So last week I stopped in at a local tattoo parlor to make two appointments: a consultation appointment and the actual appointment in which my tattoo would be done. I had called the day before about coming in to the store to talk about my tattoo ideas, and all that jazz. The guy who I originally wanted to do my tattoo was there and in the process of tattooing someone else, but he invited us back to show him the rough-rough sketch I drew out. Everything was going well until he asked about the word coming out of the mega-phone: Queer. He said he didn’t feel comfortable tattooing that word. That it was a bold statement to be putting on the body. I explained to him why I chose to use the word Queer. That in academia, queer is more of an umbrella term to include gay, lesbian, transexual, and bi-sexual people, and that I’m re-claiming and taking power over the term by using it. He said he could understand that it was some sort of social commentary, but still refused to tattoo the word. At some point I said, “That’s enough,” and “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with you tattooing me.” But before that, I asked him if he was homophobic, and he said, “Not at all.” Again, he emphasized how bold of a word queer is. Too bold. Yet it’s not too bold to tattoo the deer someone hunted. It’s not too bold to tattoo an ignorant mess of native stereotypes. It’s not too bold to tattoo scantly clothed women. No, it’s too bold to tattoo the word queer onto my body.
When I got back to my car, the person I was with started telling me humiliating stories she’d experienced in her life. Or at least that’s what I thought she was doing. I couldn’t tell you what those stories were. She asked me how I was, or said something about how she knew what had just happened bothered me. All I could focus on was my phone. I needed to be out of that moment, but still I needed to share the whirl of emotions suffocating me. So instead of talking about it in that moment, I focused on my phone. I focused on talking to other people so that what I was feeling so intensely: the hate, the anger, the what-ever-the-fuck, wouldn’t come pouring out.
That night I didn’t even stay in my own bed. I knew I wouldn’t sleep–my mind would just keep replaying the scene over and over and over again across the inside of my eyelids. Which isn’t to say that it still didn’t. But not to the same degree. I still didn’t have a good night’s sleep.
But it wasn’t until yesterday that I was able to put into words why having a tattoo artist refuse to tattoo my ideas onto my body hurt so deeply: it was the first time I’d been denied something because I’m a lesbian. A personal denial. A denial in my home town by a person who didn’t have to deny me. This isn’t to say that I haven’t been denied other things because of my lesbianism: I don’t have the right to marry who I love. I’ve been denied before. But I was born into that denial. I grew up with that denial. I’ve been denied emotion, legitimacy and thought by school, church, family and friends. But this was different. It felt different. It felt like the stories I’ve read about other queer people being denied services because of their sexual identity. It felt ignorant.
I felt the power I have over my life drain from me.
Yet, I felt proud because I owned my lesbianism. I stood up for myself.
And I really didn’t feel like I had anyone in my life who could really understand all of these feelings I was was experiencing. I know I don’t. Because this event is still something that is very much on my mind. My mind, and no one else’s. It’s still something that when I think about it, it wipes the ground out right from beneath me and sends into an immediate state of uncomfortableness. This realization has spurred me to work harder on my grad applications. It’s also made me realize that no matter what, Marquette will not continue to be my home past this summer.
Which hopefully means I’ll be blogging more. I’ll be writing more. I’ll be re-focusing my life.
I haven’t been exercising like I should be. Three months ago, I was rowing compulsively. Now rowing is over. There is snow on the ground. My bike’s stored for the winter. Maybe I’ll take up swimming. And yet I’m sick. For the first time in a very long time. Way before I backpacked Isle Royale. Way before the rowing season started.
I don’t know. Hopefully I’m actually going to begin to make the changes I need.
P.S. I’m in the process of re-designing my website. So at times, it’s going to be a mess.
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