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Finding the Strength and Voice to Come Out

How coming out was brave by most people, but condemned by others

By Mark Wesley PritchardPublished about a month ago 12 min read

Greetings, Vocal readers and Happy Pride Month! Almost a month ago, I wrote a couple of stories on here regarding Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker. He gave a commencement speech at a college, where he made disparaging remarks about women and Pride Month itself, which caused major backlash. I've since condemned his comments, which I've described them as misogynistic and bigoted. Even if he did apologize, it would not come off as sincere. When people show you their true colors, believe them.

For this story, I'm going to share my personal timeline of how I came out of the closet and why. Just a warning that some details in this story will mention abuse and explicit language, so please read at your own discretion. I apologize in advance if some of you might be offended by the stuff I'll be saying in this story. However, I believe my mission is to keep everything all the way 100 and not going to sugarcoat the facts.

I was born in the late 1980s in New York to two immigrants from Liberia, which is located in West Africa. A few months after my birth, we relocated to Texas, which is where I grew up and lived in for the next 12 years until something unexpected happened. More on that in a bit.

I'll give a bit of a background of what my childhood was like. I was an only child for a few years until my youngest brother was born, followed by my sister almost three years later. At age five, I was diagnosed with autism. While my childhood for the most part was filled with excitement, the other side of that was riddled with abuse: both psychologically and verbally. My so-called "parents" would ridicule and belittle me at every opportunity. Name calling, yelling, and making critical comments towards me affected my self-esteem and confidence. This toxic behavior continued after I graduated from high school and was figuring out the next chapter of my life.

So how and when did I know that I liked guys? I knew that I liked the same sex, dating back to the first grade. A majority of the friends I had in school were male. I had feelings for them, but no one knew about my huge secret. I pretended to be straight for almost 20 years. Yes, you heard that right. If I had came out in the 90s, my parents would beat me up and send me to a place to "pray the gay" out of my life. I was filled with guilt and shame, because I desperately wanted to become my true self. African parents will never let you be yourself. To them, being yourself is unacceptable and discouraged.

There were three instances where I feared for my life. The first was me being beaten up by my own "mother", including a black eye. The second instance occurred around the late 1990s where one night, I was playing video games upstairs, because my brother and I shared a bedroom. All of a sudden, my own "father" dragged me by my arm and dragged me down the stairs like a ragdoll, because I wasn't hungry. I'm not sure if he had a bad day at work, but it's never okay to mistreat your own child in that manner. Finally, around late spring of 2010, my father came into my room in a fit of rage for no reason and was physical towards me. I fought back, but he still overpowered me. They've always treated me like this since I was a kid. At the time of the latter incident, I lived with my parents for almost four years, because I was still unsure of what to do with the rest of my life. To add insult, they decided to send me away to Arkansas, just to get rid of me and threatened to call the cops on me if I ever returned home. I had no say in their decision, because I wanted to attend school that was closer to home. They wouldn't allow that to happen. Who in their right mind would kick out their own child from a place that he grew up in? That's what they did and it's an emotionally abusive tactic. I never wanted to live in Arkansas in the first place, but hopefully, I'll return back to my home state in the future and start fresh.

The summer of 2011 arrived and at the time, I was attending a Job Corps center somewhere in Arkansas. It was summer vacation and I had to to return back to the chaos for two weeks. The chaos I'm referring to is my toxic "parents". While they did somewhat be nice to me, Job Corps made a huge mistake of forcing me to return to a home that I was no longer welcome in. During my stay, I knew that more attention was being paid towards my siblings rather than me. As the oldest kid, I always felt neglected emotionally, my feelings never mattered to anyone, and felt like an outcast. My vacation was almost over and had to return back to Arkansas. My father dropped me off at a gas station, got my belongings, and waited for the Greyhound bus to pick me and a few other people up. During the hours long bus ride back to campus, I came to the realization that my so-called "parents" didn't need me anymore. They've emotionally checked out of my life and have given up on me. I wasn't the perfect kid and yes, there were times where I didn't listen to them. However, it's never an excuse to treat any of your children that way. 2011 was also the year I became officially estranged from them. I was graduating in about a couple of months, so I was focused on completing my trade, which was Office Administration. Towards the end of that September, I gave the commencement speech and graduated. It was September 29th, to be exact and the only people who attended my graduation was a few people from a local church I attended at the time. I stayed on campus for about another month, because I was accepted to another vocational school. This school was for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. A few weeks later, I settled into my new school and took me a while to adjust to the new setting. I was studying Sales & Marketing and I would say my experience at that school was okay. Over four months later, I had to tell some people something huge that I've been hiding for so long.

