Dark Necessities of a Young Dragonfly
Sometimes it is hard to tell people exactly what you want. One of the more difficult things for me to say was “I want a tattoo.” When I was younger I was socialized to believe that having a tattoo would make me professionally unviable; it would lower my chances for getting a job. And so, like with many other things, I kept it in my heart. The thoughts of tattoos became another dark necessity; I knew I would never get one… And I went so far as to just say, “I don’t want one.” Even though it was always in my heart, the plans, always there. This dark space in my heart and mind has become so ingrained it is now a necessity for my existence. These become our dark necessities.
As I got older I looked at people with tattoos expressing themselves in that physical way, I looked with longing jealousy of someone who could forever imprint on their body the things that are meaningful to them. Eventually I started designing my thoughts of what I would do if I ever got a tattoo, which evolved many times over the years. However, I always knew I would never get a tattoo.
All my years of wanting to express myself and being unable to has given me a craving, a desire, a need to express myself in any and every way possible. My biggest frustration currently in my existence is not being listened to, and my biggest joy is working with people to collaborate on an idea. And so, I have always had grand ideas about how to express myself. In reality, I struggle with expressing myself clearly more than I can, ironically, express clearly.
I have thought about tattoos for a very long time as a means of expression. I’ve always wanted to ask people stories about their tattoos. Sometimes though, the story isn’t a happy one. It wasn’t until my birth mom that I felt comfortable asking about them. Eventually I asked more and more people their stories. What I learned, the stories I heard, were some of the most moving ones I have ever heard. It seems to be a class thing, or a professionalism thing, to look down on people with tattoos as impulsive or that they don’t think out their actions. I have found many cases where it is much the opposite. They are frequently some of the most thought out and planned actions I have ever seen.
Various symbols have been very important to my life. Some of you know a great deal of them but my overall plans for tattoos were limited. I could not allow myself to think about getting tattoos in any great detail. Mainly because I reinforced the thoughts “I don’t want tattoos”, “I never plan to get tattoos”, etc. Why did I say that? I am not an impulsive person and didn’t want to be seen in that light. Knowing what I know now has allowed me to rethink this position and I started recollecting these symbols and making tattoos an option again. Another part of my childhood dreams, returning to me.
I decided I was going to get one… So, I started concrete planning.
The Symbol of Darkness; The Symbol of Light
For the last year I have gone back to the drawing board. I knew the things that were important to me, but I realized the way I was thinking them out was somewhat impulsive. I was thinking about many independent sections of myself. Instead I realized, I am one self, and I should be represented in that way. And so I started thinking of an interconnected web of symbols. That, quickly got messy in my mind. Then I realized, tattoos in a way… are art. There is a creative freedom necessary for the tattoo artist.
So what should be first was the next question? I already had many symbols in my mind, but no large design. For me, it was an easy choice; the semicolon needed to come first.
In English, the semicolon is used to connect two full sentences that are closely related, but independent. For instance, “For me, it was an easy choice” and “The semicolon needed to come first” are full sentences; they are the same thought and connected at the hip. I did not want to put a full stop in between them. However, a comma is not appropriate as they are able to exist on their own. The semicolon is that middle ground. The semicolon represents a sentence that could have ended, but by the authors choice, did not.
The semicolon tattoo represents something larger. The semicolon tattoo represents a life that could have ended, but by the person’s choice, did not. It is in existence to bring awareness of depression, suicide, and every person who has struggled to continue their life though very dark times.
In my case, there is an even stronger meaning attached. Joseph, my former self was a full and complete person, now is Josephine is as well. One ended, and the other began, but they are both me. They are both one physical existence. One is my past, one is my present and future.
The Design of Dreams
The next question became: Where should it go? For that it became an idea of seeing the big picture. Strength. It was strength that continued my personal story, not courage, wisdom, or any other quality that I carry with me. It is going to be the head of a section that will symbolize strength. As I imagined out the whole picture, it clearly had to be on the back of my neck. I did not realize at the time that the back of the neck is a very painful place to get a tattoo.
My birth mom relates herself to a Phoenix, rising from the ashes of cancer. She pointed me toward her artist, who created an amazing Phoenix on my mom’s chest. That artist is Nikki Harris of The Living Gallery Tattoo Parlor. She took what little direction I gave her and made a wonderful piece of artwork. She brought my unattainable dream, of my first tattoo, to life. This is the story of the development of that piece of art.
I didn’t want just a semicolon, but I wanted something more than a semicolon. At this point my appointment was coming near. I had nothing… no ideas at all. So I started looking at what other people’s finished work. I emailed my tattoo artist six images of what I liked and didn’t like from each. Nikki then performed what could only be described, by me, as an artistic miracle.
I told her I didn’t really like butterflies, but I also wanted something unique. I was not opposed to words, but I have yet to find one that feels right. Most tattoos were words like “warrior” with the semicolon replacing the letter “i”. My issue with that is it then creates two words.
The Birth of the Dragonfly
The Dragonfly is an animal that can hide itself well or stand out when needed. Like the Dragonfly I have evolved to build the same tendencies… However, I find that most transgender people of my age range and older, follow a similar mold. We hid for a long time; hiding generated a darkness in our soul. For many of us, depression, sadness, and anxiety became ingrained into our existence. They became dark necessities. Then empowered by a community finally rallying around us and a couple very notable tragedies, as well as victories, many of my dragonfly siblings decided to stand out.
