Tattoos

Resonance Frequency exists because a few years back I came to realize the power myth, stories, media have over my life. This realization dawned on me when I was having my first tattoo done. It is inspired by a novel that changed the way that I saw myself, and gave me the words to articulate needs and desires I had never been able to express before. That tattoo was followed-up a few years later with another one, and then another. Each one inspired by a different story within a different medium. While there’s a lot of fantastic media out there, a few have hit that resonance frequency to the point where my life wouldn’t look the same had I not found them.

I refer to the tattoos that I wear as ‘the pantheon’, a display of the select few that stood out above the rest. Each one a symbol that says something about me. They are my way of communicating something with the world. Symbols are useful in that they can convey a wealth of meaning through a simple image, even if one may need to be familiar with them before they can understand. It’s interesting to see who understands them, and who sees them as foreign/ strange. That’s part of the fun.

 

Larkspur Marque

Larkspur Marque

Larkspur Marque
Inspiration: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Date: August, 2009
Symbolizing: Surviving transition and embracing who I am.

I was twenty-one years old, had dropped out of college, moved back to Toronto, and hadn’t a clue of who I was. I was truly exploring my identity for the first time, and was deeply ashamed of some of my needs and desires. Especially my sexuality, and being a masochist. A friend suggested Kushiel’s Dart off-handily one night, and I found a copy the next day.

Phèdre (the novel’s protagonist) became the first rolemodel I ever had. A woman who yields, but never breaks. Who is a masochist, but unashamed of who she is; having an unbreakable will, despite masochism often being portrayed as weakness, submissiveness. She was someone I could relate to. I don’t have the ability to orgasm, or feel sexual pleasure. Phèdre’s gift and curse is to feel no pleasure without pain, and no pain without pleasure. I had to embrace my masochism in order to feel intimacy, and as such clearly relate to Phèdre’s annoyance when a lover is told to “be gentle”.  Suffering as a whole is something Phèdre finds, on a level, pleasurable; same goes for me. While our circumstances aren’t alike, seeing someone (even fictional) being in a unique and similar situation helped give be a guide in how to embrace and develop my sexuality.

Phèdre's Marque

Phèdre’s Marque

Phèdre has a tattoo of a rose on her back, recognizing that she had paid her debts (which she was born into) and gained her freedom. The tattoo/ ‘marque’ was done in to be clearly inspired by the source material, while adhering to the rules. Each marque is unique, each one represents one’s freedom, and paid for by one’s own funds. I chose a larkspur because it’s a flower associated with summer, the period I came out as a transsexual and began to uncover who I was. The tattoo was done shortly after my sex change, which liberated me from a burden I had carried my whole life. It was also the first thing I ever bought with money I earned myself.

Kushiel’s Dart also introduced me to violet prose, excellently written first-person narratives, and introduced me to the power of myth. My own work, especially around that time, became heavily influenced by Jacqueline Carey’s style, imagery, and themes.

Kushiel’s Dart inspired me to find strength in what many would consider a weakness, taught me how to first navigate my very difficult and confusing sexuality, and gave me a word that helped me communicate who I am: ‘Anguissette’. My marque now serves to remind me of that difficult transition, the freedom I’ve gained, and that I am strong even if it doesn’t always feel that way. This is the tattoo that started it all.

 

Phoenix

Phoenix

Phoenix
Inspiration(s): Doctor Who, Greek Mythology
Date: May, 2013
Symbolizing: Resilience, renewal, and rebirth.

Doctor Who came into my life shortly after I suffered an abrupt end to a twisted, bizarre, but intimate relationship. By chance I watched the first episode the night things ended. I had no idea it would be exactly what I needed.

In brief, The Doctor is a phoenix. Someone who literally bursts into flame (in the revived series) and is reborn anew upon his death. The show deals with themes of loss, where The Doctor develops relationships and enters stages in his life which are always different, and always fleeting. He struggles to accept this reality, and to learn that while honouring what you’ve lost is important, you must always look towards the dawn. No matter how hard that may be. Seeing The Doctor go through that all, taught me how to grieve.

