FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: What’s The Story Behind Your Tattoo?

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Welcome to the Friday Open Thread! It’s just like the high school cafeteria where we hang out, talk, laugh and gossip but without all the judge-y glares, awkwardness and cliques!

How’s y’alls week been? I’m ready for Mercury to get the fuck out of retrograde and make all the nonsense in my life to just stop. Despite some really BIG complicated friend issues going on, let me tell you about some of the highlights of my week. I voted early on Monday and I felt really great about getting that out of the way. (Go Vote!) I made some delicious chicken enchiladas and Mexican rice. I bought Gloria Anzaldua‘s Borderlands and plan to read it this weekend! I’m so excited to jump into it because I started reading it when I lived in Austin but it was a library book and I was moving to Dallas so I had to return it. I’m finally picking up where I left off! I also started watching Twin Peaks but I didn’t finish the first episode because Gloria kept interrupting me. But so far, I’m into it! This weekend I’m going to a Halloween block party in Dallas’ gayborhood and I still don’t know what I’m going to be. I might be a witch, who knows. I’ll decide later tonight.

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Here’s a selfie of me and Gloria. Post a selfie of yourself!

Anyways, I’m here to talk to you about tattoos! I don’t have a tattoo but this week I seriously thought about getting one. I really want the outline of Texas on my arm somewhere. Yes, I want a Texas tattoo, I want to be one of those people. Here’s the thing, people think that most people who get a Texas tattoo are country music loving, cowboy boot wearing, hardcore conservative Texans. I want to turn that stereotype on it’s head and tell them I’m a queer Tejana and proud of it! I love Texas with my whole heart and as cheesy as it sounds, I’m proud to be from this weird wonderful place, especially from South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

I kinda want something like this but not the word "Texas." That's taking it a little too far for me.

I kinda want something like this but not the word “Texas.” That’s taking it a little too far for me.

Also, I’ve been thinking I want this kinda huge Virgen De Guadalupe masterpiece tattoo. I think I’m a little scared to get something so extravagant on my body right now but it’s something I’ve been considering for a while. I mean, she means a lot to me and I think if I wanted a tattoo, I would go BIG and colorful. I don’t know where I would get it. I just know that I would want an artist’s interpretation of the Virgen and it be really colorful with lots of flowers and be visible to people.


I don’t exactly want the Virgin tattoo to be like the one on the left but you see how it’s an interpretation of her vs. the her traditional image.

These tattoos are just thoughts at the moment but hopefully I’ll make them happen soon. Since I don’t have any tattoos to show you, show me yours! Post a photo of them in the comments. What’s the story behind them? Why did you get that tattoo? Why is it important to you? If you don’t have any, do you want a tattoo? What are you thinking of getting? Tell me all your tattoo and t.A.T.u dreams!

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Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at

Yvonne has written 205 articles for us.


  1. I don’t have any tats but I have contemplated: dolphins to symobilize my love of the sea and aquatic animals, the Chinese symbol for serenity or the actual logo for the TV show Firefly, 9 3/4 for obvious reasons, or a stake for Buffy. What to get and where to put it keep me perpetually in the thinking about a tat rather than getting a tat stage.

  2. OMG, this is so relevant to my life right now! I just had a super vivid dream (and I rarely dream) that I got a mountain range tattooed around my left forearm and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I currently have 3 little tattoos and they’re okay I guess… I got my first one when I was 18 just because I could and it’s just writing and I want the word on me, but in a different font, so I’m probably getting that I’ve covered with a blacked out north carolina (queer southerners forever y’all!). I also have two female symbols on my shoulder which I got when I ID’d as a lesbian…I wanna find a way to make it more inclusive though now that I I’D add queer. I always show it off around cute girls as like a flirting technique because femme invisibility is real lol. And then I have one in Hebrew on my back that I actually love, I just always forget it’s there

    • Heyo! Queer southerner (TN)!

      I actually also had a dream that I got a mountain range tattoo with the Edmund Hilary quote: “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” beneath it. I definitely want something of this nature now. In my dream I got it after my final paper of graduate school was published, and given my boss’s current attitude about things :-| probably that’s a good goal to reward.

      Also, this is potentially my first comment on autostraddle! I don’t actually know. I have drunkenly started many comments.

  3. I had my tattoo done when I ran off to Reno as a 19-year-old little hooligan.

    It’s a pocket watch, set to the time I was born, and placed over my (symbolic, literal would be awkward…) heart. Every time my heart beats, the clock ticks from the moment of my birth. It reminds me to cherish the present.

    The chain of the watch goes over my shoulder, and ends in an anchor over my shoulder blade. The anchor both represents Michigan (I was missing the lakes and the calm of the water; I discovered in Reno that I wilt in the desert.) and a more metaphoric “anchoring.” As a young person with no family, at the time I was entirely set adrift and rootless. The anchor reminded me that even things that, by their nature, are adrift (like boats) can still anchor themselves, if they choose.

    And, a picture! :)

        • Thanks, guys! :)

          I can’t wait to get more tattoos. Gahh, budget woes.

          First I want to get two bees, one right on the inner hipbone area, and one beneath an armpit/near the breast. Bees are a major phobia of mine, but they’ve always seemed to appear in my life in strange ways when it is time for me to open up and move forward. I want them in those areas as a symbol of allowing myself to be vulnerable when it is necessary for personal growth.

          Aaaand, I want a Doctor Who quote (9th Doctor’s pre-regeneration lines)
          set up like this (roughly):

          Probably on my inner upper arm?

          One of these days!

  4. I have… *looks intently at own body for a minute* … eight.
    A crescent moon, a campfire, a rose with a banner that says Sub Rosa (which means ‘under the rose’, which is a phrase used to mean secret), a cat called Rupert, bleeding ballet shoes surrounded by gemstones, a bleeding crescent moon, and another damn crescent moon overlaid with clouds and the constellation of the wolf. And a poppy!

    All of them have some meaning to me, some more specific than others – Rupert the cat was a cat I used to own until he died (it’s really hard to explain having a tattoo of a dead cat without it sounding like it’s literally a picture of a dead cat) and the bleeding ballet shoes represents my years of ballet lessons and so on. The Sub Rosa one is because I love the rose and one of my middle names is Rose and my life has been shaped by keeping secrets. On the other hand, I just really love the moon, which is why I’ve ended up with so many of them. I want more tattoooos but they are so expensive!

    this is the bleeding crescent moon, my most recent

    and I don’t seem to have a good photo of the sub rosa one but you can see most of it here

  5. I completely agree with Mercury needing to get the fuck out of retrograde. It has wrecked havoc in my life. I’m over it.

    So glad for this weekend though! Starting it out by talking about tattoos is great! I have three, and my most important one is my rainbow ribbon. It was a gift to myself a year after I came out. I also have a tiger lily on my foot, and a bass clef/treble clef between my should blades that make a heart.
    And I have many future tattoo plans, such as a Betty Paige style pin-up, a cat tattoo that involves the feminist symbol, and sooo many more.

    Now I’m sad I can’t get more tattoos now :(

    Here is the cute little rainbow ribbon:

    • oh that is a cute little ribbon! why do you have a bass clef and treble clef? where you in band? play an instrument?

      • Yeah I was in marching band and orchestra :) My main instrument was Cello, and then I also played Marimba(mainly) and other sideline percussion in marching band

  6. Oh my god, yes! I really want a Texas tattoo, too. But on my butt cheek, so I can moon people and shout “TEX-ASS!”
    I’ll probably get it eventually, but right now I live in Portland and it would be downright wrong to get a Texas tattoo outside of Texas. Maybe when I visit for Christmas?

    The only tattoo I have now is a simple line design on my back that I got for free from an artist-in-training. It’s a symbol I made up that encompasses a lot of my feelings about gender, sexuality, and identity.

    Now that I’ve caught the tattoo bug, I need more!

    • i’m sure someone in the world has that TEX-ASS tattoo somewhere! i mean, i feel it would be sacrilegious maybe if someone from Texas had that tattoo.

    • Same here about wanting to get a Texas tattoo, but living elsewhere and wanting to get it done in Texas, although I would also be open to getting it done outside Texas if the artist was from Texas. I have had a lot of other tattoo ideas bouncing around in my head for years, and eventually they may lead me to be tattooed, but for now I have none, in part b/c it will take me forever to figure everything out just right. (Also: $$$)

  7. I just got a tattoo inspired by my time at A-camp actually!

    A-Camp pretty much changed my life so I decided to get a tat of a mockjngjay because that was our cabin name. Its kind of funny, and mildly irresponsible considering I havnt read the books yet…. Alas.(you’ll notice the arrow is snapped in half, because someone snapped out flag in half)

    • A camp tattoos are the best ones!! I’m currently saving up for a be right here chest piece. I LOVE when folks have a camp tattoos. So cool!

