Donovan, in his own words: “Being queer to me is freedom. Freedom to be myself. Freedom to live, love or not love in the way that I choose. Being queer is dictating my life in a way that suits me and my ultimate health and happiness. Queer is a strength and rite of passage. I had to come here from some other place. I had to arrive at the place of my truest self.
Self acceptance was and is my biggest failure and also my greatest success. I still fail daily at releasing the ingrained moors of a restrictive and religious upbringing, abusive family construct and learned self-loathing. It’s also where my greatest triumph lies because I am learning daily to adore the creature I am, to nurture self-care and to be a solid pliable strength to those who maybe aren’t quite there yet. I learn a lot from falling down hard.
I don’t know too much about the gay community in Portland. It’s a different scene here than coming from the few other cities I’ve lived like Phoenix or Boston where everyone goes to the same bar week after week. Portland has a thriving queer/trans underground that is doing amazing things. In that “scene” I’ve found a family; a community that supports one another and lives each other’s triumphs and sorrows. I suppose it really depends on what you’re looking for what you’ll find. If one can’t understand that they can’t really know what they’re missing.
I did a bit of a peekaboo I think in coming out. I knew very young that I was attracted to men as I developed crushes on my friends and older male figures very rapidly early on in my childhood. I think to this day I tend to fall in love pretty quickly though much more tentatively.
I wrote a pretty graphic letter to my father when I was 13 in reaction to a rather violent abusive episode in particular; coming out to him out of spite I think. My parents ignored the letter and when I confronted them was told in a very stern Jamaican Patois that I wasn’t gay and to go to my room.
It took until I moved to Boston 6 years later for me to begin living as a then identified actualized gay man. I made a point to never sleep with the same guy twice for years and used to keep a black moleskin documenting each of my sexual escapades in the city with a descriptor of the trick, the act, and the date. I stopped when I filled the book.
I ended up re-closeting myself when I got signed to an indie record label in 2003 fresh out of school. They felt It didn’t fit the image and I wasn’t as strong as I am now to disagree. I became incredibly depressed and suicidal and even manic at times. That shame we carry can eat a soul up. I think those were probably some of my darkest days.
When I was dropped from the label and that door closed I moved to Portland to start afresh. I came here to rekindle a music career and ended up finding a community and family that support me in my growth as a spiritual being and decent human. I’m 10 times beyond where I ever imagined I could be as an actualized and accepted queer person of color. Things aren’t perfect but I am constantly growing and evolving. That will forever be my story.
I’d tell my (younger)self that I didn’t have to change a thing. That I was perfect from the get go…that I still am. To relax. It’s seriously all gonna turn out fine. To trust my gut. It’s the strongest asset I have. Most of all, that my strength is in my softness. Cultivate that.”