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"I want to get a tattoo or a piercing, but my parents won’t let me. How do I explain to them that this is how I want to express myself?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Allyee Whaley Says:

When I was 13 years old I wrote my parents a 10 page paper on why getting my belly button pierced was an expression of my true self, with lots of facts and research supporting my argument. My parents didn’t really know what to do with the paper, but they did end up letting me get my belly button pierced. Then my nose. Then my lip. Then my eyebrow (you get the picture). Tattoos were always off the table. Around 16, I went behind my parents back and got a tattoo anyway, and my parents felt like their trust was broken. Now almost a decade later, I am covered in tattoos and piercings, my hand is fully tattooed and all hope is lost that I will ever fit into mainstream society. And guess what? My parents still totally love me and support me. But not everyone grows up in Oakland, California with feminist queer parents who always encouraged us to be fully and authentically ourselves, so here are some things I would keep in mind when navigating this path:

1.     Always try and partner with your parents first. If you want a specific tattoo that means something to you, explain what it means and why it is important. My first tattoo was a quote (that I misquoted, on my arm), “For Failure Isn’t Falling Down, But Staying Down.” I was def a “wild child” who was committed to being the best at being the worst, but I was trying to turn things around. I explained to my parents this was the first quote I ever heard that made me feel like I could change, that I could be more, I could be happy. I explained that every time I wanted to give up, I couldn’t, because I would look down at my arm and be reminded of my commitment to betterness. As mad as they were that I lied to them, it was pretty hard for them to fight this explanation. I definitely don’t think tattoos haveto have meaning to be important, I think body modification in itself is a meaningful practice, and has been throughout human history.

2.     It is super important to weigh that people with tattoos & piercings still do face discrimination, especially if you count in other forms of oppression working with them (race, religion, ability, orientation, gender, location, etc).  Only in recent years has the culture around tattoos shifted in America, as they are becoming mainstream. Parents often don’t support their kin getting tattooed, not only because they don’t want them to suffer (from the pain of body modification), but because they often don’t want us to be seen as “society’s deviants”. A lot of people say this is why family can get initially spooked when LGBTQ+ young people come out, because they instinctively want to keep them out of harms way and they know by being LBGTQ+ they will live a harder life. The same logic can be applied for tattoos/piercings. If you let your parents know you have considered this reality, it can help them understand you are weighing all the consequences and still think it’s important.

3.     “But what if you regret it?!” – the number one argument against body modification. The most common response to this argument tends to be, “tattoos can always be covered, they can always be removed,” but I think it is important to point out to your parents that body modification can also teach us a hell of a lot about acceptance. I think it is pretty normal to have different feelings towards our tattoos/piercings as we grow. For years my lip piercing was such a part of my identity, my face, my reality, I never once thought to remove it. Now that it’s been out for years I laugh at old pictures of myself like “why world!!!!” but I don’t regret it. I appreciate how much it meant to me, it showed the world from the get go that I was different, I was badass. Body modification has taught me to not only accept myself, my past, my future, but celebrate each part of my journey as uniquely my own. Beyond regret, let your parents know that body modification can also be a tool for radical self love & care. Getting tattooed was one of the first times I realized what it felt like to actually love myself.  With each new piece, I stare in the mirror filled with joy thinking, “damn, look at how awesome I am!” Tattoos and piercings were also one of the first things to show me how to physically care for and nurture my body (because body modification takes lots of daily care, anywhere from 2 weeks-9 months, and beyond). Radical self love, radical self acceptance, those are things body modification can teach us if we let them.

4.     Not all parents are going to be okay with tattoos or piercings. Some might never be okay with them. Your safety and the value of your relationship with your parents are super important to weigh as you decide to embark on this lifestyle. I have adult friends to this day who hide their tattoos from their parents. Most of the time my friends hide their tattoos so they can retain their relationship with their parents, and therefore also their community/culture/religion. That is their choice and something they have considered the pros and cons of, so I encourage you to do the same. Some parents might say stuff like “if you ever get a tattoo, I will no longer speak to you.” This is something to weigh: is getting a tattoo/piercing right now worth losing XYZ?