February 20, 2012 was a day that would be impactful on my life. That afternoon, I was at the library, because it was my turn to be the library assistant that week. Every computer had a time limit of how much people could spend on one. Once the time had expired, I had to tell that people to get off so someone else can get on it. I couldn't hide my true self and boldly told a few people I was gay, especially on social media. While many people were happy for me, others weren't as supportive. I was condemned by one friend, who's now my former friend, and many others. They kept spewing Bible verses and telling stuff like I'm going to hell. I graduated from that school with Honors in May of that year. It took me a couple more years to finally leave religion and the church behind for good. The reason was because some, not all, Christians kept regurgitating anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. In other words, they're walking hypocrites. You can't claim you're a Man/Woman of God and spread hatred towards a group of people. It shows that you don't practice what you preach. This kind of hate has been proven to be detrimental and harmful towards people like me, and in a few cases, deadly.

Over four years after coming out as gay, I attended my very first Pride parade. The photo at the beginning of this story was me getting ready to attend this joyous event a few miles from home. I had a Texas Pride flag on my shoulder. I'm proud to be a gay man and have no regrets.

These pictures (seen above) are from past Pride parades from left to right: 2016 (my first one and excuse the flag being upside down), 2018, 2019, and last year respectively. I've attended this celebration four times in the last eight years.

In my area, the 20th anniversary of the Pride parade will take place towards the end of this month and looking forward to it. I'll need to put together an outfit and some accessories, too. Regarding the hurtful and bigoted comments Harrison Butker made about Pride Month I mentioned at the beginning of this story, the reason why Pride Month exists is to celebrate and honor people in the LGBTQ+ community, but also honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, which occurred on June 28, 1969. In fact, it will be 55 years since the aforementioned event took place at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. After almost 10 years of marriage equality in the United States, we're still fighting for our rights in all accommodations, services, and so on. Many states (mostly red states) have banned transgender people from sports and banned books that mention anything about sexual orientation. LGBTQ+ people exist and we're not going away anytime soon. I'm proud to be part of a community that loves and accepts me.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, I wrote an open letter to my "parents" to finally come out to them. In that letter, I told them how much they have hurt me and never allowed me to be myself. Let's just say it didn't go well. I posted that open letter on Facebook and once my sister got wind of it, my so-called "mother" was furious. She was trying to intimidate me in taking it down, which I didn't. I wanted to show everyone on Facebook how insensitive and horrible they were to me. My "parents" would threaten and intimidate me any time I was critical of them. However, they can belittle and berate me all they want without any consequences. So pot meet kettle. If I gave them a bit of criticism, they would deny everything and would call me crazy. I refuse to fall for their crap anymore. They would force me to apologize to them and retract the things I've said. As a result of my open letter becoming public online, I cut off all ties with my sister completely for excusing the toxic behavior of two delusional, unsympathetic, unreasonable shitty people. They never truly loved me and in their minds, having a gay son would be embarrassing and a disgrace. I've since came to the realization that I don't need that "family" or any more of their bullshit in my life. I'm nearing 40 and I live my own life on my own terms. I have friends and other people who are loving and supportive of me.

