man’s eyes I was nothing more than some thing to scorn and nothing less than evil. At thirteen I didn’t have the words, concepts, or arguments that would have allowed me to combat the man. All I knew how to do was cry and run.

I did both.

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