      • Thanks! That would be blood bubbling up from under the tattoo. This was taken seconds after finishing it lol but glitter tattoos should totally be a thing.

    • That is amazing and it has been posited that the almandine and quartz crystals bits found in Otzi the Iceman’s tattoos were intended to make them sparkle. Not just trace picked up from the surface the soot was taken from.

  8. I an Jewish so I don’t have a tattoo, but a small part of me now wants to get one on my ankle. Maybe raised fist genderqueer tattoo in white and blue(colors of Israel)? Who knows.

    My week has been long. A customer at work is getting more demanding as the weeks goes on. He still doesn’t get it you can’t order multiple boxes that equates to 3000 items at noon and then expect us to put pricing stickers on them; then have them shipped out that day, it’s only 2-3 of us working there and we aren’t machines, nor is he the only customer. :-\

    On another note I went to Hamburger Mary’s in Long Beach last Saturday for ladies night with two adorable women. I had a blast goofily dancing my booty off. I will go back again(pictures to come when I get home). There was one downer though. This gay male, and his lady friend pretty much sexually harassed me on the dance floor. The guy and his friend grabbed my ass without my consent(I don’t know you). I know it’s wrong, I think I tried to give her a hug. But, she left to leave me alone with the groper who at some point he grabbed my breasts, and try to put his has down my pants. Because of my current state I look more male than I feel, so he made the wrong assumption. I kept telling I am into women, and his reply was “so was I, but I can change that tasty.” I replied, “No, you don’t get it I am into women like queer women are! I am trans*!” He didn’t get it, but thankfully my friends stepped in. Ugh! Other than that I had a blast that night, and can’t wait to have money to start presenting more neutral.

    • So sorry that you were harassed when you were just trying to dance and have a good time. Glad it didn’t kill your whole night.

    • Wow, sorry to hear you had a bad encounter. As if grabbing werent enough ya know? Plus side, you didnt let the perso ruin your night AND you had hamburger marys.

      • Well, the only disappointing thing was their FB ad said it was Oktoberfest night or something, but it didn’t feel like it, nor was there any festive Oktoberfest beer. I was hoping for more festive beers.

  9. I haven’t gotten any yet but I do want to get a cupcake on my inner thigh

    cause i am that sweet :)

  10. I have an octopus tattoo that I started working on as I started to transition. To me it symbolizes the ability to change.

    I also got a feminist fist colored with transgender colors because, well, they represent two things that I am.

  11. I totally have a math tattoo. I’d been thinking about it for years and years, and I couldn’t think of a “neat” or “interesting” theorem or formula and then one day, it hit me — why not choose what got me interested in math back as a teenager? Calculus!

    So, that’s what I got!

    (I also think it’s be cool to get one done of my geography of origin, since it seems that some people I meet have negative stereotypes about it, and it’d be cool to be like, “hey all, I’m from there, too, actually!”)

    • That sounds super cool! Gotta ask, as a fellow math enthusiast and calculus aficionado, what particular theorem from calc did you choose? Fundamental? Fermat’s? Intermediate value? I’d be interested to hear.

      • Fundamental theorem all the way. The day we learned that was the day all of the little bits and pieces of previously random, arbitrary, and frustrating math clicked into place for me and it all just transformed into awesome.

  12. I have several tattoos, all with ambiguous meanings—just the way I like it. My favorite is the coordinates of my hometown on the outer side of my left foot. I love it so much, and I love when people understand it. The tattoo artist did immediately. He was like, “Oh my god, that’s really far west. Is that Alaska?” Yessir.
    My boob tattoo is from a Sarah Ruhl play, and I change what I tell people about the letters on the side of my wrist all the time to mess with their heads.

  13. I love tattoos on other people but I am scared to get one myself! I actually really love state outline tattoos, you should definitely get the Texas one Yvonne. I just really really don’t like needles, to the point where I’ve had to make the nurse hold my hand and tell me a story when I was getting a shot.

    But anyway, this has been a weird week. I have the house/evening to myself tonight so I’m listening to music and drinking whiskey and ginger ale in an attempt to stop worrying about everything that is changing all of a sudden: I sort of changed jobs at work and I worked way too many hours this week (and I have to work tomorrow), one of my roommates suddenly decided he’s moving out and is handling it very badly, and I’m just starting a new relationship. I don’t know what Mercury being in retrograde means, but if that’s what’s turning my life upside down right now, it can just calm down.

    I watched Tegan and Sara’s video for “Closer” in the middle of writing this comment and now I’m feeling better!

    Anyway. Tattoos are great. Y’all should post pictures of your cool tattoos bc I love all the ones I’ve seen so far!

  14. I have a number of tattoos, but this is my baby – I commissioned a piece from the amazing artist William Schaff, based on the end of Kafka’s “The Trial”, and later had the wonderful Myles Karr (of Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn) put it on me.

  15. When I was nineteen I was really angsty about being at a hella white liberal arts college and studying nothing but dead white men, so I thought “what would Maya Angelou do?” and decided to live on an arts commune in Ghana. Obviously this was the right move, and it was amazing to be the first person in my family to go back to Africa since slavery. This tat is my favorite Adinkra symbol, it represents endurance and I got it to cover some old cutting scars. I like being able to look down at my leg and seeing a constant reminder that I’m a tough broad that’s come a long ways and has a long ways to go.

    • That’s beautiful! I’ve always wondered, actually, if it would be possible to tattoo over scars. (for the same reason) But I’ve been too nervous to try. Maybe I will give it a shot someday; I’ve always wanted to lay mine under a tattoo of waves.

  16. This is my tattoo of Liberty from the 2013 platinum 1 oz. US bullion coin. The goddess Liberty is perhaps my favorite bit of iconography. The tattoo also celebrates my love of numismatics.

    And here (somewhat cryptically) am I:

  17. Dear Internet,

    Today I ran two miles, which made my shoulder scream in pain every time I inhaled, and my eardrums hurt for an hour somehow.

    I planned a haunted house for Anime and Gaming club.

    I made my little sister ito a full-blown bloody zombie with prosthetic injuries and was late to work.

    Then I got home I opened some college mail and found out I got accepted to Albright with an $80,000 dollar scholarship.

    The end.

    Also I’m tattooless, and am too much of a wuss to get a permanent one, but I do like making these fancy shmancy henna tattos on my hands sometimes.

  18. I finally got a tattoo this summer while I was in Peru cuz it was a ton cheaper there and it seemed like the thing to do. Now I have lots of ideas for more but need more money for them. But the one I got is a Harry Potter quote so I’m happy for now.

  19. If I ever got a tattoo, which honestly I probably won’t because I’m scared of pain but let’s imagine, it would be the last two lines of Angels in America (which is tragically lacking in queer women but it still sings to me in my soul). I imagine it might be upside down on top of my thigh so that it would be hidden from the world but if I were hiding in the bathroom freaking out or something, I could look at it in private and it would be like a secret pep talk to myself.

  20. I’ve got a couple tattoos, but my favorite story is attached to this one:

    My partner does stick n poke tattoos. For those of you unfamiliar, that’s a tattoo done with a single needle by dipping it in (STERILE!!!) ink and poking it into the skin repeatedly. So, this past summer I let Alex give me this cat on my ankle, which weirdly enough, sort of resembles our ferret.

    • I’ve seen some of those and have heard it said they can colour in ways a tattoo machine never could. Especially the Japanese style with the giant looking poke sticks.

  21. I don’t have any tattoos because of my needle phobia. I would love to get one, though. Just to prove that I can.

    In other news, I just started a new job at a big multinational corporation and it turns out they have a group for their gender/sexuality diverse employees! I got very excited because every other company I’ve worked for has ignored the existence of queers at best. Hopefully it’s not just lip service!

  22. I am one of those people — a queer, far-left Texan with my state’s shape inked on my skin. I got it when I was not living in Texas – it feels slightly odder to be back in the state with it. But, I added the outline of my second home around it, so it still feels like me — Texan but traveled.
    I say – go for it, Yvonne!

  23. No tats yet. But there’s this one that I’ve wanted since I was like 12? 13? Long story time!

    My mom lost a baby between my brother and I when I was like 5 and it messed me up kinda bad cuz I’d been looking forward to being a Big Sister. Anyway, I was sitting on the porch with my Grandpa talking about all the feelings and there was this hummingbird that flew up to the pink hibiscus bush and he told me that was my baby brother come to check on me and to tell me not to worry about him anymore, he was OK, and wouldn’t you know, that same hummingbird came back around the same time every evening after that.

    Fast forward a few years, Grandpa passes away, and I’m sitting on the porch with my mom talking about him and all the feels involved in losing him for both of us, and what shows up? A hummingbird. So I start crying and tell her that that’s Papa, come to check on us and tell us not to worry about him, he’s OK. So the design would be a memorial to him and a reminder to me not to worry, everything will be OK.

