Throughout the years I have experienced many different responses to my tattoo work. My tattoos are very personal — the experiences and tattoos themselves are very spiritual to me and all my work has deep symbolic meaning. I've recently found myself 35 and pregnant (something I never thought would happen), and my pregnancy has uncovered another benefit to my tattoos.
For most my adult life I have identified as genderqueer. I'm bisexual, and to me gender has always been as important as eye color or height — not very. I feel this has always been apparent in my appearance — I am tall and rather androgynous naturally, and have spent a lot of years with my head shaved. I wear dresses and skirts as well as suits and ties.
I've spent many years living a fairly comfortable and androgynous life in this body, and was not prepared for the emotional strain that pregnancy has brought. My growing breasts, belly, and spreading hips quickly took that androgyny away from me, and I have had a very hard time dealing with my newly exaggerated female form. This lumbering Venus totem of a body now attracts looks of a very different kind that I am used to.
Gone are the days of being called sir by sales reps, getting checked out by cute girls in the bar, and fitting slickly into a tuxedo. Now I get sappy smiles from little old ladies, random men opening doors for me and uninvited, intimate conversations about my private life with strangers that would have never talked to me a year ago.
The moment I began to show I also began to receive attention from family that were previously put off or offended by not just my physical appearance, but my life in whole — my body as a representative of the identity beneath. As my body changed it seems most people believe my identity changed with it. Even close friends began to make assumptions about my life that would make no sense at all if it were not for the undeniable swollen changes to my form.
I'm not altogether comfortable with this new status. I have not become straight, monogamous, republican, or religious. It is all understandably human though; I am also prone to make judgments on the things I see, and on some days I have had the same problem. I look at myself and feel confused. Who am I now? Have I changed? Who will I be when this is all over and find myself a mother?
My tattoo work has saved my sanity during this difficult time. As days and weeks pass I find myself staring into the mirror with constant horror, but the ever constant illustrations of my life and loves on my skin comfort me and remind me of who I am and where I'm from.
If not for my tattoos I would have had a much harder time coming to terms with these physical changes. Though I have always found strength and reassurance in my ever-expanding ink, I am more thankful now than ever before that I choose to express myself in this way. My skin may feel different right now but it keeps all of its stories and secrets just as before. As I impatiently wait for our child to arrive all I need do to remind myself of who I am is to look down and see the intricately detailed symbols that have helped to define me as a person and not JUST a woman all my life.