Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nevus of Ota totally looks like eyeball tattoo

I have to admit that I’ve really been enjoying my scleral tattoos / eyeball tattoos from a purely narcissistic point of view. When I’m out in public, the small percentage of people who’ve said anything have been universally positive, with either amazed (or flirty) versions of “you have the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen”… It’s hard not to enjoy that flattery. But what’s interesting to me is that assuming I don’t just say thanks and be done with it, but instead mention that they’re tattooed, that usually surprises (and sometimes disturbs) the person. So that’s really fun too, to know that people assume it’s natural. One person has told me they thought it was some kind of strange contact lense, but I don’t think many people make that assumption with my eyes, although I suspect it’s common with people who have more solid eyes, especially all-black eyes.

Anyway, as I said most people assume my eyes are natural. And what many may not be aware of is that there’s a condition called the Nevus of Ota, which is sort of a birthmark/discoloration (although sometimes they don’t appear until puberty) that often affects skin, but can also affect the eye and is often actually limited to the eye. It can look a lot like my eye in fact. Here’s a collection of random images of that condition to compare. The top row is my eye, and the rest of people with the medical condition. Click to zoom of course.

By the way, usually there isn’t any risk or damage from this condition, although in rare cases it is linked to melanoma or glaucoma or intraoccular pressure increase — it’s really just a matter of whether it bothers the person aesthetically. There are some treatments for removing these color spots, which actually is making me reconsider my proclamation that eye tattoos are 100% irreversible. Let’s move that number to 99% perhaps. These have been treated by laser and other therapies very successfully and I suspect that some of that could be applied to voluntary scleral tattooing as well — and if you can laser these off, perhaps you can laser off a tattoo on the eye as well.

One of the ways I was able to assess some of the safety/risk factors to eyeball tattooing was by reading everything I could find on conditions like the Nevus of Ota, conjunctival tumors, and so on, because in some ways eyeball tattooing is essentially inducing aspects of these conditions, so by understanding the way the body handles one, we can make predictions about how it’s going to handle the other. If you want to gross yourself out, here’s a gallery of pictures of diseased eyes of various sorts — you can then google the terms that are relevant and open your mind.

Two pieces of sad news

I wanted to copy these two entries from ModBlog. I’ve been working like crazy on finishing my books. Things are going well on that. Both of these stories were very difficult to have to post about, especially Manny’s, not just because of what a warm and wonderful person he was, but because I can relate to his end of life struggle with an incurable and unpleasant disease.

RIP ManWoman

This morning at 4:38AM, the beautiful artist and [best] friend of the swastika ManWoman passed away peacefully after a battle with cancer. He lived a passionate and revolutionary life, and his impact on this community continues to grow. Thankfully after seeing his life’s work vindicated and bringing joy and open eyes to more than he ever could have imagined when it first began, he found himself in the terrible position of having a painful and debilitating disease with no cure, and he made the decision to stop treatment knowing it would mean the end of his suffering within days. If you see a swastika, that symbol of light and love, tattooed on someone, you can thank Manny. All of the spiritual and geometric tattooing that is exploding today owes his efforts a great deal of credit and thanks. Although he was often unknown by those he helped transform both physically and spiritually, like some benevolent and hopeful puppetmaster bard, he touched almost all of us in one way or another, and was one of the most influential guides in this community.

Manny was one of the few universally respected wisemen of this community, and his passing will hit a lot of people very hard and he will be deeply missed.

“I like to think that God is dreaming and we are the dream. I wake up in the morning and I say, gee, that was an interesting dream, but you know what? I’m gonna wake up from this life when I die and go, boy, that was an interesting dream! And I’ve had a really interesting life.”

But even though Manny has passed, he lives forever in not just his art and the retelling of his own story by others, but he lives forever in the millions of tattoos that carry his message and a small part of his soul. Manny cannot die, because his passion and his ability to inspire others to make the light he rediscovered a part of their lives as well gave him immortality.

In the video above are some of Manny’s final thoughts, recorded at the start of November, and below is a picture of my family with Manny’s family, taken in 2004. In the picture are Manny and his daughter Serena, myself, Rachel, and our daughter as well. He was just a wonderful, wonderful person. This post feels shamefully sparse, but in some ways I don’t even need to say a thing, because I don’t know anyone who met ManWoman that wasn’t completely captured by his warmth and charm.

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RIP Stalking Cat

This morning’s post comes with heavy news, and I’m in the terrible position of reporting the death of body modification icon Dennis Avner, often better known as Stalking Cat or just Tiger. A US Navy vet more recently working as a programmer and technician, Dennis identified strongly with his feline totem animals and in what he told me was a Huron traditional of actually adopting the physical form of ones totem, he transformed himself not just into a tiger, but a female tiger at that, blurring and exploring the gender line as much as the species line. Much of his work had been done by body modification pioneer Steve Haworth, who rebuilt Dennis’s ears, lip, nose, and face to resemble a tiger, including a multitude of transdermals that held artificial whiskers. In addition to being almost completely covered in tattoos, he’d also sculpted his face and body with extensive silicone work, had custom teeth built to emulate his inner nature, and regularly wore contact lenses and an artificial robotic tail.

Dennis’s boundary-breaking life was never an easy one, and as he was fond of saying, he “found fame, but never fortune”. A wonderful and complex person, he was at times as troubled as he was remarkable, and he recently took his own life at the age of 54 (August 27, 1958 – November 5, 2012). You can download an interview that Dennis and I did for BMEradio about ten years ago at this link: The photo below with Erik “The Lizardman” Sprague was taken at ModCon III by Philip Barbosa when Cat visited us here in Toronto.

(Additional pictures on BME:

Did you ever notice?

Caitlin noticed this today… Glenn Hetrick is like a goth Donald Trump.

Gender issues in piercing, archived interview

I just did a little interview with a Brazilian author. I’m always so paranoid these days that my pain level is distorting my ability to answer properly, be it by making my answers to shallow or be it because I’m in a constant terrible mood that I’m always fighting to keep from leaking out (my “stay calm” tattoo could not be more relevant). So I hope this turned out ok. Please don’t tell me that it is, I’m not saying this to fish for compliments — if you do feel like commenting, comments on the questions or your own counter-answers are always interesting.

*** Piercing as we know it started in the Los Angeles Gay S&M scene. Can you give a brief history of how women started to surface in the body piercing community?

I would not make that statement at all. There have always been piercing societies, documented back to the 1500s, and it has always been about both men and women. It is true that in America, the first piercing studios were opened by gay leather men, so sometimes people think this is where piercing came from, but that’s not true — it’s just who started the first businesses. They deserve a mountain of credit for that of course, but don’t think that it represented the whole piercing community. If you look at other areas, Europe for example, the piercing community had a heterosexual bias. Piercing has never been limited to just one demographic group, and has always been very diverse.

*** Are there any divergences in the way society views modified men and women? If there are, what are the most apparent?

The differences in the way society views modified men and women simply reflects the way society views men and women in general — to generalize, men are tough, women are sexy. Some parts of the body modification community are more socially aware, some are less. As I said, the body modification community is really just a slice of the larger world.

*** Body modification in most of it’s forms is commonly considered an expression of individuality, yet each day we see more and more people modified, many of them with the same tattoo motifs and same piercings. From your point of view, why is this and how did it start?

Humans like to tell themselves that they’re individuals, but we’re herd animals at our core, and are mortally frightened of actually being individuals. They love symbols of individuality but don’t really like being individuals most of the time. In any case, people getting the same modifications as others has always been a significant part of the mod world — if anything, it’s individualism that is new and atypical. Indigenous societies tended to get the same tattoos of course, and then here in the West tattooing has spent much of its history being flash-based, with people selecting their tattoos from a limited menu. Even much custom work draws from a limited iconography. But I think it’s also important to understand that most people don’t see tattooing as making themselves a true individual — they simply see it as separating themselves from the untattooed mainstream. And this attitude is rapidly disappearing as tattooing becomes common to the point of normalcy, making the majority of claims of individuality vapid, shallow, and ludicrous.

*** Tongue piercings and lower back tattoos (rudely called tramp stamps) are commonly associated with both femininity and promiscuity, do you consider this a coincidence?

I think it’s fairly obvious that the sort of person who sees such links is connecting tongue piercing to oral sex — sexual submission being the implication — and the lower back tattoo is linked to intercourse from behind — again, sexual submission being the implication. I don’t think anything here is surprising or coincidental — I’d say it’s quite obvious and mirrors the way the women are treated by men in general (and occasionally how they exhibit themselves to men).

*** In your view, has body modification, other than plastic surgery, been incorporated into the mainstream vision of beauty?

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that body modification is part of the mainstream view of beauty, but over the last decade a “tattooed vixen” archetype has certainly developed that markets “edgy” sexuality to the mainstream in a way that they see as both exciting and safe. Given the overall gentrification of body modification, and most subcultural communities due to the Internet overexposing every facet of human expression, this is completely unsurprising.