The relationship which ended hadn’t been the first time I felt I had lost everything. Mentioned above, I once dropped out of college and moved back across the whole country. I later struggled with Post-Traumatic StressDisorder stemming from a emotionally, sexually abusive relationship. I even suffer from a mental illness that makes my life a constant series of rising and falling times. I have clawed my way back up the cliff-side after having fallen off of it so many times, and the image of a phoenix began to resonate stronger and stronger with each cycle.

I got the phoenix on my chest so that every time I look in the mirror I am forced to remember that I will rise again. Knowing that there will be times throughout my whole life when everything crashes down, when a part of my life ends, a loved one or relationship is lost, and that I must be reminded that I can and will rise again. A phoenix rises in a burst of flames, as I always rise with a fury. I revel in the heat of the moment, feel as if I can accomplish anything; that the sky’s the limit. Fire is a powerful symbol; a destructive force which both turns a forest to ash, while clearing deadwood so that something new can grow. A phoenix is not a subtle symbol, so it had to be on my chest, front and centre.

Doctor Who and the phoenix go hand in hand. Nothing lasts forever, but that is life, we wear our scars and carry on. Born from the ashes of our past, they are forever a part of us. The tattoo is a message sent from my past self to myself now and in the future that I will rise again, as well as a symbol of something I will struggle with my whole life. Perhaps, a way to own it.

 

l'Cie Brand

l’Cie Brand

l’Cie Brand
Inspiration: Final Fantasy XIII
Date: February, 2014
Symbolizing: Control over my fate.

Final Fantasy XIII is the story of six people who are given a fate (Focus) by a god (fal’Cie), one which involves the massacre of  millions in service to the god’s machinations, and how they refuse to give in and ultimately fight back, forging their own path.* One of two central themes is free will, and the power of the human spirit (the theme being loss). They fight against the fal’Cie, even as they wear the brand which symbolizes the unjust fate those very fal’Cie tried to sentence them to.

*All while working through their interpersonal and internal conflicts which is the emotional heart of the story, and by far its strongest facet.

When a fal’Cie chooses someone to serve them, that person is branded a l’Cie. Depending on which part of the world that fal’Cie is from, the brand is that of a Pulse or Sanctum l’Cie. The central characters in Final Fantasy XIII are branded Pulse l’Cie, which is the style I have. In essence, it’s a slave brand, but one that is worn by people who defy their would-be masters and fight to live the lives that they want. Throughout the story, the l’Cie brand changes from the mark of a slave, to the mark worn by people who challenge the gods and fate itself. There is something very powerful in that.

The l’Cie brand grows over time, ever present, and always threatening to enter the thirteenth and final stage where it will destroy that person and take control of their body/ form. It is a reminder that someone must stay focused on the task at hand, or risk a fate worse than death. All the while, giving that person abilities to complete that Focus that surpass any normal human. Mine is the twelfth stage, a reminder to stay focused but that it’s never too late to turn things around.

My whole life I have had to fight for control over my being. My body threatened to make me something I am not, so I transition and made it in my image. I began to work out regularly in order to sculpt it even farther, becoming so much stronger than I was. My mind suffered from PTSD, and still struggles with mental illness, always threatening to turn on me even if it has allowed me to do do so much. When my mind is with me I feel that there is nothing I can’t accomplish, and start achieving my goals very rapidly.

The l’Cie brand is on my right shoulder. A l’Cie brand can be placed anywhere, and I had mine placed exactly where my favourite character had hers. Oerba Yun Fang became another rolemodel for me. A very fit, very confident woman who would “tear down the sky” for the one she loves. I see a lot of who I want to be in Fang, I wish I was her. She deals with doubts, depression, anger, fear, all of which I’m constantly struggling with. Fang is an example of someone who is flawed, but strong. A woman who learns that she doesn’t have to go it alone, that her friends and loved ones are there to help her as she’s there to help them. My views of relationships changed too. Fang’s are far more healthy than mine ever were, and she gave me a way to play with the idea of  being attracted to people my own age and how to interact with them. I also relate to her coming off intimidating (and abrasive at times), but actually being a very kind soul. In many ways, she’s someone who I want to emulate.

The l’Cie brand is my way of showing my resolve to live the life I want, even if I have to fight against my mind and body to do it. It reflects how I have changed my fate, the life I live today is nothing like the one first laid out before me. Positioned exactly where Fang had hers as an allusion to the kind of person I want to be.

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