Four ways tattoos can benefit those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community

Tattoos can be a powerful means of connection to LGBTQIA+ identity. They can represent “who an individual is, their interests, uniqueness, and for some, their inclusion in the tattoo subculture” (Ross 2018: 15).

29/06/24 Author: Yasmin

4 min read

Gender Identity

No matter what gender you identify with, a tattoo can represent your internal feelings towards your sense of self. The gender spectrum is wide, so whether you identify as a woman, man, both, neither, or somewhere else on the spectrum, a tattoo can be an excellent way to take pride in how you feel.

Art, much like gender identity, is subjective. Representing your internal feelings can be done in various ways: you might want a symbol often associated with femininity or masculinity, something without prominent gender associations, specific wording that aligns with how you feel, or an image or memory that correlates with your gender identity.

For Sema Dayoub, author of ‘Tattoos Made My Body Feel Like My Own - A Trans Tattoo Experience,’ their Arabic-style dragon tattoo with red flames gives them power: “When I see myself from behind, I’m no longer fixated on the shape or strength of my body. The euphoria of seeing such a powerful image on my own skin has given way to such an incredible revelation.” This reiterates how a tattoo can be anything you want it to be because your gender identity is whatever you perceive. With this expression can then come confidence and acceptance.

Gender Expression

When we consider tattoos as a symbolic part of forming one’s identity (Johnson 2006:47) and as a way to express oneself (Ferreira 2014:304), it becomes clear that one’s gender can be expressed to others via this medium.

If you wish to be perceived socially as more aligned with masculinity or femininity, or appear gender-fluid, tattoo choices can assist with this. For example, Lara Miller, in their informative article ,’The Art of Tattoos: Culture and the LGBTQ+ Community,’ mentions how one of their tattoos, the moon tarot card, is for their “spirituality and connection to the feminine.” Lara’s tattoo illustrates that you can achieve this expression through image associations, but it can also be achieved through gender-neutral designs, colours, symbols, and writing.

Remember, it is entirely up to you what you want to tell the world about your gender identity, and how you tell it.

Sexual Identity

Kosut (2008) argues that tattoos are a way to establish one’s body and “authentic self” (pp. 80, 92). For some, expressing their specific attitude towards romantic or sexual attraction is important, particularly if they have previously felt unable to fully express it.

In Teen Vogue’s article ‘Pride Tattoos are a Symbol of Resilience for Queer People and Their Families,’ Annette’s tattoo is “a fine line design of two girls, dancing closely together, faces turned toward one another with streaks of purple running through,” and is an illustration of their queerness. This illustrates how sexual identity can be conveyed through colours, symbols, or wording. What matters is that your expression makes you feel comfortable. It can be subtle or more overt.

Self-Worth

The LGBTQIA+ community still faces social prejudice daily, and your perception of self can often be influenced by those around you. Tattoos can be an opportunity to express the things in life that make you feel safe and comforted. It could be a person, a show, a song, an animal - anything that reminds you of who you are. These tattoos can be related to your gender identity, gender expression, or sexual identity, or they could simply tell the story of the things you love in life.

A tattoo is your reminder to love who you are no matter what comes your way.

Foltz, Kristen. A. 2014. “The Millennial’s Perception of Tattoos: Self Expression or Business Faux Pas?” College Student Journal, 48(4): 589-602.

Johnson, Frankie. J. 2007. Tattooing: Mind, Body, and Spirit. The Inner Essence of the Art.” Sociological Viewpoints, 2345-61.

Kosut, Mary. 2008. “Tattoo Narratives: The Intersection of the Body, Self-Identity and Society.” Visual Sociology, 1579-100

Ferreira, Victor Sergio. 2014. “Becoming a Heavily Tattooed Young Body: From a Bodily Experience to a Body Project.” Youth & Society, 46(3): 303-337.

Ross, Chase. 2018. “Inked Identity: How Tattoos Play a Role in the Development and Perception of Identity, Self, and the Body for Trans Men” Available at: https://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/id/eprint/983574/1/Ross_MA_S2018.pdf.

Miller, Lara. 2024. THE ART OF TATTOOS: CULTURE AND THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY. [online] Available at: https://fuzeuk.org/blog/the-art-of-tattoos-culture-and-the-lgbtq-community [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].

Dayoub, Sema. 2021. Tattoos Made My Body Feel Like My Own — A Trans Tattoo Experience. [online] Autostraddle. Available at: https://www.autostraddle.com/tattoos-made-my-body-feel-like-my-own-a-trans-tattoo-experience/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].

‌Williams, K-CI. 2022. Pride Tattoos Can Be a Symbol of Resilience for Queer People. [online] Teen Vogue. Available at: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/pride-tattoos-are-a-symbol-of-resilience-for-queer-people-and-their-families.

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