    I just have to find a kickass artist that won’t screw this up cuz it has to be PERFECT. I did find a good artist to make a painting of it, so I’d kinda know what it would look like…

    • Words cannot contain the beauty of this ***

      Trust your instinct for the artist…I’d say if a hummingbird appears
      that day, you’re set!

    • That’s beautiful story. Definitely trust your heart when it comes to choosing your artist, there’s no rush. That’s a charming picture to work from too, so I think you’re off to a great start.

    • Erica, wow…

      For me the hummingbird represents my great grandmother and in so many ways this story reflects my own. I finally found an artist who I felt could do my tattoo justice recently and was able to get what I have been dreaming about for three years since my grandmother’s passing.

      It’s worth the wait to find someone worthy of bringing your art to life. My tattoo was created by the brilliant mind of my tattoo artist and I could not have dreamed of a more beautiful piece. I hope you find someone who can appreciate your story and bring your art to life.

  24. I got the raised-fist feminist symbol tattooed on my inner forearm as my first, partly because I know I’ll always be a feminist but also as a fuck you to my abusive ex, who once accused me of being such a “feminazi” that I should get a warning tattoo.

    Yeah, fuck that guy.

  25. This skin is tattooed by the dreams I have lost
    And found, again and again,
    My heart pushing the pounding blood against my skin
    It has left indelible marks, all of it all of it
    You cannot lick them off

    but I am willing to let you taste

    • Sometimes I need a moment
      To remind myself that I am more than these invisible marks
      Masterfully camouflaged,
      I carry an internal blue light
      That automatically searches my body
      Lighting each one up, forensically
      The aftermath of a crime scene

      Most days are not blue lights
      They are clear skies, unfiltered golden light
      Warming, strengthening

      In the gloaming
      I realised
      Blue light requires darkness to function
      So, in times of trouble
      I am learning to turn on the light.

  26. I don’t have any tattoos yet, but next month I’m getting “Remember how you got this far” in my mum’s writing tattooed on my ribs.
    Funny story, the idea actually came from one of those tumblr horoscope posts (“sagittarius: remember how you made it this far”), which I found right around the time I started to seriously think about recovery from self harm.

  27. Tattoos! This is so wonderful, I love hearing about tattoos and you all have such beautiful, creative, expressive tattoos!

    I have two currently that I hope to soon turn into a bigger shoulder piece (I’m hoping that I’ll get a decent enough tax return in April to do it but I’ve had like four different jobs in the last year and two were/are contractor positions so we’ll see??) The only picture I have of them currently is from April, when I had the labyrinth tattooed over my spine:

    The snake was my graduation-from-college present to myself, and harkens back to a past dream of going to grad school for folklore studies and researching the different symbolisms of snakes in various mythologies/folklores around the world. Broadly, it is a reminder that even when things look bad, I have ambitions that I want to pursue. The labyrinth marks the end of a 2 year stint in americorps positions, and invokes different things for me: focusing on (and enjoying) journey rather than be preoccupied with endpoints, the 2 year journey I took that involved coming out, etc. The meanings change and spiral for me.

    I want to incorporate red and black feathers and black dragon coleus leaves into the final piece, but I really need to sit down and talk with an artist about how to get what’s in my head onto my body. Also, it’s gonna cost a pretty penny… ahh money! Other tattoos I want are the Avatar the Last Airbender four nations symbol on my bicep and an Erika Moen designed tattoo on my right forearm. I want so many tattoos!!

    This week has been shit. We found a bed bug in my apartment, got exterminated and are waiting two weeks for the follow up inspection. I feel like my life is in total disarray, all my shit is in plastic bags, and I just started tutoring but don’t feel like I have a grasp on what I’m doing. Hopefully mercury getting out of retrograde will mean I will feel less like a perpetual fuck up?

  28. I’ve got a couple of tattoos that mean a lot to me. This one is the Tibetan translation of first noble truth of Buddhism. It’s on my back and reminds me (when I actually think about it since I don’t see it) that my past is a part of me but it’s behind me.

    This one is for my kid … his first word was turtle (apart from mama that is) and he is my favourite person in this world.

    The next one I’m going to get is going to have birds, pocket watch and a pocket knife in it to represent my paternal grandparents who have passed away. They were amazing people and the world was more beautiful having had them in it.

  29. I have several small tattoos, but my first large one that I got recently is by far my favorite! I think it speaks for itself, but I will say this: 1. adolescence 2. redhead 3. Gillian Anderson. ‘Nuf said!

  30. Hello everyone!!! How is everyone? Im doing pretty good for a Friday. My computer is still sick sadly enough. The week has been pretty busy and Im pissed at people who think they can buy you a coffee and think they can boss you around. Isnt it sad to think that sometimes the world is run by men who are aholes?

    I sat in traffic today BUT I haf the 8track acamp playlist going so I got a lot of looks from dancing during stand still. Lols.

    We did our Electric run shirts today too. The paint glows under blacklight and I put deer heads in mine because I miss Camp. We as in my co workers and I. We also went to the sex store. That was such a trip!! Lol!! Tomorrow is our mud run also. A 5k. Should be fun. =)

  31. I study law/science and major in physics and I really like astronomy so I got this:

    The lady who did it turned up on the day without the pictures she drew up but it still looks neato, I think I’ll go back to her for my next one.

  32. I am 43 and maybe my story will help some of you find a way… I don’t know if anyone ever regrets getting a tattoo of something important to them but I do know you can spend a lifetime regretting having not gotten a tattoo. I have wanted a colorful dragon since I was 17. I never got it because I was too worried about what others would think, what my parents would say and regretting it myself in the future. I think a lack of self love and confidence was mixed in there too. I can now say I definitely should have gotten the tattoo. It actually would have given me strength and would have protected me from some bad things happening. Taking that stand would have helped me become myself much sooner. I am now a mother of two and cannot imagine scraping enough money together to get the kind of colorful, detailed tattoo I want and spending that kind of money on myself. I went to college, got married, had kids, got divorced, found out my son has Cerebral Palsy and my daughter has Juvenile rhymitoid arthritis, my ex will not pay child support, I’m on my own, etc… You never know what is in the future. Do it now if it’s what you want. Find the money because there will never be enough money for most of us and as you get more responsibilities it becomes much harder to do what you know you should have done years ago. Tattoos are beautiful art with beautiful messages and funny stories behind them. I now also want a tree, the full moon, the first symbol… Love yourself, Love your body, and for me, love your tattoos!

  33. I got my first tat at 18. It’s my birth name (I’m adopted.) in Chinese with a Korean subscript. My lower back tat is a custom design based on a Kimono flower. The tiger lily on my shoulder is my favorite flower and, also, a reminder of where I came from. Tiger lilies were once wild in Korea and other places, hardy flowers sprouting in dirt patches, but now they are categorized and priced based on rarity and sold in western countries as an “Asian flower.” All my current tats relate back to my confused identity as a Korean Adoptee.

    My last tattoo was 7 years ago. I would love to get more, but never seem to put the money aside for it. I’d like some sort of queer/feminist tat, but haven’t figured out exactly what. Lots of inspiration from all your queer and feminist ink!

    • Really nice pieces. I love the Korean script and your back piece is gorgeous. Although I wasn’t sure what a kimono flower was until I asked the internet I have actually seen them. Funny the things we know and don’t know about the same time.

      • Funnier, kimonos are Japanese, not Korean. This sort of Asian Fusion tattoo situation I have going on is SO related to my confusing Asian-American identity. Especially when I was 18/19 and getting the two back pieces.

  34. My sister and I have talked about getting theme tattoos for a while, we just haven’t yet. Hers: “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” Mine: “Mischief Managed.” The best part? It’s definitely true. Put the two of us together and something is bound to happen, and it will most likely be hilarious.

    In other news, I had an unexpected job opportunity come up for me this week. The odds of anything actually coming of it are very small, but the hope of getting out of the hellhole that is my current job is enough to put a smile on my face. All in all, not a bad week for me.

  35. I got my tattoo on January 28th, 2014. It’s “chai”, which is the Jewish symbol for “life” on my right wrist. I’ve said this a couple times on AS, but I was really sick when I was in high school, and January 2007 was my big month of recovery. I call Janury 9th life day because it was the day my recovery began. I’ve always wanted a tattoo to symbolize overcoming my illness, and I’ve wanted to get it on life day. This past January, I was ready to get my tattoo. I couldn’t get it on life day because I had school and my first day of work at my current job (and I actually ended up being robbed that day). The week I got my tattoo, I was supposed to go out town with my grad school class on a writers retreat, but I didn’t go because of a flare-up of my illness. While all my classmates/friends were away, I decided that I wouldn’t let my illness hold me back, so I finally made the appointment and got my tattoo on the 28th. I got it on my wrist because I want to be able to look at it easily whenever I need to be reminded of my struggles and how I got better.

