BlackLove.com recently spoke with poet Shell Spin on acceptance, unconditional love, and what abundance means to her. Shell Spin is a 26-year-old artist best known for her spoken word, DJing, and work as a mentor to marginalized people finding safe spaces through organizations such as LOUD Project Poetry and Sadie Nash. Although, based in New Jersey, she has strong Carolina roots that she often speaks about in her performances. Spoken word is so important to her; she revealed that she came out to her mother in a heartfelt poem.
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“I waited to come out in college, I was going to be writing so many poems about my life, so it made sense. After I said the poem, my mom just said, “that was great.” Then she continued on a conversation about something else but in a beautiful way. I grew up with a lot of older southern family members in my house,” she said.
Shell Spin continued, “I internalized their messages and influences, so I didn’t come out to my mother until I was 19-years-old. And only then until it was just my mom, brother, and I living together, and I felt comfortable. But with my father, things were different. As a kid, when my brother and I would visit him during summers, he’d tell us he loves us no matter what, and he’d ask us if we were gay, and I always said “No” because I didn’t identify with what I knew gay to be.”
On Identifying as Queer
I knew I didn’t identify as gay; if you go to Pride, you often see gay as white cis [cisgender] men, and that isn’t me – being binary didn’t apply to me either. So I did come out as bisexual initially, although I also felt bi had a lot of shame around it. I felt like many of those identities were limiting, and that’s why queerness for me is such a space where I could be free to think that I transitioned from straightness to queerness. But within queerness or if I want to date a cis man or a trans man. It doesn’t feel like I have to stick to what makes anyone else comfortable.
On the 3 C’s Parents of Queer Children Need to Remember
Conversations: There has to be a dialogue happening both ways in many of the gay children’s communities. It has to be from the kid teaching you, but you [also] have to research and know what they feel is real because they have to be affirmed. For me, specifically, as a queer artist, affirmation was critical.
Unpacking Conditions: There are a lot of discussions about unconditional love, but parents need to break that down. It should be said, “I have unconditional love for you, and these are the conditions.” I think that unconditional love is often vague in the Black community. It seems when you’re gay and when you come out, it’s seen as “No, that’s a condition.” So I’d encourage parents to name conditions that will not stop their love. My dad gave us the foundation of his unconditional love from the beginning, and that’s how it should be.
Consistency: My parents have ushered in a very queer child, so yes I’m coming to you in my 20s but when I’m 45, and my partner and I are looking to adopt or conceive, give me advice. Coming out can’t be the only conversation that you have with your children, and that’s it. Be there; your kid will always be yours, so support them as they explore relationship issues or adoption options by showing up, each step of their journey.
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On How Parents Can Have Support
Seek other parents of queer kids, and don’t live in an existence that my child is secretly gay. Have a community of friends where you can share in a trusted environment because we’re all learning together.
On What She Wants Young Black Queer People to Know
The Black queer community has been everything I needed, and there is so much abundance given there. They were erased from so many different spaces. So from the outside, the world sees us voguing, but at the core, these spaces are housing, health care, opportunities, safety, and something revolutionary in itself. The community affirmed me to know it’s okay to be an “other.”
Being loved and accepted is a shape-shifting experience, and in the queer community, it says, in a way, show me your trauma, flaws, and I’m still going to love you.