Updated: Mar 31, 2020

I have a tiny Chinese symbol tattoo.

It was paid for by my third minimum wage job.

I was seventeen and it was the year we all had butterfly tattoos, then stars, then hearts. Then it was Chinese symbols. We were all teens trying to fit in with each other.

Gentle John was not gentle in his Gentle John tattoo studio. But then again I’m a wimp when it comes to external pain.

That is why when my friends chose words like ‘beauty’ and ‘eve’ I chose the word 'strength'.

Because inside I am strong.

I am strong but not always sensible.

Years later I was working with another sex worker, a Chinese woman, and as we showered together after our client had gone, she looked at my tattoo and laughed.

She said, “Why do you have ‘little donkey’ written on your belly?”

written by beth


Updated: Mar 31, 2020

I was never very careful with myself, but learned how to channel it.

A balancing act between myself and my job, acting.

That is why my tattoos are largely unseen. They span a length on one half of my body - on my thigh, up my back to my shoulder. My 'good' side, I call it. My pirate lady tattoo was a copy of my grandad's, which he probably got done somewhere between Chatham Docks and the Suez crisis via the Caribbean.

He had left an abusive home life and joined the Royal Navy, arriving years later in our lives and marrying my nan.

My grandad and I were not joined by blood but later, by ink. He got ill with terminal cancer and I cared for him until he died.

He managed his life and death with utter dignity. To me, he was safety, protector, routine, pride and order.

I took photos of all his tattoos before he died. We both knew why. After, I got my tattooist to redo his tattoo onto me; the proud Pirate lady, sword in hand, and an anchor.

My tattoos are about memory, memorial, qualities to embody or use.

Dark made light, light made dark.

written by candis


Updated: Mar 31, 2020

My dove tattoo lies just above my left wrist. It represents peace and calm. As a Christian I believe the dove to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

The dove portrays a period in my life when I felt the presence of tranquility.

And for a short time, I did.

My dove makes me feel secure and grounded, yet also possesses an ability to fly me away to pastures new.

The dove is a truly beautiful creature.

Its beauty can settle even the most anxious of minds.

My dove can take me under the wings and envelop me in love, forever.

written by katie