    I loooove tattoos. I definitely want more. I have a bunch of ideas, but they all have the same “life” meaning, and I want tattoos with different symbols. I also have this life-long goal of losing weight, and if I do, I don’t want my tattoos to look weird because of the skin changing.

    I may get another tattoo on my left ankle in January 2015. I don’t know yet what I want. Maybe something that symbolizes theatre. I’ve thought of something along the lines of the quote “the rest is still unwritten”, although not that quote- something with that meaning. I have some time to think about it.

    Funny story: I got my tattoo over 9 months ago, and my dad still hasn’t acknowledged it. He’s very anti-tattoos, and I’ve kind of tried to hide mine from him, but I don’t really care anymore. He hasn’t mentioned it, and neither have I. Oh well.

  36. So, 15 years ago, I finally got my (first) tattoo of the Auryn. I think I was 10 years old when I knew that I was going to get that tattoo as soon as I was old enough / could get away with it. And so, at 17, I got away with it. Most people around me thought it was a bad idea, or something I would regret. Well, first of all… How could anyone regret the idea of doing what you want? To follow your dreams, your path, whatever is right for you. Also, how is it not ok to think about the differences between your own reality and fantasies? These questions stayed with me all these years, and I felt as a child this was something I would be thinking about for a long long time. I also knew I stood behind the idea of following your dreams or ideas, whatever the circumstances (you do you, everybody :)) And I’ve learned that the hard way, sometimes. Anyway. My point. The Neverending Story is a wonderful book (and/or movie) that shaped my childhood, but even without all of that, the idea of a talisman in the form of a tattoo, watching over you, guiding you, reminding you to stay true to yourself and your wishes, is one of the best, silly, funny, but dead serious decisions I’ve ever made. Thank you for reminding me of this ^-^

  37. Idea stolen from modified to my taste.
    You can either love easily or take the complicated route, but there are usually not many dead ends. Unfortunately the tattoo artist messed up some lines and decided to free hand my design. Everyone says they can’t tell but I do… Every damn day. I have an urge to either cover my whole body in a bunch of mazes or cover it up with a half Alaska and half heart design I made.

  38. I dont have tattoos but Ive been thinking of getting one shows a snake because I was born in the year of the snake or something Aries relates. Deer antlers to further solidify my love with KlubDeer and Camp. -.- also something thats related with the Philippines. I still call it home even if I grew up here and Im very settled here in the USA. Living there foe 8 years for school really leaves an impression and Im always looking for an adventure to have when I go back.

    And all your tattoos are on point Straddlers!! This is turning into an art gallery=)

  39. A surprise to the people who grew up with me I’ve been a legal adult for years and have not a single tattoo.
    It’s a surprise because I drew on myself so much as a teenager.
    In middle school it was the greek zodiac in a wheel on my knee some times with alchemical symbols of the planets, a bleeding crown of thorns on always my left thigh, red crosses of death where ever, and a the alchemical symbol for Pluto on that space between the thumb and wrist. When I was thirteen I tried to tattoo my ankle with a red cross of death and failed thankfully. Still hurt though.

    In high school I started to do vines branching out all over my hand, six pointed stars, crescent moons, the triple goddess symbol and the horned god too, and on that space between the thumb and wrist I was doing the Gemini symbol or dots descending in size curving like a comma. Some times those dots would be in rows of descending size too and each row a different colour.

    My father would get upset about these drawings when he could see them on my hand. Physically dragging me to a sink and start scrubbing them off himself while shouting about tattoos and when you’re eighteen and yadda yadda yadda.

    Despite knowing he would not regard anything I said on this matter and possibly get madder I’d still yell at him that I didn’t want any tattoos because that would take up my drawing space. His retort, if there was one, would be based around he was the adult so I had to do what ever he said. Considering the way his father was, the way he was raised in general he turned out okay.

    I don’t draw anymore and the only design I want is something I’m perhaps too superstitious to get. It’s an anchor though a heart in tribute to my grandfather, my dad’s step-dad and positive male role model, he was Merchant Marine during WWII and a sailor most of his life. He retired with a international captain’s license then settled down and worked at Avondale Shipyards. I’ve used his metal files and riveting hammer from those days.
    The anchor was inspired his Merchant Marine tattoos. An anchor the length of his forearm on both forearms. It would disrespectful for me to get those for I did not earn them thus the heart and anchor. I still don’t know where I’d put it, the size and uh anchors sink.
    Ship’s wheel, compass, and an eagle he had too but nothing makes me think more of him than an anchor.

  40. *waves shyly* Hi, I’m new here! Been lurking for a while, but just recently got an account and started posting. You guys seem like a lovely community.

    I have no tattoos to talk about. I guess my excuse is the cliché “I’m scared of commitment” argument. I’ve thought it would be cool to get a tattoo of the coastline of the Puget Sound, with an outline of Mt. Rainer beside it. I’ve moved around a bit, but I really identify with the Pacific NW where I grew up (and currently live). Also, I think some of these nature tattoos are absolutely beautiful:

    This week has been pretty much just work. I work 12 h shifts, which means long weekends but also very full days. Tomorrow is my Friday, so hooray! And then I’m road tripping to Portland! It’s actually for my job – and the first time I’ve ever gone on work-related travel! I feel like such a professional grown-up. Unfortunately, it also means wearing professional clothes. Most of the time, my job involves a lab coat and jeans and I HATE shopping for dressy clothes because (1) it means spending money on something that I deem pointless (what do you mean my hoodie isn’t professional?) and (2) lots of thoughts about how my body looks and feels in form-fitting attire.

    And aside from work stuff… autumn here has been gorgeous. See photo below of autumn at a nearby beach!

    And speaking of twin peaks, I went on a hike near North Bend/Snoqualmie with my mother a few days ago and crossed over this gorgeous bridge just before Snoqualmie Falls.

    • Welcome to AS, and thanks for introducing yourself :)
      I love your photos and loved nature tattoos of the trees in winter with their branches along a person’s spine and limbs, just beautiful. Those nature tattoos are exquisite, I love gardening and wilderness and the artists have created some beautiful designs, thanks for sharing this.

      • Thanks for the welcome! Yes, I loved the tree branches too – #49 is so elegant. And I also love the charming simplicity of the little mountains in #4.

  41. Here are 2 of my 3 tattoos! Both have rainbow colors because I’m a big homo.. The “Just Live” one is pretty spot on….on top of my heart and willing me to just live, got it on my 25th birthday :-) and the heart one, is well, my gay heart LOL My other tat, not posted here, is a blue star in my right wrist with tribal design…

    • It’s….it’s like a Lisa Frank pen drawing but raised to 11 and in your dermis. O_O

      How many sessions did that take? The redness of the skin all around and within it suggests it was done in one session, but that seems bananas.

      • Hi @bethbookworm – thanks! I’m reading thru this thread as well and seeing all the beautiful photos make me tell myself to stop marvelling and get on with work LOL :)

        Hi @gunna-see-the-light – just to clarify, 1 session EACH, not on the same day, about 9 months difference, but yeah just one session LOL the 2 hours spent for the big heart was painful, I almost shed a tear hehe :)

  42. Just talked about this tonight! I’m a German national who grew up mostly in the United States and did an exchange year in Pune, India. My only tat says “nowhere & everywhere” in Hindi and refers to where I feel at home. I knew this particular feeling of not quite belonging would be lifelong, but I’d like another tattoo and am having a hard time thinking of something that will be as permanently relevant as my first one. I’m really enjoying reading about all of y’all’s tattoo stories and hope you have a good weekend.

    • Your tattoo is close to the answer I give people when they bug me about where I’m from! Love the sentiment.

  43. Everyone here has such cool tattoos! I only have one, that I got done two years ago – the feminist symbol on my left thigh. I loved it then and love it now. I want to be covered in tattoos and have many ideas for my next ones – just not the money for them yet!

    As I type this, it is 07.23 am and I am on a train to work. It is Saturday, I have been up for over an hour already (and haven’t slept more than two), I have to spend twelve hours at work and I left my cigarettes at home. I am not a happy queer.

    But I am. Because on Monday, I am seeing my person! Those of you in long distance relationships will know what I feel – there are only two sleeps left until I can cuddle the fuck out of them and nothing can make me happier. Aaah!

  44. I have swallows all over my arms. I love them – I’ve spent many happy days watching them play over the reservoir where I used to live. I named my boat Swallow, too.

    This one is my favourite. The idea was to juxtapose the stability and commitment of an anchor with the freedom and playfulness of the swallow. To say ‘I can have roots AND go where I please.’

