Tattoos are a deeply personal and permanent form of expression. Why do we get them? Is the art or the artist more important? We snapped photos of body art from members of the GLBT* community and asked them what their tattoos meant to them. Here are the results.
“An amazing tattoo is when someone looks at it and knows that I have a story to share, a story to be heard. We all want to be heard, though some of us have no words. This fairy tattoo connects me to my partner who lost her battle with breast cancer after over 20 years together.”
“For my first ever Pride, about 18 years ago, I got my first Pride tattoo. For me, it was a symbol of overcoming adversity. I got the tat- too before I even fully understood its significance in my life. It shows the world that I will not be judged by anyone for my lifestyle choices.”
“(A tattoo is) there for life, and it should represent something that is consistent in your life. The five feathers represent the significance of (the number) five in my life—five decades, five funerals, five years running a bird banding station and (having) very significant encounters with a great horned owl, my spirit guide.”
“Rosie the Riveter was a symbol to call women to work during the Second World War, forever chang- ing how women were viewed in the workforce. She eventually became a symbol for feminists in the ‘80s. The modification to include the upside down triangle on her button is a personal one, signifying that I am a feminist and a lesbian.”
“When I look at my tattoos I am reminded of the experience and the special hours I shared with the artist who was creating permanent personal artwork on my body. I am two-spirited and the eagle is from a recurring dream. After participating in rituals and consultation with an elder, I accepted the eagle instead of running from it as I had in my dreams.”
“I like video games and I especially like the Legend of Zelda franchise. I saw the Hylian Shield as a great tattoo idea, and I still think it is.
“To me, getting a tattoo is all heart, so you have to get what feels right. There was a girl I really respected in high school who loved Harry Potter, and I feel like I could’ve treated her better. it’s a reminder to be a better person. That, and I do love Harry Potter. It’s the symbol of the Deathly Hallows—the invisibility cloak is the triangle, the resurrec- tion stone is the circle and the elder wand is the line.”
“I reflected on myself as I com- pleted transition and embarked on a new and wonderful life. Balance, strength and energy yield the power to change…I designed my tattoo and it brought me peace because I chose to embrace that which is at the very core of my be- ing. I remember while Katrina was doing the work how amazing it was for me to be taking another step for no one else but myself.”
“I got my tattoo to commemorate my ggrandmother, Florence Weiss, who has Alzheimer’s disease. I chose to symbolize my grandma through flowers of her nationality. The sunflower represents Ukraine, the red poppy celebrates her Polish heritage and the prairie crocus displays that she spent most of her life in Manitoba. I chose to intertwine these flowers with forget-me-nots to represent how her friends and family will never forget about her or how selfless she was.”
“This tattoo was originally just going to be designed for my love for owls. Turned out a few months before I decided to get this tattoo my family found out my uncle had esophagus cancer with a two per cent chance of survival. He was always the bravest person I had ever met… he still went through all of the medical treatments and kept his head held high. This is why I chose the owl with glasses as a sign of bravery and knowledge… As for the talking candy hearts “Dream, Love, Cure” comes from my favourite organization, Skate 4 Cancer, run by a young man named Rob Dyer.”
“People often tell me getting tat- toos was for them like an addiction. I’ve only ever been sure twice. Once when I yearned for my Prairie hometown and once when I found my way home again and realized what I’d left behind.”
Despite what looks like one piece, my tattoos were done as four sepa- rate ones… I got the crown after one of my best friends passed away just short of his 23rd birthday—he had the same one. The flowers (plumeria) on either side represent my two life-changing backpacking trips to South America and south- east Asia. The writing is to remind me that no matter what happens, life must go on. The tree was my most recent piece. I have always loved trees (maybe bordering on obsession), and this reminds me to keep in touch with nature and to respect our Earth.”
from a former Gio’s volunteer
Katrina Fuchs, a tattoo artist for more than three years, opened Rising Phoenix Body Art on Sherbrook Street just one year ago. “Approximately one quarter of my clients are openly part of the LGBT* community, and a lot more are supporters,” said Fuchs. Fuchs credits the community’s inclusivity as part of the reason for her success. Many people tend to feel more comfortable at Rising Phoenix than at your typical tattoo shop because they know Fuchs from her time spent volunteering at Gio’s Club and Bar well before it closed. “It’s led to some great repeat business,” she said. Visit risingphoenixwpg.com for more information.
– Shandi Strong has been active in the LGBT* community for over a decade. She is a past vice-president of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Society and volunteers at the Rainbow Resource Centre. She is expanding her role in the community as an advocate for trans rights.