“I always knew I wanted my first tattoo to be something queer related”


So I’m lying rather precariously in the tattoo chair, flat on my back with my T-Shirt somewhere neatly folded on the floor by the table of inks. My mouth is still sweet from the banana I ate half an hour ago. “Have something sweet or you’ll probably faint,” my flat mate told me, and that was a risk I wasn’t so keen on taking. The artist is knelt is next to me, the single needle neatly clasped between two fingers. “Human Warmth?” he asks me “So, what’s the meaning behind that?”

Nothing screams permanent quite like a tattoo does. I mean in my experience, being jabbed ever so delicately with a single needle certainly does leave a mark on your mind, well and body quite literally, but not just because of its pain factor.

My love of getting tattoos isn’t one particularly shared by my family members. The four stick and poke designs I do have are something I’ve always kept pretty secret and hidden beneath clothes, mostly as a way to avoid conflict or disapproval. None of my 10+ extended family members have inked their skin in any way, and I think this pretty much says a lot about their general shared opinion on tattoo art. Regardless of this, I was eager to start my own collection, and what better time to do this then when leaving the secluded countryside village I had called home for 18 years, and moving to London.

I had always known that I had wanted my first tattoo to be something, for lack of a better word, queer related, a design slightly subtler than a brightly coloured rainbow or the big letter L.

Patrick Bates, known to his 150k Instagram followers by his handle of @european.son.420 was an artist that always stood out to me. The talent of Bates’ intricate designs leaves him well known in the stick and poke world. It’s these neatly hand drawn letters, often taking shape in the form of song lyrics, names, album titles and sentimental quotes that really appealed to me, which is why I chose Patrick to do my first tattoo. The choice for my first was no different, a translation of my most listened to album title Chaleur Humaine or “human warmth” by the French pansexual pop star that is Heloise Letissier, better known by her stage name Christine and The Queens.

A little over two years later and I am still pleased with the decision I made. I think having an album title from an LGBTQI artist is subtle enough to go unnoticed for those who aren’t aware of its meaning, but still direct enough to have some personal queer relevance. I mean, it has come from the mind of an individual known well for her sheer raw queer confidence and gay anthems like Girlfriend. Although granted, that song wasn’t released until a year after the words were already marked on my skin.

Personally, I think that there’s something just slightly empowering about knowing that I have the words of my idol placed carefully on my ribcage. Even if they are tucked hidden underneath a sports bra half the time. The translation of “human warmth” is a phrase I think is really important too, especially in the fast pace society we all live in today. It’s a nice message to spread and I’m definitely glad that it’s something that I get to see everyday.

Most of us in the community have one specific album that really shaped our coming out process, something that that we’ve fallen asleep listening to, or turned up so loud in our headphones that the words become just muffled sound. Chaleur Humaine for me, was this album. I remember watching Christine perform in 2015 with her iconic power suit and the seemingly with the unbreakable confidence that I so desired to have. Maybe I did take on a little bit of this second hand confidence, now an openly out woman amongst my friends and immediate family. Could this be because I have a permanent reminder of this queer confidence on my body? Maybe so.

I suppose with time this tattoo will fade a little. Stick and poke tattoos are after all renowned for their nature of growing faint with time. Regardless of this, knowing its sentiment was once there really will encourage me to stand just a little taller. The words of a queer pop star have always got my back, well… ribcage, and that to me is important.

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