Piercing and Pride
Piercing is gay, and has always been. Piercing is queer, and has traditionally embraced those marginalized because of sexual orientation or gender expression. Now, more than ever before, we need to lean into LGBTQ+ history—especially the “T”—as we celebrate piercing and PRIDE.
(Image from 2007 Seattle PRIDE, via Flickr.)
Piercing as we experience it today is a product of gay culture. Modern piercing started to infiltrate the larger public consciousness alongside the AIDS crisis, Act Up, and the wave of gay rights activism in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Piercing was there as BDSM started creeping into the mainstream. It was there hand-in-hand with the new wave of pro-sex feminism.
As a studio, we haven’t always flaunted our queer bonafides. I’ve always thought, “of course we’re gay-friendly; we’re a piercing studio for fuck’s sake.” But that exposes a complacency, one that is no longer tenable in the current political climate. We’re here. We’re queer, and we’re going to be making more noise about it.
for pride month this year can straight people focus less on "love is love" and more on "queer and trans people are in danger"— Claire Willett (@clairewillett) June 9, 2022
Queer activism in the United States is commonly accepted as starting with the Stonewall Riots, a protest against police brutality that was by many accounts started by a black transgender woman. As this movement has gained momentum over the last fifty-plus years, not everyone has benefited equally. Trans people, and especially Black (and Brown) trans activists, have not benefited from the movement that they started, historically being excluded from progress made by their predominantly white and cis allies as the history of the movement continues to be told as a white, queer narrative. As the piercing (and tattoo) industry reckons with the abysmal number of non-white faces included in our ranks, we need to acknowledge that the queer liberation movement, in its fight for acceptance, has a similarly long history of excluding the trans members of its own community, especially the Black and Brown ones.
As we celebrate PRIDE, we must be inclusive of those excluded, those left behind as the movement strove for respectability and acceptance—often at the expense of those deemed not representative of the new, more palpable (i.e., cis and white) face that was put forward. And now, as the trans community becomes a lightning rod for the predatory politics of the right, it’s even more important that we fight for everyone under the LGBTQ+ umbrella—but especially the “T”.
While a lot of news has been focused on Florida and the draconian politics personified by Governor Ron DeSantis, almost a third of trans teenagers nationwide live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care. We need to be aware: this is happening everywhere. With the well-documented rates of depression, victimization, and suicidality in gender-non-conforming youth, this is a life-or-death struggle for many..
Last April Pennsylvania’s House approved a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from competing in girls’ school sports, and last June (last year’s PRIDE month) the state’s GOP-controlled Senate passed its own version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Both bills died (at least one because of a veto by PA’s newly elected Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro), but just how far these got show how these issues are not local to Florida, or even more conservative “red states.” They are everywhere, even in the politically progressive urban enclaves of Philadelphia and Baltimore where our studios are located.
Local votes matter. Newly elected Maryland Governor Ray Moore was recently commended for signing into law HB360, also known as the Trans Health Equity Act. It will require Medicaid, to provide coverage of gender affirming care to program enrollees beginning in 2024. This is one political bright spot, but is seemingly a drop in the ocean. As of this writing there have been over 550 anti-trans bills introduced nationally, with more coming every day.
As we go through PRIDE month in 2023, we need to both celebrate and activate. Vote and get involved. Vote with your wallets too, and put your money where it matters. This is not only supporting businesses that support our community, both small and large, but by supporting organizations doing the larger work. This year, Infinite is donating to Philadelphia’s The Attic and Baltimore’s Safe haven, and we invite our local clients to do the same.
The mission of The Attic Youth Center is “to create opportunities for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth to develop into healthy, independent, civic-minded adults within a safe and supportive community and to promote the acceptance of LGBTQ youth in society.” Since 1993, the Attic has provided support to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ youth with life skills programming, social activities, counseling, case management, and more.
Baltimore Safe Haven is Baltimore City’s trans-led drop-in wellness center. It provides “TLGBQ people currently living in survival mode with opportunities to thrive.” It started 2018 with “a vision of creating a community and a resource that those in the TLGBQ community, particularly black transgender women who were living in survival mode, could rely on.”
So celebrate PRIDE with us. Join us for Philadelphia’s PRIDE March on Sunday, June 4. In Baltimore, the Trans Pride March and Block Party is happening this weekend, and for the second year we’ll be manning a booth at Baltimore’s PRIDE of Mount Vernon on Saturday, June 17. We’ll be giving away stickers and we’ll have stock of last year’s “QUEER” t-shirts, muscle shirts, and crop tops. This year, we’ll also have a reprint of our fabulous, unisex, great-on-every-body booty shorts! If you see us, come by and say “HI.” If you can’t make it, you can still get PRIDE swag from the studio or our online store.
Happy PRIDE everyone. Celebrate this year as though lives depend on it—because many do.