Last week, as I mentioned, Belle got two new tattoos, small ribbons tied in bows over her hip bones. I’ve been feeling particularly inspired to get my own tattoos lately as well, my first choice would be to get the flock of birds I’ve been wanting for almost two years now, but since that is probably going to be more expensive than I’m able to do at the moment, I may settle on a small star on the inside of my right wrist.
I’ve even attempted to make consultation appointments for these two tattoos, to try to figure out how expensive they’d be and how long they’d take, but I haven’t been able to find The Right Artist yet.
So when I saw Belle’s new tattoos, and heard that the guy in Williamsburg is quite reasonably priced, I was practically ready to get tattooed the next day.
Of course, I am not really that impulsive. And I decided it was more important to pay bills (and go on a date on Saturday) than to get a tattoo. But I am really ready for it, for both of them, and I’ve really got the bug for some new body modification, something to mark this huge transitional space that I’ve been in for the last year.
I told Belle about this star tattoo and she got all excited, and has wanted some star tattoos of her own. And yesterday, she got them done: five small stars at the top of each of her breasts, basically under her bra strap. They look incredible.
More about that later.
The star on the wrist has been something I’ve wanted for a while, more than two years, but I’ve been hesitant because I often get comments about how generic that is, how common, and wouldn’t I want something a little more unique. Which has given me great pause in the past.
But upon thinking about it for the last few days, I’ve decided that that is entirely the point: this tattoo symbolizes a connection to the lesbian – and, specifically, butch/femme – communities and history, and I like that being stamped that way is specifically about my placement within and conmnection to that community.
It’s hard to find many resources about this star on the wrist as a symbol of butch or queer identity, but there is a particular passage in a book Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold which I do recommend:
During [the 1940s and 1950s], the cultural push to be identified as lesbians – or at least different – all the time was so powerful that it generated a new form of identification among the tough bar lesbians: a star tattoo on the top of the wrist, which was usually covered by a watch. … The community views the tattoo as a definite mark of identification … the Buffalo police knew [that] the people that had the stars on their wrist were lesbians and they had their names and so forth. That it was an identity thing with the gay community, with the lesbian community. … The stars presage the methods of identity created by gay liberation. In fact, the mark has become something of a tradition in local circles and has seen a revival since the 1970s.
From “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community” by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeilne D. Davis, © 1993, p189.
I think I cut out the part where they talk about it being a blue star, but I tend to hear that associated with this legend. I also hear there was a group of women suffragists that called themselves the Blue Star Cadets in around 1920.Mine, though, I’m not sure if I want it blue. I’m not sure I want something so obvious on my wrist. And after I saw this image of white stars on the wrists over on Flickr, I was totally sold on the idea of doing it in white ink. I don’t want mine to be exactly like that – I want it smaller, probably solid white, and just one wrist. But I really love the way it looks. Almost like a scar. Perhaps a hint of blue would be nice, pay homage to those who came before me, my history, my lineage, my inheretance.
5 thoughts on “a star on my wrist”
I'm really excited about you getting this tattoo.I think you may know this, but I've got a blue star on the underside of my left wrist. At the time I wasn't ready for the top of the wrist placement, but wanted to pay homage to butch/femme. I've been thinking lately about getting a mirrored star on the top to symbolize my new level of comfortability with identity (and also, let's be real, to be MORE visible than I am able to right now). I am envisioning a pretty hot photo shoot when you are in my neck of the woods.
Piping up to say that I have one, too, though it is on the top of my wrist and for the first time this weekend I had someone recognize it. I work at a dyke bar (so. fun.) and she was quite a bit older than me and we had a lovely conversation about butch/femme and what it meant then and what it means now.It was nice to have that visibility, even though I don't personally identify as femme (or butch) — I still wanted to acknowledge those who came before me and fought so hard to be able to be who they were/are.
I've wanted "YES" in white on the underside of my wrist for a long time now. But I know of someone who has it (in blue, on the top of her wrist) already… and I feel like knowing that, I'd be stealing someone else's affirmation.How do you deal with that when you think of your images?
tanya: I don’t really think people should copy other people’s tattoos exactly, but in the case of some of the more simple, universal symbols – like “yes” or a star – there will definitely be some crossover! I mean certainly your friend is not the only one with this “yes” tattoo. (flickr gave me this pretty easily) … if I had a friend who had a tattoo similar to what I wanted, I might talk to him/her about it and see how they’d feel if I got something similar. some people might be really offended, but others might be flattered!
also … I think it’s valuable to build and adapt the symbols of important people around us into our own selves. we don’t exist in a vacuum, you know? it’s about taking things into our own lives & making them our own … at least that’s how I see it :)
Phillip Levine has written a poem called "The Blue Star" – it's about authenticity to oneself.