You see, symbols are simple ways of expressing complex concepts, much like labels. For example, the transgender symbol is a simple connection of a circle and a few lines, but it represents all forms of gender variance, from feminine females and masculine males, through feminine males and masculine females, all the way to genderqueer, transsexual, and other more traditionally trans* people. It speaks to all forms of gender expression and identity.
Another good and well known example would be that of the dove. Carrying over from various old myths, legends, and religions, the dove has come to represent love, peace, and hope. This extends from the story of Noah’s Ark and the similar story from the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, they also serve as a symbol of communication or messengers, being used as part of the crest of the Tactical Communications Wing of the British Royal Air Force, due to their relation to carrier pigeons.A couple of months ago, I bought myself a tattoo for my birthday, wanting to get something with meaning. Specifically, I wanted something to sum up all my positive feelings, all my self-esteem, and compact it into something simple that I could look at in times when I’m down to help pick myself up. A reminder to myself in those moments when shame comes in that I can succeed at things I set myself to, that I am good enough, smart enough, capable enough, etc. to do just about anything, and that the only way to do so is to allow myself to be vulnerable, to take risks. It’s a rather complex concept that researcher Brene Brown has spent over a decade looking into. So I got a simple three words on my left arm, which you can see here to the right: “i am enough.” I’ve included a link to her two TED talks below, to show how deep this topic goes.
As I continue struggling with the one job, running into issues at every turn, I’ve begun thinking about getting another tattoo for the other arm. I want it to be one that speaks out against male privilege/female oppression (not just overt sexism but all of the subtle aspects as well), cissexism, heteronormativity, etc. Essentially, all of the issues I run into at the job at the grocery store. It’s become so bad there that I’ve actually been called “it” by one of the store managers. On the flip side though, I don’t want a symbol that’s easily recognizable to others, or that will out me as trans and potentially lead to more problems. As such, I don’t want to just use the transfeminism symbol (a combination of the feminism symbol of a fist within the female symbol and the trans* symbol), nor any other variation of the feminism symbol.
It’s something that I’ll think about and work on, but it’s something for us all to keep in mind. When coming up with labels or symbols for ourselves, we should keep in mind all that they represent and who we want to see that. I am technically bisexual, though I identify more as a lesbian than as bi simply because the personalities I’m attracted to are more common in women than men. I am also asexual, though with all the variations of that, I have had to explain how that label applies to me. I could go with labels like homoflexible, but that’s just another way of saying bisexual, essentially. Just as I keep in mind the labels I take for myself, I must keep in mind the symbols as well, especially with something as permanent as a tattoo.
Do any of you have any thoughts or stories on the subject?