My tattoo represents our resilience, our fight.
Exactly one year ago, the day after election day, I woke up feeling devastated. I didn’t even have to check the news—I felt the heaviness in my heart and I just knew. I cried harder than I’d ever had over any breakup (and girl, trust me, my exes have made me cry).
Months before, I had made an appointment for a tattoo, not realizing that it fell on the day after the election. I always loved the idea of tattoos as resistance and a celebration of queerness. I was excited to be tattooed by @alexxtattoos, a woman expert in blackwork. While I had planned the tattoo for months, I had been considering canceling it out of anxiety over where to place it. But something about my rage, my sorrow that day made sure I was ready. There were no more doubts in my mind. I was getting that tattoo.
My friend Nicole picked me up, and we cried in her car. Nicole, the ferocious blonde who never cries, broke down and sobbed with me. “He hates us. He hates us,” she kept repeating through sobs. We had been so excited just the day before, casting our votes for Hillary then grabbing drinks. “Trump is gonna fix this country,” the bartender declared to us. Nicole and I sadly smiled at each other while a newscasters’ voice drifted from the TVs above, reporting that Trump expected victory. I didn’t tell her, but I felt like I had given up hope. I knew she felt the same way too– that we, along with so many others– were silently drowning after a loud and exciting fight. We smiled because there were no words at that point. And we were surrounded by Trump supporters. That morning, after we did our famous Starbucks-and-cigarette-cruise (cigarettes are only allowed for what we consider an emotional crisis) she dropped me off. We both went to work. Life couldn’t stop. Then it was time for my tattoo.
Once I got to the tattoo shop, I felt strangely vulnerable and anxious. I forced myself inside and it was not the sexy alternative queer haven I had been expecting. I was still on conservative Long Island, after all. I was the only woman customer in the shop. There was a massive Trump poster hanging. A few of the guys were wearing Make America Great Again hats. It seemed like a cruel joke. I closed up my leather jacket over my don’t grab my pussy shirt. I felt utterly out of place. My heart pounded as I filled out paperwork. The front desk guy asked if I was getting a “basic girl” tattoo. Then Alexx appeared like a vision. Her heavily tattooed and pierced presence instantly comforted me. Alexx sat me in her chair. She put up medical curtains, as I decided to tattoo my sternum and I needed to take my top off. Behind the curtains, she whispered, “does your shirt say don’t grab my pussy?” I nodded with trepidation. “Thank God,” she said. “It can get a little…uncomfortable working here,” She nodded towards the Trump sign. “I’m really happy you came in today.”
And in that moment, though we were perfect strangers, I felt the most tremendous solidarity and connection with her. We were women in a sexist environment, existing, taking up space and supporting one another. Though she tattooed me in silence, I could feel us communicating. I was comforted by the buzz of the needle, the gentleness of her wiping away my blood, the hue of the fluorescent lights. Because even surrounded by people who supported the oppression of our existence, we were still there.
I left the shop feeling hopeful, reenergized and ready to fight. Looking back on that moment today, especially on the heels of such a history-making democratic victory, I remember that sense of hope and how real, and how powerful it was. We didn’t stop the fight. We got stronger. Though we have farther to go, we can’t give up hope. My tattoo is a Valfré illustration of a rose about to be snipped off the stem. You can cut the rose but it’ll keep growing back. Just like us.