a queer symbol, a pagan symbol

I have returned from Seattle, and there is much to write about. Most of my closest friends in Seattle are very masculine-identified, some of them have transitioned, and I have returned with some new ideas about butches, masculinity, transfolks, my own body, my own sense of self.Also, I got a tattoo. That white star on the underside of my right wrist that I’ve been talking about for a long time. It’s visible especially when shaking someone’s hand. I love it.

I still want the birds. They’ll be next.

The Sugarbutch Star contest is so close to done, I can practically taste it. I’ll have a roundup post coming, with excerpts from each entry and links to the full thing, to remind you of them, before we start voting. I’m hoping to to a reading (“Sinclair’s” first real appearance) of the finalists and announce the winner.

a star on my wrist

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.

ready to take flight

My sister willingly sketched the tattoo out on my shoulder with a permanent marker, and I love the way it looks. This will happen this summer.I have not dreamed of her the last few nights. I barely thought of her today. I did speak about her last night to a friend, but that was partially because I was tipsy (mojitos are so perfect for hot Saturday afternoons) and partly because this friend had seen me through this relationship, from the beginning, and had a lot of useful things to say about love and me in love and what it was like to witness the two of us together.

Here’s the thing. I love being in love. Love it. That seems like a silly thing to say because, duh, doesn’t everybody love being in love? But the truth is, no, not really. Some people run from it. Some people don’t seem to know how to recognize it when they have it. I have the advantage of being a queer woman in this case, since us dykes are known for our u-haul instantaneous declarations of forever, though there are plenty of us who are not like that. I, however … seems like I am one of them.

I’ve been thinking about it, and here’s a bit of my relationship history:

14-19: Serious relationship with a boy, the only boy I’ve ever been with. I think I’ve referred to him as “Mike” here on Sugarbutch (I should make a post to keep track of names). My bisexuality was never a secret; at first, he loved that I was really into women, but as the relationship went on it became less about him and more about me potentially leaving him to be with women, which I eventually did.

19-23: Came out as queer, went back to college, generally single. A few relationships in this time lasted longer than a month, and plenty of scars to show for it. But this whole time I was in love with my best friend. that’s a long story, of course, but the whole time we were in these deep emotional negotiations about how we’d “eventually” get together and “eventually” be perfect for each other, when in fact I was being strung along. I believed her every time.

23-27: With The Ex-Girlfriend, who is a semi-frequent character on Sugarbutch.

27/28: Six months with Callie. Our relationship overlapped with the Ex-Girlfriend’s, as you may remember.

So really, aside from those few first years of my queer adult self (which only half count, since all my emotional/romantic energy was going to one particular girl), I haven’t been single in my entire sexual history.

See what I mean, that I love being in love? I do. I can’t help but be a poet; I am so interested in the inner emotional lives of people, I love to have that access to one particular beautiful person in intimate ways. I am tempering those impulses in me to sift through my phone book, my email and myspace and friendster contacts, and find a date, someone to flirt with, someone I can reach inside of for a while.

I’m beginning to take pictures again. That’s one of the first things that seems to slide off the table when my schedule is otherwise full: spending time with myself, just looking, seeing things, objects, people, places, my own face and skin. I miss that, it’s nice to have it back.

I’m also writing more. This past week I’ve been in a creative overdrive, writing stories and poems that I’ve wanted to write for a long time, years, in some cases, and all sorts of things are coming out of me. I’m remembering my talents. Using them to make sense of things. Thank god.

There is so much more to discover about me. I love what I’m finding when I take myself out, ask myself questions, hear my own stories. I have more ideas and themes and impulses and inner workings in me than this single life of mine can hold. No wonder I felt so much pressure in that last relationship – I had no time for myself, and it takes a lot of time to pursue all of my interests.

getting ready

I think this will be the bird tattoo on my left shoulder, this summer. Or it will be something quite similar to this. I also want a red balloon (for an anti-oppression symbol) on the inside of my right ankle, and a white star (an old queer signal) on my right wrist. But. One at a time.

flight and migration

A red balloon tattooed on the side of my lower right leg. Small, simple, looked like it was floating, maybe the string wrapped around my ankle a little bit. That’s what I visualized clearly yesterday, randomly. Perhaps a little shadow of a person holding the string on the back of my ankle. I have a few tattoo visions really, though I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually get one. Those with tattoos say they’re addictive.The other one I want right now is a (small) flock of (small) birds (starlings perhaps?) on my left shoulderblade, with one perched, not flying, more on the chest side of my left shoulder.

Apparently, I am being drawn to flight.