  45. Oh, I also have this compass. So I can always find my way. I wouldn’t say it was 100% accurate but…

  46. Happy Saturday morning everyone. I’m being forced to work after 4 days off with flu because my boss doesn’t think I’m sick anymore.
    I am.
    Had to switch out the battery in my van before work (+5 Butch points) as well because I have something draining it somewhere but we have yet to find what. Argh. MOT on Tuesday which I pray she passes.
    On to the ink. I have loads. My partially complete geometric dotwork sleeve with mandalas which I have because of my obsession with golden ratios/geometric patterns and because as a teenager my Buddhist Martial arts instructors helped me deal with my excess of negative emotions in a positive way and I will never be able to thank them enough for that.
    I have a mixed arm as well with a portrait of my dog as the HMV dog with a gramophone because my grandfather was a record presser, and too many other things to explain here. Plus ribs, calf and bits and pieces…and yet again I send this from phone so can’t post a pic. :(
    Have a great weekend folks.

  47. I dream of a full back classic chinese Dragon to signify my martial arts past,the philosophy behind it and that I will always be a warrior, and a phoenix on my right rib cage, to signify the burning and rising from the ashes theme, new and reborn, with healing tears.
    I doubt,though, that I will ever manage to find the perfect design. I mean, it took me like five years to find the perfect couch…
    Anyways, on the up side, I had a few crap weeks, but suddenly, on Tuesday, I ran into entirely different people by sheer coincidence who took that opportunity to sincerely thank me. You know, maybe it doesn’t matter that much if your hair needs to be cut and you still haven’t done your taxes and laundry man, it’s not a pile, it’s a mountain! And your fridge is kinda empty, and you think you might have gained a couple of pounds and you’re still single, and meant to answer that Email or five..maybe those things really don’t matter that much if you just do right sometimes.

    • ‘Maybe those things really don’t matter that much if you just do it right sometimes’


  48. Things have been crazy busy and my computer is out off commission, so I’ll be brief (and I haven’t read anyone’s comments yet. Sad face.) I have no tattoos so far, even having been in the Navy! I want to get a phoenix, and I was thinking maybe on my leg. I felt like I was burning to nothing when my marriage ended (along with my life as a “man”) and was reborn, so it feels fitting. There is an amazing trans man who does great tattoos at a shop called Vintage Karma in Tuscola, Illinois. I want him to do it.

    Also, I was feeling a bit Halloweenish, but I’m pretty rusty at photoshop:

    I’m going for Electrolysis today. I’ll be lightly sedated with a nerve block and typical anesthetic. This place has two electrologists going to town for twelve hours if they have to. I’m so done with this beard bs and laser didn’t seem to do much. Not looking forward to the procedure, but I am hopeful of the results.

  49. I don’t have any tattoos yet but I would like to get the female symbol on my left wrist or upper arm (or both?). For now I just draw it with a marker and maybe one day I will make it permanent. I also want a text on my forearm but I haven’t found anything that really speaks to me yet, plus the chances of regretting said tattoo are high. Generally, I like simple and subtle things for myself but I really (really) like more extravagant things on other women. (I mean, have you seen Tegan Quin?)

  50. Happy Friday Straddlers!

    This Friday I took a ‘mental health day’ off work and spent it with the people in my life that I love. There were at least 2 hours spent in a recliner with my cat and a book.

    I have been waiting for the tattoo question!

    Childhood sexual abuse left me scarred in too many ways. As a coping mechanism I learnt to disassociate. When I was 26, a year after my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I formally volunteered overseas, completed the Camino de Santiago and travelled Europe.

    Translated from French, my tattoo states ‘To my soul, I must depart’. In all of the aforementioned situations, I had to allow myself, my soul – to leave. It gives me strength and perspective. It’s located on my right forearm.

    Rupert Bear represents my childhood. He is looking at “If”, the poem by Rudyard Kipling. It’s about the journey of becoming who I am.

    Personally, the thought that I would have a tattoo was something I’d never entertained. I have never had a moment of regret and when my students ask me about them I’m able to have fantastic conversations with them about body image/choices/waiting until you’re older to do things.

    This Friday Open Thread is awesome!!

  51. Happy Friday!

    I got to Beijing on Tuesday and I’ll be here for 5 weeks. I’m from the States and read zero Chinese so it’ll be an interesting 5 weeks. I’m over the jet lag though, which is a good start.

    So, tattoos. I have two. I couldn’t find a good picture of the other one so here’s this one. It’s crooked in the photo but it’s not crooked in real life I PROMISE. That would suck.

    Equal sign for equal rights, yes. I didn’t want it to look like the HRC logo so the bars are a bit longer and thinner.

    I like that the equal sign can also represent balance. I need some of that in my life. Moderation is not my forte.

    I definitely want more. I don’t know if I should try to get a medium-sized piece or keep getting smaller ones. We shall see.

  52. Oh, do I ever have plans. I might even be getting one or two of them for my birthday which is coming up real soon here.
    First is this:

    The simplified molecular structure of estrogen, and a super sick hex-y lookin sci-fi look to boot. Because this little organic compound totally changed my life forever and it means so much to me. I think I’m gonna get it on the inside of my right forearm.
    And then this one:

    Cyberbrain plugs, straight out of Ghost in the Shell, which is basically the best film of the 1990’s and I won’t hear a word different. There’s so much meaning in this one — this is from the film that got me thinking about what it actually means to be human, and where the limits and gray areas of that identity lie, and about how I can change myself to better suit what I want and need in life.
    And also The Major was the first character who made me go ‘wife goals or life goals’. Which was pretty important.

    And then someday if I have mad crazy money I’m going to get wings on my upper back in a circuitboard pattern. I’ve been dreaming up this one for a loooong time. This one’s all about how I grew up on the net, and how it was my most important tool for coping with autism, and how I’ve always identified with synthetic characters in stories, how I’ve always felt artificial at heart, but that I’ve never seen that as a bad thing like it’s always depicted to be.

    I’ve written SO much about these feelings and they barely fit here.

    • Indeed is was and the “update” with all that yellow crap is a travesty. How will the kids learn how the Wachowskis got their inspiration from? Oh dear I’m being a debbie downer.

      The tattoos you want are awesome no clue if you had to go through special ed too but rock on special sister.


      I totally relate to your story about the Internet as a coping tool (though mine was more out of depression/isolation rather than autism) and feeling more connected to the synthetic. That is a BRILLIANT idea.

      I am working on a story for NaNoWriMo about someone who has a strong affinity to tech and the Internet and gains superpowers when wearing a pair of something like Google Glass. (It’s a more complicated story about identity and belonging, but that’s the central conceit.) Can I possibly borrow your circuitboard wings idea for her? I don’t think I’ll give her flying powers, but I think that would make an amazing image.

    • YES I love all of this. Especially the estrogen. My background is in chemistry, and having a meaningful molecule as a tattoo sounds awesome!

  53. I have a Chinese symbol on my left shoulder that means insane… maybe. It really means I’m finally 18 and I can do this without my mom’s permission. I have a treble clef on my right wrist because I’m a singer/ songwriter. Today I’m getting a female centaur on my right hip because I’m the epitome of Sagittarius.

  54. Hello lovely people,

    Life has been busy and I haven’t been around for a few weeks, haven’t even had time to read last week’s thread. But I hope all is well in your worlds.

    I’m tattoo free, never thought they’d suit me, but a few years ago I found myself very seriously thinking about getting one. I didn’t because I don’t think you should make a permanent decision when, post break up, you feel like Stevie Smith.

    However I do still think about it. One day…the thought of a hennaesque mandala appeals. I think I have a soft spot for white tattoos too.

    For me it’s a topic that shows how tastes change. I was always put off by tattoos, and now I think they can be some of the most beautiful art.

      • The view today is good; clear skies out the window. The clocks changed last night, so now it is time to come home from work in the dark. Therefore I’m going to try and enjoy the light at some point today. Although my actual view right now is a pride flag and papers I need to mark. Which is what I did last night too.

  55. I feel like I’m gonna get at least a tiny tattoo at some point because I need to know exactly how sore it is.
    I dunno, I’m one of those people that is too curious and I can’t die without knowing how it feels to be tattooed! haha

  56. No tattoos on this body, and I’m not sure I would ever get one. For a while I wanted Tegan and Sara lyrics and/or Beach House lyrics. I can’t remember the t&s ones I wanted but with beach house, I wanted Take Care somewhere. Both had to do with a relationship I was in and am no longer in, so I’m very glad I didn’t get those.

    The only thing I’d still consider would be an outline of the great lakes or just Lake Michigan. If I did, it’d go on an arm or leg, nothing on my torso.

    Anyways… I’m feeling a bit worn down this week, a bit sad, a bit like I need to see my therapist. Currently I’m sitting next to nice clean laundry and waiting for an everything bagel to toast up, so not so bad today.

  57. friends, straddlers! I have so many ideas for tattoos as well. Currently I have a triangle on my right forearm, with another small triangle inside. I have a triangle scar there and I pretty much just love triangles.

    My next two tattoos are:
    1) the snake around a pole from the medical symbol, on my left side–two chronic diseases have made huge impacts on my life.
    2) “silence = death” with the pink triangle above, probably on my upper arm–for activism, for not being quiet, for my uncle who died of AIDS.

    if anyone has suggestions for artists in Spokane (WA), Seattle (WA), or Orange County (CA), let me know!