5.     If all else fails and you decide to go behind your parents back and get one anyway, please consider a few things. Any tattoo/piercing shop that is working on someone under the age of 18 without their parents consent is doing something very illegal, and could lose their license for doing so. From my experience, these shops tend to also be doing other illegal things, including but not limited to, not being up to health codes, as well as not being very experienced at giving out tattoos or piercings. These things increase the chance of infection, injury, transmission of things like HIV through needles, and very very very worst case scenario can lead to death (usually from infection). Also, they tend to not give out very good tattoos, but hey, that’s relative, right? All this to say, I’m totally a harm reduction gal and if you weigh all these things and still think it’s worth it, then go for it. That is your choice. I know my first tattoo saved my life over and over again when things got dark– I wouldn’t take it back for the world. I also would have gone about it TOTALLY differently if I was to get it now, but whatever, that’s all a part of growing up, learning and changing.

Wanting a tattoo and/or piercing is totally normal. You may or may never convince your parents to let you get one while you live under their roof/they feed you or finically support you. They may never acknowledge, support or appreciate your body modification even after you move out. If you’re lucky, they may come around one day, but if that day isn’t soon enough for you, it’s up to you to weigh all the pros and cons and move forward. It is your life, your body, and your choice.

Allyee Whaley has long strived to create balance in the universe by listening attentively, advocating ruthlessly, and loving compassionately. She is an openly polyamorous queer based in New York City who will talk your ear off about anthropology, human sexuality, social justice, and mystical creatures. Please help support her and all of our incredible contributors here on Patreon.


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"What do I do if my girlfriend has gotten a tattoo I don’t like and plans on getting more? (I don’t mind tattoos in general fyi, just uglyish ones). We have toootally different tastes aesthetically. Wondering how to deal/ not hurt her feelings/ not lie. :/ hm."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I would lie.

I mean, I NEVER LIE. ABOUT ANYTHING. EVEN LITTLE DUMB SHIT SO AS TO NOT HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS, but I would lie. Because here is the thing, it is on her body FOREVER…foooo-rrr-eeee-vvv-errrr #sandlot

How would you feel if you were like WOOHOO LOOK AT THIS THING I GOT INKED INTO MY SKIN FOREVER and your boobear was like ‘that shit is dumb’? You would feel terrible and you would know every single day for the rest of your relationship that there was something about you that your lover hated…

Which has GOT to be an awful feeling. If you just can’t bear to even half lie to the girl you could very tactfully say something like ‘i love that you have this tattoo’ …because you love her and you love the way she expresses herself, and you are not TECHNICALLY SAYING THAT YOU LOVE THE TATTOO ITSELF.

Plus then you’ll have great ammo for a yelling/throwingstuff/scream-cry break up: ‘AND YOUR TATTOO IS STUPID’ … you know?

p.s. i wonder how many people are about to turn to their boobears and ask if they like their tattoo and then say ‘DON’T. LIE.’

Kristin Says:

I’m still laughing about Dannielle calling you ‘lovers’.

Does anyone else remember on The L Word how Dawn Denbo constantly introduced her girlfriend as “My LOVER Cindi”? IT WAS THE WORST AND FUNNIEST, and that is what I am reminded of… soooo…

Moving on.


It’s like, on the one hand, I don’t want you to say you like it, because that is just lying and then when she gets seven more you won’t be able to lie anymore and you’ll explode and tell her that you actually hated them all along and she will be so mad because SHE didn’t even like them but thought YOU did and NOW YOU RUINED HER WHOLE SKIN.

On the other hand, you can’t very well tell her that it’s ugly because it will hurt her and she probably won’t have an easy time dealing with that slash saving the money to get it removed.


{clears throat}

This is what happens when I answer questions at night, you guys. Seriously, though, I think you have to find a way to say, “We have different tastes but I support what you need to do for yourself. I can’t tell you that I would put the same things on my own body, but this is your body and I love you.”

If you try that and then she comes home with seventeen versions of Mickey Mouse ears on her forehead, don’t come complaining to us. We aren’t professionals.


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“i want to get a small tattoo to commemorate coming out. 1) is the lambda symbol way outdated? 2) can i get a lambda symbol tattoo if i am biseckshual? thanks!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Chances are, if you’re talking about whether or not it’s outdated, it’s probably outdated.

Some examples include:
1. Hey Kristin, are you sure those crop pants are still “in style”
2. Hey Kristin, can I wear these crocs to dinner, or is that not “cool”
3. Kristin, don’t wear that halter top, I think it’s “outdated”
4. Don’t worry, Kristin, Tankini’s are always “IN”

Mostly, I just wanted to associate all of those clothing items with KristiN….but also, I always vote if you haven’t wanted a specific tattoo for a while, you shouldn’t get it. All of my tattoos I wanted for at least a couple of months, or they were in the back of my brain for a chunk of time.

