If you’re reading this you probably have (or at least want to have) a tattoo of a moth 


Have you ever wished there was an easy way to know if someone is queer? 

There’s no universal indicator of gayness (which is probably a good thing), but wouldn’t life be so much easier if you could be sure the girl you’re flirting with is also into women?

Historically, queer people have used tattoos as a means of identification. In the 1940s and 50s, lesbians would get blue nautical star tattoos to make themselves visible to other queer women. The star would commonly be placed on the wrist, to be easily hidden by a watch to avoid police identification.

Samuel Steward was an academic-turned-tattoo-artist who kept detailed journals chronicling his life and work, including his many sexual encounters with men. During the 1950s, Steward opened a tattoo parlour in San Francisco and became the official tattoo artist of the Hells Angels.

In his book, Bad Boys And Tough Tattoos, Steward talks about the trouble he had with female customers, saying:

“I established a policy of refusing to tattoo a woman unless she were twenty-one, married and accompanied by her husband, with documentary proof to show their marriage. The only exception to this was the lesbians, and they had to be over twenty-one and prove it…too many scenes with irate husbands, furious parents, indignant boyfriends, and savage lovers made it necessary to accept female customers only with great care.”

Reflecting the attitudes of the time, Steward did not speak kindly of his lesbian customers:

“Whenever they came in they frightened the sailors and many of the city-boys out of the shop. I did not relish their arrival nor particularly want their business…they were no different from the boys getting their girlfriends’ names on them. That was all they wanted, perhaps with a little floral design, and then they wanted their name on the “lady” of the pair.”

The proud tradition of ‘scary lesbians covered in tattoos’ is still a part of our culture today.

This month, a YouGov survey revealed that 26% of the British public have tattoos with one in nine having visible tattoos. This number is even higher across the pond, with an American survey reporting that 32% of American adults have a tattoo, with 38% of women having at least one tattoo compared to 27% of men. 

Looking at the LGBTQIA population, this number is even higher still with 51% of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans having at least one tattoo. Queer women are the most likely to be tattooed, with 68% having one tattoo and 55% choosing to get inked multiple times.

With tattoos becoming more common, certain motifs have gained popularity within the sapphic community. Here are five of the gayest tattoos a person can have in 2023 (according to social media).


Branded by TikTok as the wlw tattoo, having a snake tattoo, especially on the forearm, has become a bit of a joke within the lesbian community. The snake can be tattooed in any style, but blackwork and illustrative styles seem to be particularly popular. Of course, many straight people also have snake tattoos, but if a woman has a snake tattoo on her forearm? Well, she might just be a little fruity.


Described by one TikTok user as “undeniably queer” the frog tattoo can be seen on queer women and non-binary folx, often sporting an accessory such as a cowboy hat. In 2016, the popular meme ‘Pepe the Frog’ was branded a hate symbol after the image was co-opted by alt-right groups on Twitter. Since then, queer people have claimed frogs as their own, using TikTok to “turn the frickin’ frogs gay” with #frogtok having amassed 2.4 billion views at the time of writing. 

Perhaps it is the transformative life cycle of the frog that appeals to queer people, or perhaps they just like the colour green. Whatever the reason, frog tattoos are most definitely gay. 


It’s a stereotype that queer women love astrology, despite only 28% actually believing in it according to a 2018 survey by Autostraddle (although 50% read their horoscopes anyway). 

Astrology tattoos include your classic star signs, queer women are also fond of moons, the Sun and Saturn. Alongside the astrology gays, these tattoos are also seen on witchy gays (think: moon tarot card). However, this style of tattoo is also a popular first tattoo amongst millennials and Gen Z, so can only be classed as ‘a little fruity’.


Although it’s unclear exactly where this idea came from, the moth (the death’s-head hawkmoth in particular) has become a commonly acknowledged queer tattoo, particularly for bisexual women. On TikTok, people post videos of their moth tattoos with captions such as “officially branded myself as a homosexual” and “happy pride to all the gays with moth tattoos”.

As one TikTok user put it “butterfly = straight, moth = bi”. So if they’ve got a moth tattoo, they’re probably queer.


The dagger tattoo is a favourite amongst lesbians, as one TikTok user put it, “Say “I have a tattoo” and nobody bats an eye, say “I have a dagger tattoo”…and society calls me gay.”

And if lesbians love daggers, bisexual women have claimed swords with queer singer, Dove Cameron, calling it the bisexual tattoo.

While daggers are a common motif in traditional tattooing, the queer version is most commonly seen surrounded by flowers, hearts or even a moth/snake design.

And if they have a dagger and a sword? According to TikTok, they’re definitely gay.

DIVA magazine celebrates 29 years in print in 2023. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 


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