  58. Well I’m a bit late to the party because a- It’s Sunday down here in Australia and b- I’ve been reading Autostraddle for years but this is my first ever comment. Whut? Glad to be finally joining the party!

    I have two tattoos, both inked on my epic overseas trip last year. The first one was done on a bit of a whim in Argentina but it is a tattoo I was planning to get at some point. It’s a beautiful, whimsical word and it’s a feeling I experience all too often.

    The second tattoo was completely planned. It’s my favourite Spanish word, I love the way it sounds and what it means. Last year I travelled South America, starting in Argentina and ending up in Ecuador, then I skipped over to Mexico and then up to the States. I got inked in Mexico, to signify the end of the Spanish speaking leg of my trip.

  59. This post has perfect timing; I have an appointment for tomorrow for my second tattoo! I got a Maya Angelou quote on my side when it was eighteen. I’m going to stick with the literary theme and go with an Emily Dickinson quote on my wrist.

  60. i would love to get a tattoo of a gandhi quote, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” i don’t know if its possible but i also would love to get a tattoo on my side and then curve over my shoulder, it would be silvery following my stretch marks and make it appear as if there is steel underneath the skin. don’t know if you get the picture, anyhow the second tattoo would undoubtably cost a penny and id have to find an artist who’s work i love to do it.

  61. Also late to the party, but enjoying this thread. I have several tattoos, and my favorite is probably the one I’m posting here. My first was an anatomical heart, which I got before going to med school, and then I wanted to complement it with something that represented my love of reading and the humanities, so I got this:

  62. I’ve been having a pretty good weekend. dinner with some friends Friday night, amazing ice cream we stood in line for about an hour and a half for, then we went out for a bit.

    today brunch and wandering around book stores and mediterranean food for dinner. now watching the emperor’s new groove.

    • oh yeah! and tattoos. I forgot about that question. I don’t have any, but I’ve kinda been thinking about wanting like…half a half sleeve or something to cover up some scars. I’m not sure what I want exactly though. a tiny version of my little red robot, I think, and maybe some honeysuckle in memory of my grandmother. and maaaaybe a horse? but I only just thought of that really recently and I dunno how I feel about it.

    • The ice cream flavour Bea Arthur and Salty Pimp are mine. What ice cream did you get? Was it worth the 1.5 hour wait? I smell a food adventure.

      • I got a salty pimp and yesss, worth it. I talked three of my friends and an acquaintance into waiting in line with me, so we had fun talking and people watching to pass the time. I was probably the most enthusiastic about my ice cream, but everyone else seemed okay with having waited, too.

  63. I started this back tattoo 7 years ago, when I was 20. It took four years to finish, due to me being a poor college kid who wasn’t too responsible with money. Now I’m a poor post-college kid who’s slightly more responsible, but…bills.

    Anywho! My initial idea for this tattoo was something much smaller, something that would fit in the center of my back. I’d done a rough sketch of what I wanted, and then brought it into the shop I had chosen after careful research around town. When I talked to the first guy who worked there, he casually said, “What about a full back piece?” It hadn’t occurred to me whether or not he was hustling for more cash, but it took the span of an eye-blink to say, “Yea, let’s do that.”

    I perused through a portfolio before settling on my guy Drat (, and not two minutes later he walks into the shop. We hit it off and he’s been my tattoo guy every since. The reason for getting it initially? I can’t remember. But it made no sense. The mythology behind the koi and the lotus however, did. Koi, according to Japanese mythology, are known for being autonomous creatures who like to swim against the current and will do what they please as they see fit regardless of what anything else has to say about it. I feel that’s been accurate in how I carry my life. The lotus, a Buddhist symbol for attaining enlightenment, depicts progression to the final stage of nirvana by starting at the base of the muddy pond, following up the root, to where one finally arrives at the white blossom of the lotus, enlightenment. I have not reached such a thing, but the symbol of the lotus itself reminds me of the progress I still need to make as a person working for change in social justice. I am the root. Where I am on the stem of the root I don’t know. But the lotus is a destination I strive for.

  64. ://

    I got this tattoo in memory of my dad. It’s an illustration from a book that we used to read together when I was young. It comes from D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths;my dad was from Greece and Greek mythology was his favorite part of his heritage to share with me. This was always one of my favorite illustrations from the book, and it seemed fitting to choose an image of a father and daughter. I identified strongly with Artemis and admired her status as a symbol of feminine independence, and my dad shared certain qualities with Zeus (you can guess what those might have been). I like the expression of tenderness captured by the illustration. I LOVE this tattoo and I am so glad that I decided to get it.

  65. OMG How did I miss this open thread? I have 10 tattoos, so I won’t show you ALL of them.

    To start, here’s my back

    The center is my Pride heart, of course. Of all the beautiful ink I have, I think this one is my favorite because it’s just so me. I like subtlety of the paired female symbols and the stained-glass effect of the rainbow. It was a piece I gave myself in celebration of finding myself. To one side is a quote from Margaret Atwood’s “Helen of Troy Does Countetop Dancing” that reads:
    You think I’m not a goddess?
    Try me.
    This is a torch song.
    Touch me and you’ll burn.”

    Atwood is a favorite writing of mine, and that poem has always stuck with me. Those lines in particular always captured something about my trans experience. To the other side is a quote for Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book”. It’s something I did when I was feeling burnt out by activist work as a reminder of possibility. You can also just make out the huge (like, 10 inch) heraldic lion, a tribute to my Highland Scot ancestors.

    This is me from the front! The rose is a memorial tattoo to my grandmother, who passed away just over a year ago. The lotus is a spiritual symbol with 8 petals for obvious reasons.

    Seems like a fair number of trans women have this one; it’s 17beta-estradiol, the most common human estrogen (and the one I take every single day). I got it just a few days before my 1 year hormoniversary as a celebration of a huge transition milestone.

    Not pictured: a tiny delta symbol on my right wrist, which is my reminder that all things change, a 42 with the words “You live and learn. At any rate, you live.” around it on my left calf, my nerdy tribute to scifi literature and life lessons.

  66. So the first thing you need to know is that I am deathly afraid of needles.

    I can’t watch medical shows because I can feel the pain of the shots. Whenever I have a blood test done (surprisingly often) I insist on lying down and being given the permission to scream. I had an ex-domme who was really into needle play and while I was willing to bend my other limits for her, needleplay was an ABSOLUTE HARD LIMIT FUCK NO DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

    I’ve wanted a tattoo for a long time. As a kid my cousins and I would have temporary tattoos all over the place. One of my other cousins loved drawing henna tattoos on everyone she met, so I often had fancy henna vines on my hands – which my schoolteachers demanded I wash out, even though they let the Malay kids with their henna fingertips go.

    But I never thought I’d get a permanent one – not because it was technically not allowed in Islam, but more because my fear of needles was so well-known that when I asked my mum (the ultimate Helicopter Over-Worrier) how she’d feel if I got a tattoo, she just laughed at me.

    (The domme part is interesting though: I willingly went through being flogged and whacked by other kinksters not necessarily because I was into impact play – it doesn’t really do anything for me sexytimes-wise – but because I wanted to condition my body to endure the kind of pain needed for a tattoo.)

    In 2009 I made a burlesque piece about being frustrated at how pigeonholed I was by all sides as a South Asian performer. My piece involved me doing multiple costume changes before peeling pieces off to reveal intricate henna designs on my arms and my back. Ever since the first time I had that back piece (made with actual henna) I have wanted it to be more permanent.

    I started entertaining the idea of having a full henna-like rose vine snaking up and around my feet to the back of my head. The idea was even a point of flirtation with someone I was once close to. A couple of years ago I did get the exact full-body henna vine on me (took two days of straight henna tattooing) and it was AMAZING. It felt right, like it was what my skin always had.

    I still wanted it on my skin permanently (rather than having to get all-new henna tatts every couple of weeks) but my fear of needles got in the way. Last year I was telling my now-ex this, about how I didn’t feel ready to have a tattoo despite desperately wanting this design because ZOMG NEEDLES, and she thought that the fact that I kept going on and on about it for years means that I was ready.

    After some planning I decided to take the plunge. I commissioned the design from Khushboo Gulati, a South Asian artist in LA that I met at an LGBTQ event who does a lot of radical queer/anti-racist art with henna iconography. The tattoo artist was Annie Danger, a Bay Area queer trans woman performance artist extraordinaire. I wanted the design and process to reflect as much of my priorities and interests as possible: being a queer South Asian woman who is artsy and activisty, honouring my legacy through a modernised take on a traditional art form.

    As the same ex would say, I only have one setting: overachiever. And thus I got a full back piece.

    Parts of it weren’t as bad as I thought – it felt like a pleasant or ambient buzz (I do really liked being scratched, so I could see why people kept telling me that the sensation was similar). Over my spine and sides, though, HURT LIKE A MOTHER FUCKER GAH. I don’t know how I still held out towards the end, but I did it.

