MEMBER ARTICLE: The power of words and language

MEMBER ARTICLE: The power of words and language

from Recon News

13 January 2020

My name is Guik and I am a 32 years old queer tattoo artist / manager.

I've always been obsessed with tattoos, did my first one on myself when I was 11 using a compass and Indian ink. Language has always been extremely important to me, and I am very attached to words. The connotations and identity of labels people get given can stay with us forever (just like tattoos). Labels within the fetish scene can be the quickest way to self-identify and to others what role you play within it. I have my favourite words- Resilient. Faggot. Fabulous.

At 18 I started managing a piercing studio, as well as many other activities such as performance, sex work, show technician and graphic designer. I was always going back and forth between my own artistic path and employed work in many different fields. At 24 I got myself a tattoo machine and practiced on myself and my friends as I didn't feel like a tattoo studio was the best environment for me to learn, even though I was managing one. Being in the "industry" the whole time definitely helped me develop all aspects of my practice even when I wasn't tattooing.

Unfortunately, I damaged my hands while renovating a room in my house to build a queer studio. I had to stop tattooing and focused on managing for many years, until an event just under a year ago. We were doing a flash day in the studio where I was working, and I came up with a concept of tattooing words or labels as a way of taking ownership of them. This idea was appealing to me that I decided to grab a machine again.
After that people kept on asking me for tattoos. It became a big playroom for me to work around my ethics, the use of language, human relationships, love, traces, modern blood rituals and intentions.

Tattooing came back into my life by itself and I am so grateful I get to create this bond with so many amazing people. Tattooing can, to many people, be quite an intimate thing to do and have done. Like in aspects of most fetish play, there is a power dynamic between the artist and the receiver of that tattoo, which is based on mutual trust and understanding.

I've always seen tattoos as more than just images on bodies. Which is why I see it as something somewhat sacred. I believe there is an underlying power in the intentions behind getting tattooed and modifying our bodies. I think a tattoo can help us accept situations, find who we are, or heal some wounds we've been struggling with. For me this corresponds and correlates with BDSM practices. The delicate balance of pleasure and pain is the same in tattooing as it is when I'm participating in BDSM. The headspace helps me transcend to a place of comfort. Looking at the marks left after a flogging or caning, and looking at a tattoo - even years later - can remind you of that precise moment; the intention you had with the artist; that instant you decided to transform your body for a reason. I've been tattooed with the intention of making the best of painful life experiences, marking what I had learnt, convincing myself there is still love ahead, accepting who I really am... the list is very long. I can honestly say that most of the time it is not necessarily connected to the design itself, but very much connected to the artist who made it with me.

No matter how emotionally or physically heavy the session can be, we always end up feeling very connected and grateful for a magical moment we shared. It sounds super cheesy and it probably is, but I don't care. I know the impact it has on me and see the impact these sessions have on others. We share the experience and I am extremely proud of it.

When it comes to language I think the queer community does well at fighting the reclaiming of words, something that the fetish community has and continues to do as well, whether this be words such as slut, bitch. Taking ownership of a word intended as an insult, flipping it and giving it power is the best way to feel positive about your identity in a world that often is unkind. Reclaiming our identities through the insults we've been called can be simple, it can be quick, but it can also take a long time. Once you make that 'insult' yours by calling yourself a slut or a faggot, for example, once you become a proud slutty faggot, then it doesn't mean anything when someone tries to use these words to hurt you.

"Yes I am one, so what ?"

If it is part of you it's just a fact. You can call me green eyes, you can call me bottom, you can call me tall, I don't fucking care. It's a matter of accepting our status and being proud of who we are. Entirely and unapologetically. I find it absolutely amazing to see this process unfold within the people I get to work with.
There is equal merit in owning and identifying as a "Sir" just as there is in being the "bitch sub" or "boy"
I've got 'insults' tattooed on my body a lot and decided to pass this on. It got a lot of success very quickly and to be honest that's always what I prefer tattooing. I see in the person's eye how proud they are, all of a sudden the negative baggage associated with a certain word is gone. Being a proud faggot is one thing, having it tattooed all across my stomach is one step beyond in accepting who I am and being unapologetic about it. 'Radical' and 'deviant' are on my list to tattoo on myself. I know I am radical. I know I am deviant. I know if I get it tattooed It's a promise to myself to keep being radical one way or another, to stay true to who I really am. To be deviant even when people are judgmental, to be more in their face about it. It's in my skin, I can't escape.

One last note about it, when I was in my late teens I tattooed "kill yourself" above my knees as a message to the people staring at me every time I would uncover in public. I was tired of the looks I would get and thought I needed to send a clear message. Years later it became a burden and I got it covered, as it is definitely not the energy I want to put out there. That might be one explanation to the way I work now.

Through these beliefs and attachments to the whole experience I have when tattooing, I've been able to set my own rules within my practice, such as never tattooing anything I feel could have a negative impact on the person wearing it. For example, I've refused to tattoo the word "misery" as I would have felt responsible for that person's misery. It probably sounds very hippy and mystical but whether you believe in this or not, I just want to make sure I protect myself from having a negative impact on anyone, and also make sure we're here to put our best intentions into a piece that has a deep meaning. Most of the time the experience is truly uplifting for me and for the person who's getting tattooed.

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