I've noticed over the last year or two, lots of posts in the Mormon fbook-social-media-blogosphere regarding "Tattooed Mormon Girl." I'll go ahead and refer to her as TMG from here on out. I think that [lots of] Mormons love TMG because she is visual proof that a person's past can be exactly that—just the past. That anyone can be clean, repent, and leave an old life of sin behind.
TMG gives Mormons [the ones who aren't so uptight and un Christ-like as to shun her outright for covering parts of her temple with [IMO] beautiful artwork] the chance to say, "see? We include even someone who looks super worldly on the outside, but what really matters is her faith, yadda yadda." The reason this bothers me, is because it is ultimately a phony sentiment. So many pat themselves on the back for "looking past" her tattoos. So you can interact with a tattooed human, and not reduce her to the ink on her arm? BFD. Congratulations. She's a damned convert, and you're not an awful human being.
The convert part is sort of what gets me. Because seriously—you aren't a good person for not judging her for having tattoos. You're just not a shitty person. Because ask yourself this—what if she weren't a convert? What if she were the same in every respect—spiritual, faithful, intelligent, not-super-evil, etc, but yet had chosen to "graffiti" her temple anyway? How would you look at her then?
She wouldn't be on the cover of LDS living mag, that's for certain.
I read a blog post written by her husband today that really got under my skin. I don't know why I read such things, and I really don't know why I even care. The most bothersome line was as follows:
"How do you look past the tattoos she has, knowing that people will stare?' Some would even applaud me on marrying her, because of her past and how her past is so visual. I mean really? Serious? Hearing that use to bother me. Not once have I ever noticed or even cared that she has tattoos, I just don't see them when I look her. Sure, I know they are there, but its not something I have ever cared about."
Here is the thing. I get the point he is trying to make—that her tattoos do not define her. That he looks on her heart, rather than at her skin. But what he is in reality doing, is not completely accepting his wife for how she is. If he truly loved all of her, he would very much see them, and love them, because they are a part of her [and they are actually quite beautiful.] They aren't merely relics of a wicked past. They are a part of who she was, who she is, and what made her the person she is today. Don't get me wrong—I'm not questioning the guy's love or devotion to his wife. I simply think that he is misguided in the way he is presenting TMG.
Instead of being an actually really valuable, progressive teaching lesson: "I love my wife. She has tattoos. Also, she is an incredible person. Her tattoos don't change that, and maybe even add to it," he is reinforcing the very stigma that people who applaud TMG are accidentally not overcoming at all. Instead of teaching "people can have tattoos, and still be good people, and good Mormons, and it isn't your damned business to judge them anyway," he is teaching "people who got tattoos in their past can be good people and good Mormons, after they repent, and once we can get ourselves to just ignore them and not look at them."
The lesson is really this: nothing has changed. Tattoos are still stigmatized, and people with them still stigmatized. Only now some people, instead of looking at them as currently sinful, look at them as proud battle scars of sin. Proof that bad people can become good.
So please stop patting yourself on the back for not judging TMG. If you can get to a point where you can look at her and think, "that is some beautiful artwork on that awesome Mormon girl's arms," then go ahead and start patting. Because maybe, just maybe, you're starting to set aside meaningless dogma, and getting to the heart of what the gospel is really about—loving one another.