    I have a tattoo.

    The roses still need to be filled in, though I haven’t found the money or time to do so, let alone try to do the fullbody piece (OW). My fear of needles have dimmed somewhat – I still hate them, and have trouble looking at injections, but I don’t freak out like I used it. My parents didn’t mind that I got one – I think they were more surprised that Miss Needlephobia actually went and got one.

    As for how my week has been: OMG HOMESTUCK UPDATE WHYYYY

  67. Here’s the picture of my tattoo taken in my friends dorm last year. It’s a simple black outline of a doe on my calf. To me does are really delicate, sweet, and feminine which are all things that I try to be. There were also a lot of deer in my childhood neighborhood and it always made me really happy to see them because they’re just such, dears.
    I’m also seriously considering getting the four symbols of the different types of Bending from the Avatar universe on my shoulder. But I’m waiting and see how LoK ends, and save up the money for it.

  68. I’ve considered getting a tattoo on various occasions but I just have the thought that if I ended up not liking it, I wouldn’t be able to remove it.

    Anyway, ideally, I would go for something with small and simplistic, yet it will have that impact. I also like any words written in a foreign language, preferably Chinese or any ancient language. I also like birds because that makes me associate with freedom. They are also beautiful. I would probably get them in black since I like the idea of just two contrasting colours. If I were to go big I would like it done on my back with the greatest detail and story to it.

    Although I would probably end up not getting any tattoos, I still appreciate some of them on people. Authentic art indeed.

  69. I’m one of those people who admires tattoos on other people but hasn’t got one herself. I’m not afraid of needles or anything, but more that I can’t trust myself to still like the design in six months time.

    I’ve had lots of designs picked and when I come back to them a few months later I’m not that into them anymore, so my search starts again.

    At the moment I really want to get something to represent my first ever guinea pig, who died last year. He was such a special little man and I miss him all the time. I’ve been thinking about getting his portrait on my back, or else some little piggy paw prints. My workplace doesn’t approve of tattoos so I have to be able to cover it for work.

    Something tells me this design might stick :)

  70. I’m pretty much just scrolling through and enjoying all the ways that people have been inspired to explore expression. You guys rock!

    I’d normally take more time to read. I live in Ottawa, I live downtownish, and I was there when the shootings were going on. It’s pretty mind fucky. So thanks for the pretty things to take the mind off of it!!

      • Yeah, I’m okay. Went out and danced the stress away. I feel physically exhausted and weak from it. Which is perfect, because it gives me something other than grief to focus on. :) Thank you for your kind thoughts!

        • I’m glad you’re alright. Exhaustion is sometimes a welcome relief, don’t be afraid to give in to it. Consider it a standing offer; sometimes it’s easier to tell a stranger.

  71. Also, for your viewing pleasure, I dressed as a girl today. It was fun. Here is my usual attire:

    And my evening tonight:

    • Lovely, that first photo is very dapper. Any special reason for the departure form the usual? (This is why I really wanted to comment on the clothes thread the other week; I have opinions on why we choose our clothes and why we play with them.)

      • It was kind of a shout out to my past self. I’ve learned a lot about myself lately and I don’t recognize myself in some ways. It was like playing dress up with an old friend :) Old traditions, getting ready to go out dancing for my bestie’s birthday, where we rarely go out dancing anymore.

        Also, when we do go out, she complains that I suck all the boy-ness out of the room and don’t leave any for her hahaha she struggles with gender expression a lot. I’m comfortable enough in myself to look femme and know who I am. So she wore a long-sleeve T and a blazer and felt smokin’, and hey, it’s her birthday! But it benefited me, too, because I enjoyed playing in the old sand box. :D

        Sorry for the lengthy reply, brevity is not my strong suit.

        • Brevity is not required.

          One that was very sweet, and two it sounds like you had a fantastic night. Although someone is going to have to explain this dancing business to me; it’s always escaped me.

      • Thanks! I realized how dirty my mirror was after posting these hahaha so swooning is impressive! :D

    • Okay, so I honestly thought bolo ties were basically a joke these days, but you look super cute with one!

  72. Hi so I just wanted to say that I’m kiiind of really in love with this post, all of your experiences/photos, and sharetime in general. Because

      • Also apologies this is random but NPR is currently playing an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber, which I thought I should mention. Because tattoos? And so far she seems like, pretty awesome? Especially for a pastor? Gah super off topic sorry. Donesies.

        • So not super off topic: I didn’t know about the interview, so thankyou for alerting me/us to it.

  73. My most recent tattoo. Both a nod to my love of Harry Potter and a recognition that I’m through the worst of my depression.

    I also have this symbol tattooed on my wrists. They’re based off of a necklace I wear every day. The filigree is from a ring that I bought myself when I went through (and survived) my first depressive episode. The wings are guardian angel wings – I was in a serious car accident at 17, and was lucky to get out with nothing but a broken shoulderblade. After I got out of the hospital my grandma gave me these wings… which happened to have been a gift from a fundraiser at the hospital I stayed at.

    *crosses fingers that the images work*

  74. I always miss these when they’re posted on Fridays but I will totally participate in this one.

    This is my first tattoo. It’s on my right thigh. I got it my first year of vet school. I was always really into astrology and have always really identified with my sign. Centaurs in mythology were keepers of wisdom and were healers. Also, when you look at it from the side it looks like the centaur is running forward. It reminds me to keep moving forward and to pursue adventure.

    This is my second tattoo. It’s on my back. I got it this past year, but I’d wanted to get it for like 2 years before that. I got it in memory of my grandpa. He was an artist and a teacher and he always encouraged me to be a more well-rounded person. My parents always took me to science museums, but my grandparents took me to the opera, the ballet, and art and history museums. This tattoo reminds me of my family (my grandpa’s favorite things to paint were Degas’ ballerinas) and not to ignore all the beauty in life.

    I want my next tattoo to be the words “Free! Body and soul free!” It’s a line from my favorite short story, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. I’m going to get it after graduation from vet school to mark the start of my post-student life. I also have ideas for my fourth and fifth tattoos. Either something from my favorite movie, The Fifth Element, or the veterinary symbol, or something else… Who knows!

  75. My most recent ones are an owl with a tiny heart-shaped face on my left wrist, and a teensy rainbow on the inside of my right forearm. They’re my first visible-all-the-the time ink and I love them both.

  76. I currently have one tattoo but would really like a few more. I’m really selective and have a personal rule that I have to want the same design for a year before I’ll consider actually having it done.

    Here’s my first tattoo – it’s a glyph from the art game “Journey”. It’s a nerd tattoo for sure but has a ton of personal meaning for me. My best friend has a “matching” one (same location and style, just a different glyph) – we had them done together last summer.

    This is the second design I’m considering having done. In this photo I just sharpie’d it on my arm. I’m into archery and I find the whole sport very empowering and centering. When I’m struggling, I find the symbolism of an arrow to be really powerful and meaningful for me.

  77. I have a treble clef with 2 red stars on my left forearm because I like music. I got it about a week after my 18th birthday (as opposed to the British tradition of going out and getting drunk) but I didn’t do my research and as such it’s patchy, the lines are wonky and it was cheap – about £20. I want to cover it up with a selection of blue and purple flowers with some greenery because it’ll be pretty.

    I have a couple I’ve self-designed, a cartoon-style owl with a pocket watch pointing to the day and month of my birthday (6th of August) on my right forearm. A rainbow quill – the token pride tattoo and also I’m a writer. A phoenix with the Hogwarts crest and the quote ‘Of course it is happening inside your head, but why should that mean it isn’t real?’. That’ll be my left shoulder. a dragon with spread wings and it’s tail clutching an anatomical heart on my chest. A snake going round my ankle onto my foot. A lifelike owl on my right shoulder. The characters from Labyrinth at the top of my back with a tree below. The quote “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”. I’ve also got vaguer plans involving a horse, a lizard, a flock of bats, a Borzoi dog, something Alice in Wonderland based and something Doctor Who based.

    Yeah I have a lot of plans and possibly not enough skin XD

  78. About three months ago, for my 19th birthday I got a tattoo of a neuron, which I am absolutely in love with. It was when I first learnt about the brain as a wee lass that sparked my love with science, which has shaped my life and who I am as a person.The study of the brain is what I want to dedicate my life to. Plus neurons are so neat!

    Anyway it was my first tattoo, and I couldn’t have gotten a better tattoo artist. Her name is Micah Riot and she is in San Francisco!
    Since I got my first tattoo, I caught the bug and can’t stop thinking of ideas! The strongest canidate for my second one is getting a tattoo of the shire

    and mount doom

    behind each ear. My undying love of lord of the rings is no secret to anyone and the series means a lot to me. It was through a shared obsession of the trilogy that my best friend (of 9 years!) came to be. It’s a relationship that means a lot to me, she’s the Frodo to my Samwise (because I maybe have the biggest crush on rosie)

  79. So I’m going to assume that since this is probably going to be the 300th comment on this amazing thread as well as it has been three days since this went up that people might not see these, but I love showing off/talking about my tattoos!

