Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Tattoos are taboo.

Not respectable. A sign of deviance from the norm.

At one point in my life this was a truth universally acknowledged.

Nowadays, things are more complex, but the stigma remains; I, however, am changed beyond recognition.

Three years ago I realized that, despite what I had been told all my life, I was not a man.

This was thanks in large part to the growing awareness of trans issues and the visibility of trans people. Society tells us that the way we are born is immutable, permanent. For the first time, I realized that didn't have to be.

Despite progress, the process of transition is by no means a comfortable one. Bigotry and hatred run rampant. I am lucky to be surrounded by supportive friends and family, but even they cannot shield me from everything, especially when many in the British press seem intent on using people like me as a punching bag.

It has taken time, but through all this I have learnt a thing or two.

Taboos are made to be broken. Respectability is overrated. Deviance from the norm should be celebrated, not scorned.

Nothing is permanent. I may as well get a tattoo.

written by jo


Updated: Mar 31, 2020

My skin art was a punishment.

I wanted to hurt. I wanted to actually feel something. I wanted to bleed.

I hate needles. Needles have been a constant in my nightmares since childhood. Even as a heroin addict I could not watch people use needles. Needless to say I was a bit of a shit smackhead.

I got tattoos when drugs were taken from me.

I got tattoos when you were taken from me. You can only sleep inside my dreams.

I got tattoos when I stopped crying.

I got tattoos to feel the guilt of abandoning you forever.

I got tattoos to never forget you.

My tattoos mean my blood and skin are now scarred with love.

written by shelley


Updated: Mar 31, 2020

I had my first tattoo at the age of 11. It was on the day that I first bunked off school, instead of going to school I went round my friend's house whose parents both worked, we had the place to ourselves. His brother arrived home with his home made tattoo kit, a bottle of black Indian ink, a pack of needles, and a reel of cotton.

I was intrigued and became a very enthusiastic volunteer to have a tattoo of a cross, as a good Catholic boy, that seemed like a good idea.

At the end of normal school time my friend and me went home to my house for tea. I told my mum I would not be coming home that evening as I was going to stay at my friend's house.

I didn’t stay at my friend’s house. My friend told his parents he would be staying at my house.

We spent the night roaming the streets. We broke into garden sheds and stole some bikes. The next morning I had to go home to get changed in to my school uniform to continue with the lie.

To my shock my father, who I had not seen since he ran off to his latest woman, was sat on the sofa in his paisley y-fronts. I was filthy and he told me to go and wash myself. I did wash my face and hands and quickly changed into my school uniform. I came downstairs and he shouted you haven’t washed and he lifted up my left sleeve of my school jumper. To his and my horror there underneath the grime was my new and scabby blue cross tattoo.

Then came the beating of my life which ended with him kicking me out the door screaming that if that fucking cross was still there when I came home he’d cut my fucking arm off.

That evening there was no ink left in the cross.

written by gary p