Let me make one point clear: just because someone is from another continent or country, it doesn't give them the right to mistreat you in any way. I feel like my so-called "parents" use that as a shield to absolve them from criticism they don't like or want to hear. When you continuously abuse a child, either emotionally or physically, you've automatically lost the title as parents. Parents are supposed to love you unconditionally and not harming you. African parents never take any responsibility for their actions or apologize to their children because they feel like they aren't owed one. Plus, they constantly play the victim card. As of 2024, I've been estranged from that toxic "family" and many relatives for about 13 years. I rather live in peace rather than entertaining or cosigning with their foolishness. I was more of a black sheep, where I saw through their toxic bullshit, but I didn't recognize it until after I reached adulthood.

I describe my "mother" as a combination of Joan Crawford and the character Aunt Viv from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In other words, she's a narcissistic, self-victimizing, delusional, and manipulative bitch. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Why I would say those things to the woman who introduced you in the world?" It's because I saw through her bullshit and that's how she came across as. Plus, she comes off as too confrontational and jumps to conclusions about everything without letting other people explain themselves. I find it funny that she can talk shit towards her children, spouse, and other people. However, when people confront her about her behavior, she goes into victim mode and starts crying.

What about my "father?" He gives me former MLB player Milton Bradley vibes, because he would get so angry over the smallest things and yell. He would scream at my face when I try to stand up for myself. That man had an anger problem and was so physically violent, mostly towards me. When I was in high school, he would criticize certain classes I took every year. It was so damaging and felt so small.

Another thing about African parents is that they feel the need to compare you to your siblings, friends, and relatives. I highly detested being compared to other people, because it made me look like I was a failure in their own delusional mind. It almost felt like I didn't have a mind of my own. Plus, they blame you for their own problems. To my own "parents", I'm nothing more than a fuck up. I felt like they have given up on me too easily and were impatient, even though I was a person with special needs. Like I said earlier, I wasn't a perfect kid and I'm not a perfect person today. However, when you're a parent, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for your own actions. There's no denying that parenting is a difficult job and it's not a one size fits all approach. Parents are supposed to protect and love their children.

No one, especially any of my relatives, believed that I was constantly being abused and victimized. Fortunately, there was one relative that believed me, which felt great. I don't want to describe myself as a victim of abuse. I'm more of a survivor and was strong enough to remove myself from that toxic "family" and the people enabling my "parents'" behavior. I was shushed and encouraged to keep quiet about the abuse, but I refused. I refuse to let people continue to walk all over me and treat me like crap.

So how am I doing these days and do I regret being estranged from the people who were supposed to love, support, and protect me? The answer is no. I was tired of letting them verbally and physically attack me willy nilly for so long. In fact, I feel free and I'll never look back. Just because someone is related to you, that doesn't mean they have your best interests at heart. As I've described in my previous stories about my so-called "parents", family doesn't mean a damn thing to me anymore. That trust and bond is gone and forever shattered. I'm taking each day one day at a time and surrounding myself with loving and supportive people.

So why did I decide to share a full timeline of everything that happened to me? It's because I don't want any child or adult who identifies as LGBTQ+ to experience the horrific things I had to deal with. As a creator on Vocal, I believe in stating the facts and being honest about my personal experiences. If you're a parent and don't support your own child, you're a shitty person. I know that I might get some criticism for the things I've been saying, but it's important for everyone to know that denying someone of being their true selves has consequences. If you're going through something similar like this, I just want you to know that you are loved and I accept you as you are. It's not anyone's job to tell you who you should or shouldn't be. It's never your fault that your parents didn't treat you right.

On that note, stay fabulous, be you, and also, you matter.

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About the Creator

Mark Wesley Pritchard

Award-winning cosplayer, cosplay model, influencer, retro gaming fanatic, die-hard Texas Rangers fan, and nostalgic freak. Need I say more?

Threads: @thecosplayerfromtexas

Instagram: @thecosplayerfromtexas

TikTok: @thecosplayerfromtexas

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    Mark Wesley PritchardWritten by Mark Wesley Pritchard

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