    This is a shitty picture, but it turns out me and my second (non-LGBTQ) family all happen to share wrist tattoos in common. (I’m the second from the right.)

    My first tattoo is a simple four line script tattoo dedicated to my mom. She passed away when I was 15 and when I turned 18, I decided I wanted to have something I could look at and always remember. It reads, “Sweet, and clean, and fresh” with her initials and birth/death dates. The story behind the quote is that when I used to hop out of the shower and walk back to my room, she would ask me if I was all “sweet and clean and fresh now.” It’s silly, but this tiny tattoo is one of my most treasured.

    2nd tattoo, 3 years later…

    I got it after a year and a half of severe depression (and around the time I finally accepted the fact that I’m a giant lady-loving queer person).. It is simple, but it is a constant reminder that whatever shit life decides to throw my way, this bitch can handle it.

    3rd tattoo:

    This is my version of a pride tattoo. I wanted something that said, “hey, I’m probably gay but I don’t believe that we are the only people around who struggle for equality.” My dad is also gay, so it sort of is a tattoo for him too.

    4th tattoo:

    My tree for my last name. Got it in Berlin last year – I’m part German and part of my last name means tree. It seemed fitting that I pay tribute to my German roots while there.

    5th tattoo:

    My watercolour tree to represent my childhood. Random and a bit abstract, I know, but if you knew me or my family IRL you’d get the connection. Forgive the shitty quality of this, but I wanted to show you guys.

    Now say a silent wish that I actually coded these right and won’t have to try and redo this whole post over again….

    Loving all the tattoos and stories. Queer tattooed babes are by far one of the best reasons to join Autostraddle. Just sayin’.

    • Oh FFS. Remember that time I failed miserably at posting pictures. Oh yea, that was 14 seconds ago.

      Umm, let me try again. (Though I might just HULK-SMASH my macbook instead…)

  80. Love seeing all of these tattoos! I sure love tattoos, and have so many ideas of potential ones I’d like to get! But I should start with what I currently have.

    1. I have 5 colored stars on my left ribs. There is no special meaning behind it, I was just newly 18 and wanting to rebel. I have debated covering it up with some Rosemaling art, to celebrate my Norweigan heritage.

    2. My second tattoo is a Pisces one on my right shoulder. I really enjoy it because it has the two fish in the positive and the symbol in the negative space. I got this because I seem to have all of the Piscean traits, good and bad.

    3.My third and final tattoo is almost a year old. Last year I lost my sister, so I decided to get a memorial tattoo in her honor. I LOVE the Beatles so I got some lyrics from Blackbird along with a bird flying out of a feather to help me remember to keep moving in life and try to take it to new heights and places after the pain. This is on the inner parts of my left arm.

    I think I have a plan to add some sort of blackbird/other bird/winged thing for everyone I may lose in life, eventually turning it into a sleeve. A few months ago, I lost my grandfather as well, so I may either opt for a simple blackbird added on or Valkyrie wings on the side of my forearm since he was 100% Norweigan and a Veteran.

    As for tattoos I would like to get: that is an ever changing and growing list! I think I definitely plan to get a Minnesota outline with a loon, part of a lake shore/canoe, the North Star and a Norway pine within the shape.

    Also I have considered various literary tattoos including: The Phial of Galadriel to symbolize hope, an illustration of Smaug (just because), a golden Snitch on my finger, chapter artwork from either a Narnia story (voyage of the Dawn Treader) or a Redwall story.

  81. ahh, i’m late! hopefully not too late.

    i had my first tattoo a few months ago, i couldn’t decide what to get so before leaving to get it done, i decided on one fast and ended up going with that design. but, the tattoo parlour i went to gets booked really fast so you need to get there early in the day to be able to have one done, so i had another week before going back to think more about the design. i suppose i should have thought of it more, but the funny thing is that it meant more to me after i had it done.

    it’s on my spine in between my shoulder blades. i guess it means my family, since most of us are from celtic countries, and the knot holds itself together. and it’s like a knot on my spine holding me together, which is comforting in a way i didn’t think it would be. it means my language a bit as well, but not in the way that it represents what it’s actually like to speak welsh, bc actual welsh is a weird language with more vowels than you’d think. we have two more vowels than english, although tumblr would have you believe there are no vowels and that people actually say popty ping outside of childrens books.

    the next tattoo i want to get is my name in elvish, which is a pretty font which looks pretty. as soon as i get a job, i’m going to get that done. i think at some point i’d like to get something tattooed in welsh, maybe a poem or something from a chwedl. maybe a dragon. but my ideas are changing over time anyway, so once i improve my art maybe i can do some designs for the ones i like.

  82. I have an Enso circle, a symbol associated with Zen Buddhism. For me it means a lot of things. Freedom, expansiveness, impermanence, survival, perfect imperfection.

  83. Ok. Last chance for this kid. If these photos don’t effing upload, I quit the internet.

    (ok ok that was drastic, but seriously, fingers crossed that this works – and that someone actually gives two shits what my tattoos look like)

    • Mom tattoo.jpg

      Endure Tattoo.jpg


      Berlin Tatoo.jpg

      Tree Tattoo

      (At my femme-iest for a BFFs wedding – this is not my normal attire, but damn! my tattoo looks awesome.)

      Tree Tattoo Wedding.jpg

  84. I was away this weekend but I love tattoos, my tattoos, and talking about tattoos so I was super excited when I saw the headline for this!

    I’ve posted one of my tattoos before which was drawn by Erika Moen which I got to celebrate my coming to terms with my body and sexuality. Beyond realising I’m a lesbian* I also took a long time to understand and accept that it was okay for me to be sexual – that I wasn’t disgusting, or broken, or too ugly for it. I can like sex, I can enjoy sex, I can have sex! This is a celebration of all those things

    My first tattoo was a shield on my shoulder which was just an emblem of who I was (and still am!) I’m a writer, hence the pen, book, and banner, and I love romance and fairy tales (hence once upon a time). The rose is because that is what my great grandpa called my mum when she was a little girl, and is therefore my nickname, and I always thought if I had a daughter I’d call her Rose.

    My most recent tattoo is a combo deal (not sure if that link will work… Hope so!) The heart is to represent my wearing my heart on my sleeve since I do so blatantly – I figured I might as well get it inked on! I’m planning to add more to it; filling it in with colour and sparkles to be precise.

    The hearts on my wrist are a reminder that, no matter what, I still have some life left.

    Other tattoos I want to get include a batch of three roses on my shoulder (there’s a border of freckles on my arm that I think make a good edge for them), a lip-print kiss mark, and a tweaked version of this with a banner that says ‘Kiss people that make you happy’ (from another Kate Leth art piece!) which I want to remind myself (and others) that the whole point of life and love is to be happy – because I never want to forget it again.

    Also on a tattoo’d note – I saw a ridiculously attractive butch woman this week in Melbourne who had a tattoo on her arm muscle and… ahh… I am so glad I’m a lesbian :)

  85. The first tattoo I got was a Sankofa bird on my back which basically means going back and ‘reclaiming’ your past in order to move forward. Me and my siblings got them when I turned 18 in remembrance of our dad. It’s my favorite tattoo.

  86. /Users/mollybrown/Desktop/Photo on 10-28-14 at 9.36 AM #2.jpg

    I used to work with bee hives while I was in college. One day I was stung by one of the bees and I nearly died as a result of an unknown allergy. I got this tattoo of a little bee on my arm as a sign of respect and humility towards bees. They really are some of the most amazing creatures and despite their ability to kill me, I still really love them. I have many other tattoos but this one is definitely the most significant.

    • You’ll need to upload the photo online to something like Imgur and paste the code here for the photo to show!

  87. I got this tattoo just a few months ago, and it’s based on a song by Bastille called “Flaws”. The first lyrics in the chorus are, “You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeve, and I have always buried them deep beneath the ground.”

    I’ve been struggling to be vulnerable and open up to people, and for the past year and a half I’ve been working on overcoming my fear of intimacy which, not gonna lie, is really hard to do in conjunction with mental illness. It’s still something I’m working on, but this song really spoke to me because of the message it delivers about wanting to get close to others. So, this tattoo serves as a reminder for me that, even though I’m physically wearing the word “flaws” on my sleeve now, I want to eventually be brave enough to “wear my flaws upon my sleeve” in an emotional sense.

    Here’s a link to the song if you wanna listen to it :)

  88. I think that I know what I am doing now.

    My greenhouse:

    and a few orchids of mine, that will be living in the greenhouse

    and my new “wild thing” kitty??

    And my fingers are totally crossed!

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