For a while now, I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo. I’ve had it mostly planned out for almost a year. Black ink — I just think there’s something really strong and striking, almost classic, about black lettering. I want it to be on the inside of my left forearm so that it will be there, like a reminder, every time I look down.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been second-guessing my decision, mainly its location. Because of the way the skin moves (or doesn’t), the tattoo wouldn’t be just on the inside of the arm: it’d also spread onto the back of my arm. Is it discreet enough? Is it visible enough? Maybe it should be on the outside of my arm, between shoulder and elbow – there’s plenty of room there. Should I have the writing face me or the world? I’d like it to face me, but maybe it’d look better if others can read it – it’d look less upside down.

But then I was talking to someone last night, I realized (or rather, remembered) that my tattoo is for me. Since the beginning, I’ve felt very strongly about what I want my tattoo to look like, where I want it to be, and what I want it to mean. I know what I want, and I should do that.

I’m planning on Korean. It looks a little more interesting than simply having words tattooed on my arm, and it’s a link to my Korean identity and heritage, which would be nice. I also wouldn’t have to worry about whether the characters actually mean what they’re supposed to mean because I can read Korean (although before I actually get it done, I’m planning on checking with a few friends who actually know Korean).


Since coming out, the concept of courage has taken on a special meaning for me. It takes courage to be openly queer in an often homophobic society, and it takes courage to disregard gender norms in a society that has a binary gender system that is as deeply entrenched as the one in this society.


For me, courage is like taking the first step. Strength is what keeps me going beyond that beginning. It seems exhausting, sometimes, to keep fighting to simply be myself in a world that clings to rigid categories and norms. I need to remind myself to have strength to just keep going and not give up and follow the path of least resistance.


I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to figure out what I want to do — trying to figure out whether there’s anything I really care about, anything I want to do with my life. I’ve realized that I have passion around queer and trans issues. I want to change society, change the world. And sometimes, it seems like the world is just too depressing; there’s a lot of prejudice, ignorance, and bigotry in the world. I need to remind myself that I have passion — that I truly, deeply care about making our society a better place. I want oppression in all of its forms to be eradicated. It won’t happen in this lifetime, but if we do nothing, it will never be over.

I’ve also considered 희망 (hope), 변화 (change), and 전이 (transformation). Hope and change seemed like nice ideas, but they just didn’t really resonate for me. As I’m writing this, though, I realize that transformation feels like it would round things out. It seems right. Life is a series of transformations. Right now, I’m focusing on figuring who I am and transforming into that from society wanted of me.

It’s all about reminding myself to keep going, reminding myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, reminding myself that it will be worth it.

9 responses to “Ink

  1. It’d be way less cliche than kanji. 😉

    It’s not cliche at all, actually. They all sound really cool. Just remember that you want something that will continue to resonate with you. For example, “passion” might not be as important once you figure out what that is, or maybe it’ll mean more.

  2. It sounds great to me Rachel. Your description of the tattoo meaning just reinforces for me that we have a lot in common-although my position in life is certainly different, I can totally understand what it means to fight against societal norms through your identity and the way you live your life. I wish the world was more open minded, and I too want to change it for the better. It makes me happy to know that I have such great family members that are always trying to make the world a better place and fight for justice and equality while being true to themselves:) Go you:)

    • Lyra! First of all, I love you, and I’m so happy that you’re my cousin. I just wanted to say that. Also, it means a lot to hear you say (well, see you write, I guess) that we have a lot in common because I’ve looked up to you for so long (I believe I still have friends who know of you as “my cool cousin Lyra” or “my awesome cousin Lyra”). Anyway, hugs! And yay for trying to make the world a better place and being true to ourselves.

  3. Hey Rachel! I read your tattoo ideas and I really like them. I say, go for it lady. 🙂 I got a tattoo in late August, and I may get more eventually. Your tattoo is for you, whether it means something significant, or you just want a little well placed body decoration. And I think you should have the letters facing you. Tattoo artists may try and dissuade you, but I think it would mean more in your case for you to read it. Keep me posted.

    • Hey, Caitie, thanks for commenting! What does your tattoo look like? And it’s nice to hear that you like my ideas. I’m debating between the four on my left arm and splitting them, two on my left and two on my right. I’m just not sure if there’s room on my arm for all four.

  4. Hey Rachel 🙂 I have a small bow on my lower back, all black ink. I had the option of color but thought it looked childish with, so I just stuck with the black outline. And there is definately room on one arm for four tattoos depending on where you want them and how big you want them. If you did them all a visible but not huge size, you could line them up on your forearm and I think that would look fantastic. Dunno, it’s whatever you think, just a suggestion, but that is definately do-able.

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