29-year-old Dylan lives in Washington DC and this year is celebrating his fourth Pride month as an out gay man. Growing up as a Black-Filipino kid in a mostly white area, tattoos were stigmatized in his community, so his path to “fitting in” meant pretending he hated them. “I was constantly made to feel like I had to hide many parts of my identity and assimilate and conform,” Dylan tells Teen Vogue. Coming from a Catholic family and attending religious instruction lived in contention with his attempts to navigate his sexuality: “I never felt like myself.”
Once Dylan turned 18 and left for college, he got his first ink and never looked back. Five tattoos later, after coming out to his mom, he felt the thrill of sitting in the chair and lapping up the good pain, as he puts it. He left his session with the image of an alien, similar to the emoji, shaded on his arm. “I felt lost and lonely for many years and the tattoo symbolizes the acceptance of all my differences that make up who I am, especially my queerness, and it celebrates that I’m not like other people,” he says.
Much like Annette, he doesn’t buy into the notion that “you’ll regret it when you’re older,” instead reveling in the version of himself at that specific point in time, captured like a snapshot on his skin. “The tattoo existing is a story in itself,” he says. Dylan knows that tattoos are a beautiful form of expression. “It’s pure art. Some have incredible stories and deep meaning, and others are for aesthetic, but either way, they’re f*cking awesome.”
These days, Dylan invests his time in an array of queer media, each one facilitating the healing he’s always deserved. “When I was younger I really had it engrained in my mind that I would never ever say the words ‘I’m gay’ out loud. As long as I did this or that and acted a certain way I could put up with the facade forever,” he says. Dylan always wanted to fit in, but now he delights in his unique self. He is his younger self’s wildest dream.
19-year-old Tanis, from Vancouver, Canada, wears the chemical structure of estrogen on her arm. She had the tattoo done around the time of her two-and-a-half-year anniversary of starting HRT. “It’s a way I show my transfemme pride in a creative way,” she tells Teen Vogue. It’s an icon of her pride, calling it a part of her that is “unchangeable and inerasable.” The permanence of a tattoo seems to echo Tanis’s joy in fully relishing her truth: “I felt anxious to have this done, but I knew I wanted this as a way of saying that I’m my true self now, and nothing can change that no matter what.”
Tanis’s journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing. She’s come close to having her transition stopped or slowed down, but she’s now found a renewed sense of happiness, having rid herself of the things that prevented her from standing in her truth. “I knew I never wanted to go back for years, and [this tattoo] was something I got to truly celebrate that fact,” she says. It’s thanks to meeting a trans friend who has many tattoos that made Tanis realize that “the tattoos of trans people are something beautiful, special, and meaningful in a unique way I adored.”