First of all, a little side note from the team behind the testimonies ! We are 8 international feminists, 7 women and 1 man, working on collecting stories on gender equality around the world.
We had a debate on whether or not accepting a testimony from a man from this theme » Being a witch : feminist, ecological and connected ». And we decided that if a man could identify himself in that theme, then he belonged in that new, untamed, deconstruct « manhood » that we are hoping for.
So, here it is, the FIRST man testimony for the eLLes,
féministely yours, The eLLes’ team
My name is Vernon Alfred Dunnell Jr. I am a 41 year old gay male living in and abouts the greater Los Angeles regions of Southern California. I was born to a Panamanian mother & a half Panamanian, half-caucasian father within the orthodox teachings of the Baptist Church. I was also gay and suffered a very long time in silence and denial of a normal childhood brought from the cruel actions of my very peers, other children that brought havoc upon my day to day because of my sexual orientation and their ignorance.
In an instance, I learned the harsh reality and great insight that one’s intelligence cannot be used to mark one’s tolerance to another person’s differences such as sexual orientation, in my particular case. Instead, they would mark me as a second-class citizen and for close to 3 years of my life I was spat upon, rocks thrown at me, lies told about me, day in and day out, fighting in the streets just to go to school in the morning and fight those very same bullies each and every afternoon to get home, sleeping and doing it all over again the next day. Never saying once to my parents what was going on, how much I suffered, how much I hated going to school every day because of the constant attacks, how angry I was and how unfairly I was being treated by other children of my age just because I was different and I liked or loved a little differently than they did.
Eventually, I had the privilege of moving out and attend a different high school and then move to Panama altogether, where I would suffer some aftermath of my past demons, and find my path into my power. Through the transformative power of chant and prayer, I discovered the practice of energy transference and took all that rage and pain and transformed it into a peaceful practice of meditation that could be heard by anyone who would listen.
I learned, to my own great surprise, that my voice itself was a vessel that held power and dependedupon the intentions and vibrations formed within my voice. The chants and prayers could and did directly affect the energies around me. With the power of my voice I learned to create, gather, magnify, and release these energies as well as disperse, disrupt, or deflect the same energies all to my will and whim. I am in all senses, a modern-day siren, the very same creature of the Iliad and the Odyssey of the old Greek mythos. I began to practice ritualistic ceremonies based upon the old ways with a higher power that is singular, yet similar to the Judeo-Christian faiths I was raised in,but neither male nor female, and which was very much alive and working within this world.
I was baptized in the Christian ritual in a natural river in the wilds of Panama but when submerged into those crystal waters I gave myself wholly to the Creator, gave myself to Their Will entirely and when I emerged I was truly washed clean, much more than I could have hoped to be. I became attuned to the voices of Mother Earth and the Great Creator that taught me to care for these delicate lands and to be caring to ourselves. Today, some twenty years later I continue to chant and work these energies with my quiet message in the forms of songs, chants and siren-calls. I sing regularly on an app called Smulewhere I have found a convenient platform where I collaborate with a remarkable and talented group of singers to create poignant, amazingly beautiful, unique works of vocal art to be heard and enjoyed by all. I don’t do this for monetary gain or for any hopes of fame or notoriety. That would defeat my purpose.
Later on in life, I came face to face with my past transgressors and received the sincere apologies I needed to get closure and leave that pain behind, and I forgave them once and for all. I was relieved and set free and my power and my voice soared.
Even nowadays, I have seen hate and ignorance rear its head even into the safe havens of my musical platform. I was once invited to a live jam through the app, which meant that the host would surely know the content of my music and the particular styles I enjoyed singing. When it came to be my turn to participate, the host was seemingly pleasant and welcoming but with every song I suggested, he made a grimace and shook his head, “No.” Looking at me as if to say, “if I sing that song with you, I’ll be made to look gay publicly in front of all these girls that adore me.” The same girls that gave him a false sense of security as I knew he could very well be gay himself. Yet, it was not my place to make that judgement. I went on with a half-disheartened performance of a Sublime song and read comments such as, “That was painful” and “Thank god he’s done, can we get back to some real man singing?” All over again, I was face to face with that ugly monster in my safest of havens in a day and age where gay was okay. But, this time, that monster would not see me suffer in silence.
I continued to perform and work my crafts one at a time and let anyone who did not have a voice or whose voice was small to come and join me where I will encourage them to sing high and loud and be heard every time. I use this platform to find the bullied and down-trodden. The different and beautiful creatures of this earth. To hold on and not give up.
My heart breaks whenever I read of a child who took their own life because of the vicious cyber bullying that is so rampant today. I could have been one of those that took his own life or could have been killed by my bullies themselves. But I survived and I came through as a phoenix from its own ashes.
My message is however small or meek, offer your voice to the Creator, offer it up and you can be healed of your pain. Offer up your voice any way that you can until it is one with the voices of your people, of your mothers and your brothers and sisters. Until your voice is part of the everlasting flow and your prayers will be heard and answered like mine were and you can be set free like I was. This is the first time my story has really been told for anyone to know in this kind of platform. If you are a child, a woman, of any minority and you have suffered, keep holding on, it all does change and it does get better, just do not be silent. You must be heard.