Ink and Identity

Tattoos have been around for millenia, with the history of tattooing dating back as far as thousands of years ago. Figures like Ötzi, the iceman being uncovered, who is covered in tattoos. 

In the 20th century, it was customary for sailors to adorn themselves in ink as a signifier of how many miles they had traveled on the sea. Beyond this, tattoos started to find their way outside of sailor and naval culture, and yet were still taboo to have. 

Up until recently, it was difficult to hold jobs if employers knew you had tattoos. Only until the 2010’s, having tattoos started to become an essential part of mainstream culture, with roughly one third of the population having at least one tattoo. 

What differentiates this from queer tattoo culture is that queer people have started branching off into different and experimental tattooing styles and signifiers. With things like “Ignorant style,” a non-serious approach to tattooing where there is no meaning behind pieces, with little to no shading. Stick-and-Pokes are also popular within the community, with how accessible they are. Another emerging style is “Cyber-Sigilism,” which is a modern twist on Y2K tramp stamps. 

Another signifier that has been up-and-coming is the presence of tattoo sleeves, especially patchwork sleeves. Patchwork sleeves involve many tattooing sessions, where like the title suggests, each one is a patch and makes up the whole sleeve. 

It has been insanely popular within the community not only because of the accessibility of it, but also because of the storytelling aspect and showing multitudes of your personality. All tattoos vary in price, but generally smaller patch pieces tend to be easier on the wallet so for young gay people, it is a great option to build a tattoo sleeve. 

For me, I am covered in tattoos, and my whole relationship with tattoos is that they have helped  me embrace and love my body even more. I feel so comfortable in my skin. I know it has been said “You wouldn’t put a bumper sticker on a Bentley,” but I see myself more as a Subaru in need of a repair. My tattoos tell a story of points in my life in which I got them, like the time I got 6 tattoos in one week whilst I was living in Florence, Italy. I look back on those memories so fondly, and I feel like tattoos make me remember those times especially well. 

With tattoo culture being insanely broad, having so many different branches, there is no right or wrong way to express yourself as a person in the community with the art on your body. It is absolutely so individualistic to you and your story. Tattooing is reclaiming what was once taboo, and flipping that notion on its head, showing that this is an artform to be well-respected and loved. Having tattoos is an archive of who you are and once were, and an integral part to many no matter their identity. 

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