As a pastor, I’ve received a lot of criticism for the tattoos I have. No matter how many times I explain that each serves theo-political purpose, not to mention, that more recently my tattoos have been an outlet for releasing internal pain and trauma in a pseudo- socially acceptable way.
Many of my tattoos serve a purpose. Not only do they mark time (something that the church does through the liturgical seasons) but they serve as a reminder of why I do what I do.
To date: I have 9 tattoos, one of which is a cover up so technically I have 10.
My first tattoo was the word “promise” written phonetically. I chose the word ‘promise’ as a response to the call I felt God had put on my life to be a minister and I wanted to mark that commitment.
Over the years it got small and hard to read so after seminary I had it covered with roses, wheat, and the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread.” It was an anti-capitalist piece that spoke to living simple and the fact that what we aquire daily is enough.
I added the roses as part of the labor song “bread and roses” so that together “give us this day our daily bread and roses.”
Soon I am hoping to add to the tattoo to include the #translivesmatter battle call “give us roses while were still here.” Too many people that I love have experienced violence and/or lost their lives just for being trans or gender non-conforming.
As a tomboy/gender non-conforming person for the first 15+ (I still feel that way) years of my life, I consider the trans community part of me extended queer community. Getting this tattoo isn’t just about seeking solidarity but also a reminder that as a now cis-woman I have a duty to protect and support my trans family.
My other tattoo “be of good courage” serves as a mantra – one that got me through a rough Pastoral time after a 24-yr-old old mom died covering her two kids in a fire. The courage of these 3 and 8 year olds (who suffered 3rd degree burns over 75% of their body) reminds me no matter what happens I need to be courageous too.
My other tattoos include my god Childrens names (in Hebrew, Jacob and Emet which literally translates into “seizing the heel of truth”). I got these after finishing an anti-racism class for white folk as a reminder that both my godchildren are POC and I have a responsibility as an ally-accomplice to work daily to disrupting and dismantling white supremacy.
More recently I got an ampersand on my thumb to mark the first confirmation-> exploration class, and the life changing relationships formed there; as well as, a semi colon to honor those in my life that live with mental illness, especially depression, and who’ve attempted suicide.
My most recent tattoos are originals by a chicago artist, Monica Costello; the two women on my inner arm that read “honor your darkness” and “honor your light.” ou got to read the poems that go with them (see below).
I got these for my mom as she continues to work towards sobriety. It’s been a long journey but she’s teaching so much about courage and honesty.
In addition to all this I also have a pin-up girl with my bestie and mother of my first god son. It’s definitely Theo-political but I’ll save the for another time.
Finally I have a tattoo with my brother Nate that says “little things” based on a poem I wrote that he turned into a song and played for both my ordinations. #blessed
How do you mark time?
How do you live with and heal trauma?