Why Equality Tattoos Are More Than 'Just Trendy'
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Politics and Activism

Why Equality Tattoos Are More Than 'Just Trendy'

Just because something is popular does not mean it should be dismissed.

Why Equality Tattoos Are More Than 'Just Trendy'

Everyone who has ever gotten a tattoo has also gotten an array of reactions. And of course, when someone chooses a more popular tattoo, the reactions become very polarized. An observer will either shriek with excitement and take to Pinterest to find one just like it so they can show their tattoo artist, or roll their eyes in disgust. “In twenty years, you’re going to hate that you got some tattoo just because it was trendy,” people claim. And I see their point. If it was popular to tattoo something distasteful or something I don’t relate to on my body, I would definitely avoid/regret that decision. However, there are a few things wrong with that reaction.

First and foremost, I’ll state the obvious: What an individual does with his or her body does not concern the opinions of strangers. If I want to tattoo a koala riding a motorcycle across my back, that would be interesting, but nobody’s decision but my own. Tattoos are an amazing form of expression, and they are often quite personal for the person making the decision. It’s totally okay to ask about someone’s tattoos, but I wouldn’t encourage it for those that have a bias against them in the first place.

More importantly, just because something is popular does not mean it is wrong or overrated. Sure, it’s easier to mock someone instead of understand them. But when a large group of people relate to a symbol or decide to participate in a movement, it does not give anyone the right to marginalize their passionate feelings towards the subject. If I spot anyone with another popular tattoo such as an infinity symbol, a cross, or sparrows flying out of a cage, I resist the urge to deduce assumptions about their life. Instead, I try to realize that their tattoo is purposeful and meaningful to them just as my equality tattoo is to me.

So why is the equality tattoo any different than other popular tattoos? Well, like I said before, the need to articulate its importance is partially the problem. However, I would be happy to discuss a passion of mine.

I remember when I first began thinking about tattooing an equality sign on my body. I had mulled over what was most important to me for my first tattoos, and I had decided to get an equality sign and a semicolon (I’ll write about that one later). I was (as I still am) an avid supporter of equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, and thought that the equality sign would be the perfect embodiment of my beliefs. At the time, equality was a hot topic, especially for the LGBT+ community, as the debate over marriage equality in the United States was ongoing. I found myself surprisingly anxious. Even as an openly pansexual woman who fought for equality every day, I was terrified to brand myself as such. This sealed the deal. I realized that by embracing a tattoo on the back of my neck, I embraced the fear, pain, and eventual strength of what it means to face inequality in a physically manifested, permanent medium. I acknowledged the possible judgments that people would make because of my tattoo, and I embraced those too. Thankfully, I also embraced an instant connection to those who are more receptive. But it was a scary decision. As someone residing in a southern state surrounded by hate, I knew that getting an equality tattoo was much more than trendy; it was somewhat dangerous. However, I decided that my fear to commit to my beliefs was a sign that I may have needed a little push. When I walked in the tattoo shop, I knew it was the right decision for me.

Now, I hope that when LGBT+ people are behind me in line at the store or in class, they are given a sign that they are safe to be whoever they are around me. When I am having a casual conversation amongst friends, it is an outward symbol of a standard to which I hold myself. I will not stand for bigotry. I will not stand for racism. I will not stand for sexism or classism. And by placing this symbol on my body, I welcome others to hold me to this standard.

The other day I read a comment online that said, “I bet it feels awkward to have a tattoo that isn’t really relevant anymore,” referring to the upcoming one year anniversary of marriage equality in the U.S. But it is so relevant. My equality tattoo is a symbol of so much more than marriage equality. It’s a symbol of the pride I constantly force myself to have despite the Southern pressure to be ashamed; it’s a symbol of the deep pain and hard emotions we have all felt in the wake of the Orlando shooting; it’s a symbol of the fight I will have to fight in order to adopt children; it’s a symbol that signals others to know regardless of the skin they were born in, they can pee in the stall beside me in a women’s bathroom without violent threats. And to me, it is a representation of so much more than just LGBT+ rights. It’s also a responsibility to keep fighting for those who may not be well represented in any capacity.

So don’t fall victim to dismissing a symbol simply because it is popular. These two lines are more than trendy; they are the emblem of equality and a reminder to fight for what is right.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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