I would have never thought about the dragonfly but it is absolutely perfect. The dragonfly is all over the world and have different significance to each culture based on when they identified it. Also, it is commonly confused with the much more common damselfly. Dragonflies have their wings out; Damselflies have their wings up. Nikki somehow, without me communicating exactly what I needed, knew exactly what I wanted.
People who are transgender start their lives having to hide, and be transparent, in a society that doesn’t represent them. They hide their secrets in a dark space of their soul that becomes a dark necessity. Even from a young age knowing I was different provoked bullying and many other things. So eventually, I kept those feelings to myself. I hid them in place within me that became that Dark Necessity.
When I came out, I grew into a dragonfly. In many cultures the dragonfly exists as its own symbol and has multiple meanings. To come out as transgender I had to blossom into all the items that a dragonfly represents.
In almost every part of the world the dragonfly represents maturity and depth of character. The dragonfly represents this most frequently symbolized in a sudden change of perspective or self-realization. It seeks to represent a deeper meaning of life. It takes this kind of realization for many of us to come out as transgender. Many dragonflies fly together, hovering over the water; they find community but perceived to look down into the water, for answers. Transgender people have a way to do a similar thing and gather together in support group to help each other find answers.
The power and poise of a dragonfly is one beyond compare. The dragonfly is not unique that it can move in all six directions and hover but does so with far less effort, and with far greater speed. The dragonfly can move up to forty-five miles an hour if needed. Unlike other creatures that can move six directions, it requires less work for a dragonfly. The housefly needs to beat its wings one-thousand times per minute to achieve that; the mosquito, six-hundred times per minute. The dragonfly can do the same job with only thirty beats per minute. That is efficiency, and class… Trans people who come out, need to have efficiency in growing up. We don’t have the four years in high school to mature instead usually having to do it in one or two. But we still manage it, with passion, poise, and efficiency.
Trans people have to defeat self-created illusions. Another thing the dragonfly symbolizes is illusions. Particularly key to the dragonfly’s symbolism is defeating those illusions. Transgender people defeat their own illusions in time. Society wishes us to conform, so for many of us we spend a great deal of our life trying to conform… Our goal is to convince everyone, including ourselves, that we are the gender to which we were assigned.
Transgender people strive to live without regret. It is something I have had to take into my mentality. No more regrets. I don’t have time for regrets. The dragonfly has a very long life in its early stages but once mature has to make the most of the short lifespan it has left. Most of the dragonfly’s life is spent as a nymph or in an immature state. Once it begins to fly the dragonfly has a very short life and must make the most of every moment and live without regrets. And unlike a butterfly they are not easy to catch or identify if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
The eyes of the dragonfly are amazing. Roughly 80% of the dragonfly’s brain power is supposedly used just for sight. It is one of the few animals that can see three hundred and sixty degrees around it. It symbolizes the uninhibited vision of the mind. I will open my eyes to how I can further help people in my situation. I will open my eyes to the world, to the universe around me. I will open my eyes.
These are the symbols that Nikki helped permanently symbolize on me on that day. All things I will strive to carry with me for the rest of my life. When she first unveiled her design, I was dumbfounded. I was amazed. How did she know? All of the symbolism jumped into my mind. It was perfect to have a dragonfly grow out of the semicolon… And that… is what she did that day at The Living Gallery Tattoo Parlor.
The Return of Dark Necessities
Regret? Once I did it I loved it. Sure… It hurt. The back of my neck was a very sensitive spot to get my first tattoo. But, I do not regret it, and I doubt it ever will. I did have moments of doubt. Sitting there in the chair experiencing the pain for the first time. The people there with me saw it. There were parts where I was crying. There were parts where I wanted to say stop… and have it stay forever unfinished, a symbol of my failure to grow… But I pushed on, and I made it.
Even though I have grown through this, and experienced my birth into a dragonfly, I still need that dark place in my heart and mind. I have realized that to try to remove it from my life is impossible. If I cannot be sad about something, if I do not feel like I need to hide something, it gets replaced quickly in the dark corners of my heart. If the feeling of wanting to be angry goes away, it will come back directed at something else. These negative things are core to my beliefs, my feelings, my heart, and my brain. These Dark Necessities are part of my mind. They are likely a part of the design of many people of my kind.
Darkness, however, isn’t always bad. I may fall, but when I do, it makes an impact. It makes a change. I believe Darkness, unlike the lyric, in the song below helps the soul to shine.
I have a lot of love to give now… I dedicate my writings to writings of love, but there will always be darkness. Dark Necessities are part of my design. Do you want this love of mine? Darkness helps the soul to shine. Would you like to know my mind? Would you like to know my kind?
My kind are beautiful mixes of light and dark. We always carry with us the pain of our past. Some of us seek to ignore that past forever, some of us embrace it. Our minds are plagued frequently with depression, anxiety, but also great love. We are here, all you have to do is find us, and reach out to us with love and we will join you; however, if you reach out to us in hate we will vanish, until the day we can force the love we need.