This was originally written in October of 2009, so the tattoo that it refers to is now well over 2 years old now - but my feelings about it remain unchanged.
Cooler weather means warmer clothes; clothes that cover up my shoulders and bundle up my arms in cozy sweaters and long, protective jackets. I love fall and winter clothing, and I wear scarves even when it is hardly cold enough to justify them. But the delights of fall fashion have developed one particular drawback – I am not as aware of and connected to that equal sign seared into my back, that has been there for almost a year now.
The other morning I stood with a mirror in my hand just to observe it for a minute or two, and run my fingers over it again. I had a nightmare last week that somehow it had been damaged, had been taken away from me. Not even a full year and already it seems a part of myself I couldn’t bear to part with. Taking time to meditate on its perpetual presence immediately calms me, gives me a sense of stability, a reminder of who I am and what is important to me.
I’ll never forget the weekend when I finally got that tattoo. My sister and I had plotted it after the depressing passing of Prop 8, and the moment her brilliance thought it up I instantly knew it was the right thing to do. When it came time to do the deed, I felt a surprising sense of calm. Part of me had been expecting to feel fear, doubt; that when I would finally get right down to it, something would tell me “no.” But this never happened. And I didn’t even need someone to hold my hand – my sister was out getting money from an ATM. The tattoo artist called me over, I sat down, and without any ripple of doubt I got that beautiful equal sign etched into my back. The moment did not so much reveal itself as intense, tinted with religious fervor; it was just obvious, that this was the right thing for me to do. I had always wanted some relatively small, meaningful tattoo - something to represent an idea that I could trust not to lose my devotion to as the decades went by. But I could never think of anything before. And from the moment Michelle suggested it to the moment it was complete, I knew that this, this was the one thing I could count on to always have faith in.
Because the equal sign on the back of my shoulder is not just about gay rights, or the freedom to marry. It is about the idea of pluralism, of democracy and freedom of thought. It is my testament to the belief that any idea which allocates human dignity unequally amongst human beings is wrong – and that every idea that furthers our appreciation of the endless diversity and startling creativity of mankind is a beautiful thing. The reason that I like to stop, every now and then, and look calmly at my equal sign is not only because it reminds me of who I am, and who I want to be – but because it reminds me of who we all are.