The name is Shellynne. It literally sounds the way it is spelled. Shel – lin. It is two syllables and there is no A. The number of ways my name has been pronounced is probably the only thing that surpasses the number of nationalities people have assumed I represent. Let’s get that one out of the way now. I am American. If people ask me where I’m from, I say Los Angeles. When they ask where my parents are from I say Los Angeles. I think the most recent immigrant in my family was my great-great grandmother who emigrated from Germany.
The most tenacious people usually change tactics after I tell them my parents are from Los Angeles. Then they switch to “where does Shellynne come from?” I tell them it’s made up. Sometimes I share the story of how I’m named after my father’s friend and her parents made it up. They smile awkwardly. Sometimes if I’m tired or really just want people to leave me alone I give them what they’re looking for. You see, what they really mean when they ask these questions is: “I can’t racially identify you and that makes me uncomfortable.”
I am not ashamed of being multiracial. I am very proud of both my Black and my Irish heritage. (Apologies to my German ancestors, but my family wasn’t really allowed to BE German so I don’t have any traditons from them.) “What are you?” was the first microaggression that I remember experiencing, so I have become very adept at identifying it. And I do not like to make it easy. I readily share this information with my friends because it is important to me. But with strangers whom I have no intention of building a relationship with, it’s none of their business. And I like to think that maybe I have played a small role in challenging their automatic response to categorize the “other”.
That response is part of why I wanted to start this blog. I’ve tried blogging off and on for a number of years. Partly I have a lifelong dream of becoming a published author someday. Partly I have a slightly narcisstic personality and like to have my voice heard. I think the real root of it though, is that I am a voracious reader and I just can’t find anybody that has written my experience. During the recent movement that protests police brutality after the death of George Floyd, it became even more obvious that certain voices are missing from the dialogue.
I do not claim to represent all those missing voices. I am not an expert in the fields of psychology, sociology, or race relations. I am someone who has spent a lifetime trying to navigate the intersectionality of identity. I am what I call a Social Chameleon. The fact that I straddle the “divide” between various identities means that I’ve created these splits in my personality that were required to survive experiences with different groups.
So let me introduce myself. I am Black and White–a multiracial person who has been assumed to be Latina, Middle Eastern, White, Carribean, Pacific Islander, Filipina, an–in one puzzling instance–Cambodian. I was raised in the spiritual structures of Catholicism, Unitarian Universalism, and Paganism. I am a mostly-Heterosexual person with a Lesbian mother. I have a masters degree. I am a wife and a mother. I am a full-time worker in Corporate America. I am an empathic intellectual who lives with mental illness.
I am someone who continues to struggle with her identity. I am beginning to understand that maybe identity doesn’t have to be a fixed fact. Maybe it can be something more fluid; and it can be something that grows and develops constantly over ones lifetime. I’d life to explore that, and I hope you explore that with me.