Saturday, October 3, 2015

Facing Stigma: Inked Nation

Recently, I encountered something I have only ever heard of. I suppose it was only a matter of time before it happened, but I never expected it to happen to me personally. I never expected to face this kind of stigma, let alone have someone my age be on the other end of it.

Ever since I was little, I have been in love with tattoos. I used to sit glued to the TV watching artists like Ami James and Chris Garver sharing their art and their clients' stories on TLC's Miami Ink. I knew all about the kinds of negative perspectives on tattoos and their artists, but something inside me always knew that would never stop me. In the past, tattoos have always been given a bad rap because of stereotypes about those with tattoos.

I never thought I would be stereotyped against not only for having my one tattoo, but for my plans to have more as the years go on. But the most shocking part of it for me was that it was someone my age who had said something about it. My tattoo is the most meaningful thing I have ever had done, and with every hardship I face it has been given that much more meaning. Every tattoo I plan to get has the utmost personal meaning behind it, but that hardly matters to naysayers who still believe that only criminals and rebels have tattoos. To those kinds of people the only thing my tattoos will be is meaningless blobs of ink that suddenly make me a criminal, incapable of professionalism, and a horrible parent (when I have kids) or role model to others. Because of this stigma, I have been very careful to only get the tattoos I want that won't be able to be seen by prospective employers so that I can hopefully avoid these issues when in the work place. I personally don't feel like I should have to be worried about whether this will come up in conversation, but for the sake of employment I'm willing to wait to get my arm tattoos done for a while.

My hope has always been that as the younger generations like mine grow up, these old stigmas would die out, but I was shocked to find out recently just how wrong I was. It surprised me to learn that a man no older than myself who I adore, suddenly is uncomfortable with the idea of dating me, not because I have a tattoo, but because I plan to have more of them. It was heartbreaking to find out that my tattoos, both present and future, could keep me from having someone in my life. It made me feel like I have to predisclose that I have tattoos before someone truly knows me in case they will be upset by it later when they find out. But this isn't fair. As long as they aren't vulgar it shouldn't matter to anyone whether I have them or not. It's my body and I can do with it what I want. To know me is to truly understand the meaning behind my tattoos, and to be able to see past them and into who I am on the inside.

No comments: