Tattoos can be pretty cool. Especially when they have a pretty cool story behind them. While I don’t have one myself (I just could never decide on a design so I figured I’d just abandon the idea altogether), I appreciate them as both a form of art and self-expression. I have a few friends who have tattoos. And a few of them are related to stuttering. In fact, I designed a few of them without even knowing it! Let me introduce you to my inked friends and their stuttering related tattoos:

Pam Mertz really liked my Ti-Ger character!

The producer of the Make Room For The Stuttering blog and the Women who Stutter podcast and I have been friends since the early days of my podcast. Pam already had two tattoos when I had created my Ti-Ger cartoon character. She liked the idea of expressing her stuttering in tattoo form and liked the design of Ti-Ger and the stuttering analogy of empowerment that associated with him. Pam explaines, “The tiger illustrates how I’ve tamed my stuttering, much like a (baby) tiger can be tamed if you lean into it and play with it, instead of showing fear. That’s what I did for years – I was afraid of my stuttering. I’ve tamed that fear and my tiger reminds me every day how far I’ve come.”

IMG_1016Ti-Ger proudly smiles from Pam’s left ankle. “People would ask me what the tiger meant (some thought it was a cat!) I always proudly tell the story of how for so long stuttering controlled me, but doesn’t any longer.” What a great way to talk to people about your stuttering and spread a little awareness, too!

Later on, Pam decided to get a fourth tattoo. “I wanted to celebrate my “stutterrockstar” my twitter handle, blog url and the fact that I really felt like a rockstar with my stuttering after so many years of feeling oppressed and depressed with stuttering. I wanted “stars” as my 4th and final tattoo, and that’s what I have – 3 perfectly formed blue stars, each a little bigger than the one before it, symmetrically placed where I can see it every day but that I can also keep it hidden when need be, for professionalism purposes. The stars remind me of my inner rockstar and that I am as proud of as I am my tiger.”

Alexander Burday

Alexander's tattoo.My friend Alexander sports a number of tattoos with his first being related to stuttering and its “overall impact on self concept, self respect and the internal struggles with depression and anxiety.” Alexander explains that his tattoo is geared towards breaking away from all of that and “going towards something better and more attractive.”

Taking up the majority of his right thigh, Alexander’s tattoo is quite intricate. It looks like two women embracing a man. “The two women don’t really exist, you can see the center character’s arm going through the good/pure characters body. Also, the grip around the neck is loosening up to show that, the negative/dark character no longer has a stranglehold, but it’s more of a feeling of being dragged down rather than a physical presence that is dragging down.”

Alexander further explains, “For some, like gender, sexual orientation, physical appearances, other things like stuttering or neurological issues can overpower many of the other ‘redeeming qualities’ a person has and can make a person perceive themselves differently than other people do. For example, people would always tell me, ‘you don’t even really stutter that bad’ and I was athletic, and did well in school, was social etc., so people couldn’t really understand why I was depressed or had all this social anxiety and had an overall negative self concept/self perforation.”

Jasmine Penney also liked my Ti-Ger character

The above mentioned Ti-Ger Analogy can be powerfully motivating and empowering. It immediately resonated with me when my friend, Greg Snyder, created it a few years ago. I created a tiger cartoon and website to spread the word and little did I know that an 18 year old in a nearby city had the analogy hanging everywhere around her. “Whether it was my dorm wall at school, in one of my binders, or on my apartment wall, I always had it somewhere”, explains Jasmine Penney, now 24. “Every chance I had to look up from what I was doing, I would look at it and look at Franky Banky, struggling, with his ‘tiger’.”
Jasmine attended her first NSA conference this past July as a someone who wasn’t accepting her stuttering upon arrival but left a transformed person. “For me to feel accepting of myself wholeheartedly in five days is pretty amazing. I came home, stuttering like a rock star, and not apologizing or feeling bad for myself because I had a stutter. I then looked back at the analogy and realized I had reached a point in the analogy where Franky Banky is holding up his “tiger” and says he is proud of it.”
And that is the image Jasmine had tattooed on her ankle. “I decided to get a tattoo on my ankle of our good friend Franky and his ‘Tiger’ with the word “embrace” underneath; every time I see that, it provides me with external motivation and internal motivation to realize that “my tiger” really isn’t that bad and things could be a whole lot worse. Plus, Franky Banky and his tiger friend are adorable, but I wasn’t prepared to get something stuttering empowering related on my body until I was fully accepting of myself. And here I am. Totally 100% accepting of the fact that I have a stutter and if Franky Banky can accept it, I can too.”

Over to you

Do you have a stuttering related tattoo? I’d love to hear about it! Share your story in the comments below.