Tattoos | ASL Ponderings


Guess I’m kind of doing once a week now? *groans* I want to try to post more than that, but I just haven’t been feeling it lately.

Hello and welcome. It’s been a while since my last ASL Ponderings. So here’s a new one! Today, I want to talk about tattoos. The idea for this video came from a message I got back in June. I responded to them in their messages, but I thought I would go ahead and make a full video about it for those who may have the same question. The question is below.

TEXT: hi! i know this is probably weird, but i have a question about signing and tattoos. in a non professional capacity (im not an interpreter, asl teacher, etc.) would tattoos (on the arms, possibly hands/fingers) be distracting to someone watching me sign? thanks + i love your channel!That is a great question! And before I discuss, I want to be CLEAR that whatever I say here is MY personal opinion, MY personal preference. What I say here may not be the same for another signer. They may have the completely opposite preference of me, but what I’m going to say here is my opinion only. Okay? Let’s get to the question.

To be general, I don’t care if you have arm tattoos. You can have tattoos anywhere you want. I don’t care. But if you want to be considerate about signers and think of that when you get a tattoo, or what kind of tattoo you plan to get: I’m generally not bothered by large ones or sleeves. It doesn’t bother me. Medium to large, those generally don’t really bother me.

Let’s make this simpler – the smaller it is, the more distracting it is.

Let me explain why. For me personally, it’s how my brain works. If I can see a tattoo, and immediately process what it is, it’s easier for my brain to ignore. But if it’s a small tattoo, like you know, semicolons, or a small moon, a few stars, whatever. Like on the side of the wrist, or the fingers. Fingers are the most distracting for me. Especially if it’s like an arrow tattoo on the inside of the middle finger, or something like that. My brain will pick up on that little thing that “should not be there” and it will try to figure out what that is. It will continue to be distracted by it until I go, “okay that’s a tattoo. Fine, I can ignore it now.”

Interesting thing, if the tattoo is on the inside of the forearms, it’s not as distracting as something on the outside. Part of that is because when you sign, you tend to not see the insides, unless I turn them out, or while fingerspelling. But most of the time, when you sign, you don’t really see the inner forearms that much. A good example: a good friend has tattoos on the inside wrists. It doesn’t bother me. Another good example: an outer forearm that’s not that distracting. One of my good friends has a tattoo running down the bone by her elbow. She has a reason for it there, but I’m not distracted by it because I tend to be able to see what it is–it’s text–read it, ah it’s a tattoo, okay, move on. After that, my brain kind of ignores it. So… If you have a tattoo that’s very detailed, or small, my brain will go, “I need to know what it is NOW!”

There are plenty of deaf people who have tattoos on their arms, neck, visible places. So it’s not forbidden, not allowed in the deaf community to have tattoos on your arms. That’s ridiculous. Really, I don’t care. Do whatever you want. Just be aware that certain kinds of tattoos may be really distracting to deaf people, or signers.

I personally don’t have any tattoos right now, but if I did get one–or more, whatever–I would put them in locations that are easy to cover up, like my upper arm, on my leg, chest, back, whatever. I personally prefer that. I won’t put them on my arms, but if you want to do that, go ahead!

I might want to add this. If you work in a professional capacity, maybe as an interpreter, a teacher that signs, you may want to consider putting tattoos in places that won’t be distracting or won’t be that visible. Now, I know, it really depends on your workplace. Some workplaces say do whatever you want. I personally don’t care if interpreters have tattoos, I think it’s cool. Often, as an interpreter, if you have tattoos on your arms, you may be asked to wear longsleeves to cover them up. Just be aware of that if you work as an interpreter and want to get tattoos. Just keep that in consideration.

I think that’s it from me? I may have missed something, this wasn’t scripted. I was just throwing out my thoughts as I went, so… If I did miss something, and I think of it, I will add it in the comments. Let me know what you think of this. Do you agree with me? Or no, NO tattoos, period. Or… whatever. Let me know!

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Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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