That being said, it’s your body and it will always be your body and you should put whatever you want on it bc you only get ONE body and ONE life and if you look back on your life when you’re 85 you don’t want to say ‘man, i should have gotten that tattoo, it woulda been fun’ you wanna be saying ‘man, it took 60 years, but my tattoo finally looks like a grape instead of a lambda!’ Then you and all your grandkids can laugh, except your grandkid who is 15, bc that’s a sassy age and she will prolly roll her eyes and go watch some sass-mouthed teenager on the disney channel make fun of their parents and she’ll LAUGH AND LAUGH AND LAUGH.

Back to the task at hand. You’re going to have this tat on you forevzies. which is totally fine and i’m never going to tell you not to get it, but just stew on it a while. You may find at the beginning you want a lambda behind your ear, but 7 months later the time you spent coming out and learning yourself taught you more than you imagined, and you decide that an empty birdcage with an open door on your shoulder represents the way you feel a little more.

know what i’m sayin?

Kristin Says:


Also, I didn’t know what the lambda symbol looked like so I looked it up and was like, “Hey, that’s pretty cool,” so like…you decide whether that means it is actually cool, or whether I am now penciling it onto my crocs.



So.  Dannielle basically told you everything that you needed to be told in terms of tattoos being permanent and letting an idea sit with you for a bit, blahblahblah, so let me just add these three things:

1) If in your heart you love a symbol and it has meaning to you, it doesn’t matter if it is that symbol is a color-shaded tat of tweety-bird, because it matters to you and that is what counts.

2) It doesn’t matter if you are bisexual, pansexual, transgender, queer, straight, or Willie Nelson, you can get that symbol tattooed on you!  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a total dumbhead.

3) That birdcage idea is flyyyyyy. #puns

On that note, happy Friday, congrats on coming out, and also I no longer wear cropped pants but what the hell is wrong with halter tops?!


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“Okay... So this is the deal. I am in law school in Britain and my perfect girlfriend of a year and a half is in genius college in Boston. For the next 3 years we will only see each other for 4 months out of the year. However, we are both completely certain that it will work and that each other is the "one" (I am realizing how lesbian all of this is, but bear with me) and think that getting small matching tattoos in hidden places would be more age-appropriate than engagement rings. Feelings on this?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I mean, I don’t really understand why you HAVE to have engagement rings or tattoos. If you’re going to be together forever just be together forever. If you know for a fact you’re going to get married in the summer of 2013, then you should get engagement rings because you are planning your wedding.

If you don’t believe in marriage, you should get tattoos.

If you’re like ‘well, we’re in love, but we don’t need to plan a wedding, marriage might be too intense’ then you probably shouldn’t do either.

Here’s the thing. I always vote you should never get a tattoo for anyone but you. You shouldn’t permanently ink something on your skin and create a scar that will last forever for someone else. Now, if the both of you love the same Ani Defranco lyric and you want to get it tattooed in Papyrus font on your ribs, go for it.

If I wanted to be engaged to someone and bitch was like ‘naaah lets get tattoos’ i would get REAL GIRLY ON HER ASS and be like ‘YOU DON’T LOVE ME ENOUGH’ or something… probably.

No one can make this decision for you. Talk it out and be smart. Rings are expensy but tattoos can be awkward if you ever have to change “Wendy” to “The Wendy City” with an elaborate sketch of the Chicago skyline…plus you’ll have to think up a story…

Kristin Says:

Dannielle spelled Ani DiFranco wrong. #shame

In other news, I disagree with the statement that rings are for people who believe in marriage and tattoos are for people who don’t.  If you want to have a wedding ceremony but you want to have ink instead of silver, no one is going to arrest you.  You have to do whatever holds the most meaning to you both.

I do, however, have a bit of an issue with saying that wedding tattoos are more ‘age-appropriate.’  The exchange of wedding rings is a ritual that dates back to Ancient Rome, so like, I don’t think 2010 is all of a sudden the year when it ages out.  If you are a person who takes meaning in tradition, it doesn’t matter if it is the year 43,675…the ring is still the symbol of marriage that has existed for centuries.  If you are a person who takes meaning in crafting your own traditions, then rock on with your tattooed self.

Most important thing to consider: if things go sour, rings can be thrown away or pawned for a new Playstation II.  Tattoos are, quite literally, forever.  So, my personal advice would be to get something that symbolizes your love for each other instead of the words ‘I LOVE WENDY AND HER RED HAIR AND HER GREEN EYES.’  (That was kind of the same joke that Dannielle made, but I am aware of that fact so get over it.)