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The 10 best LGBTQ+ Tattoo Artists in San Diego, New York City, Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, and beyond!

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Jul 22, 2023

The 10 best LGBTQ+ Tattoo Artists in San Diego, New York City, Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, and beyond!

Let’s just say it how it is: We modern gays love tattoos. For many LGBTQ+ people, tattoos are a way to reclaim our bodies, express ourselves, and flag our identities to other people in the community. 

Tattoos have long been symbols of identity, belonging, and kinship. Tattoos allow queer people to dictate their identities aesthetically outside the binary norms of gender and sexuality. 

In the United States, tattoos have been stigmatized or labeled as unprofessional, but in many indigenous and ancient cultures, they were markings of growth, healing, and cultural connection.

In the past fifty years, both LGBTQ+ rights and tattoos have been on the rise, as evidenced by more and more queer tattoo artists. 

Although tattoos have long been associated with various subcultures, the tattoo industry is still majority white, cisgender, and male-dominated. It can be hard to know exactly how to find an LGBTQ-friendly tattoo studio near you. 

However, many LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming tattoo artists are carving out space for themselves and changing the culture in tattoo studios. Whether you’re looking to get the iconic rainbow flag or a more subtle gay tattoo, here are 10 queer tattoo artists and LGBTQ+ friendly tattoo shops breaking barriers across the globe.

1. Kari Barba at Outer Limits Tattoo in Long Beach, CA

This wouldn’t be an article on LGBTQ+ tattoos if I didn’t introduce you to the tattoo icon Kari Barba. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Kari Barba is a badass tattoo artist who has been practicing her art for over 40 years. 

She is notorious for breaking barriers in the male-dominated industry by advocating for and hiring female tattoo artists since 1983. She was also one of the first tattoo artists to wear gloves, thus revolutionizing the modern tattoo hygiene practices we know and love today. 

She also owns Outer Limits Tattoo, the oldest continuously operating tattoo shop in the US, which opened in 1927. Outer Limits is a gorgeous world-class tattoo shop in Long Beach with its own tattoo museum collection. Barba makes it known that homophobes, racists, and misogynists are not welcome at her tattoo shop. 

She is best known for her illustrative realism style and is currently focusing on large-scale black and grey pieces. Her books are currently open, so do yourself a favor and book a tattoo with Kari Barba now. 

A kitten and cat tattoo from LGBTQIA+ tattoo artist Kari Barba

Source: Instagram

2. Mars Hobrecker at Somewhere, New York, NY

Looking for your next transgender tattoo idea? Check out Mars Hobrecker, a queer and transgender tattoo artist in Brooklyn known for his large-scale tattoos of gay wrestlers, trans angels, cowboys, and circus freaks. 

You’ve probably seen his iconic work if you’ve ever been to a queer party in New York. He makes it a point to draw diverse bodies so that people feel represented and like they can see themselves in his work.

He is predominantly a “flash” artist, meaning that most of his tattoos are based on pre-drawn designs that you can select from during your appointment. At all times, he has anywhere between 150-200 unique pieces available to choose from. Join the queer party and get your next queer tattoo from Mars. 

Source: Instagram

3. Vegas Ink at TRU Tattoo Shop in Toronto, Canada

These days it can be hard to find an LGBTQ+ tattoo studio, especially for people of color. Cue TRU tattoo studio in Tkaronto (the Mohawk word for Toronto), Ontario. Vegas Ink is a Black, queer tattoo artist and co-owner of TRU who specializes in color tattoos on dark and melanated skin.

The TRU tattoo shop is a one-of-a-kind BIPOC-owned and operated tattoo shop in Toronto whose objective is “to create a safer, sustainable, and functional space for Black, Indigenous, racialized, queer, and trans tattoo artists.” 

The Rose Underground is a collective of Black tattoo artists at TRU that has helped push for anti-racist education, including techniques for tattooing on Black/dark skin and decolonial practices in the tattoo industry in Canada and beyond. If you’re living or visiting Toronto, make sure to check out TRU Tattoo.

A simple LGBT tattoo reading “queer” in black ink

Source: Instagram

4. Shannon Perry at Tattoo Pizzazz in Seattle, Washington

Glamorous and campy bisexual tattoo lovers in the Pacific Northwest all come to one person to get their ink done, and that’s Shannon Perry. She is known in Capitol Hill for her eccentric, hyper-colorful, line-based tattoos of celebrity portraiture and iridescent gemstones.

She recently opened a tattoo shop with her partner in West Seattle, where you can book ink from either. 

They also offer a 25% off discount to folks who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) to make their shop more accessible and inclusive. 

A tattoo portrait of Dolly Parton by Shannon E Perry

Source: Instagram

5.Tiaret Renee at Amenitee in New York, NY & Los Angeles, CA

    Tiaret Renee is a queer Black tattoo artist who runs a studio space called Amenitee and travels between Los Angeles and New York. 

    They are breaking boundaries in their identity and tattoo portfolio by incorporating diverse elements of nature and color. 

    Amenitee is designed to be a space of healing that seeks to bring “the sacredness back into the ancient art form of tattooing.”

    A simple LGBT tattoo of leaves extending from a large black belly by Tiaret Renee

    Source: Instagram

    6. Uve Rivera at Sacrum in Barcelona, Spain, and Sacred Art Tattoos, London, UK

    Uve Rivera is a queer Spanish tattoo artist who works at Sacrum Deluxe in Barcelona and occasionally guest spots at Sacred Art Tattoos in London. 

    They are known for their bold line work and intersectional queer imagery, whether it’s a leather daddy from the BDSM scene or a queer interpretation of a tarot card.

    “There’s a million reasons why I love being a queer tattoo artist,” Rivera says. “But if I had to choose one, the best is collaborating with other people to reclaim their bodies. Getting to share that magical moment when they are one step closer to regaining ownership of themselves.” 

    A gay tattoo by Uve Rivera of a Monstera leaf reading “Ride My Sadness Away”

    Source: Instagram

    7. Leticia Bomtempo at Queen Tattoo Co. in Jacksonville Beach, FL

    Nothing says queer resistance like being an LGBTQ+ tattoo shop owner in Florida today. Leticia Bomtempo is a Brazilian-born lesbian tattoo artist who owns the Queen Tattoo Co. in Jacksonville Beach. 

    The shop is open 7 days a week from 9 am-8 pm and offers walk-ins when available. 

    They have a killer roster of tattoo artists to choose from, including A Thomas, who is a tattoo makeup artist and saline tattoo removal specialist. Does anyone need their eyebrows permanently on fleek?

    A queer color portrait tattoo by Leticia Bomtempo

    Source: Instagram

    8.Jaylind Ezili in Houston, Texas

    Jaylind Ezili (a.k.a. Warmth of the Sun Tattoo) is a queer Black trans tattooer who works out of their home studio in Houston, Texas. 

    They make it a point to tattoo all skin tones, bodies, and genders. They are constantly trying to break barriers of anti-blackness in a whitewashed tattooing industry. They specifically prioritize floral work, nature, ornamental, animal portraits, and Japanese work. 

    They believe tattooing is deeply ancestral, and it can be a way for Black people to tap into their global lineage through skin marking. 

    Ezili reminds me that “tattooing on dark skin is nothing new. It’s been around since the beginning, all over the world.” Next time you’re in Texas, make sure to check out Jaylind for your next queer tattoo idea. 

    El sol tattoo by queer tattoo artist Jaylind Ezili.

    Source: Instagram

    9. Ricki Proper at A Proper Tattoo, Chicago, IL 

    Ricki Proper stumbled into the tattoo world. They have been tattooing full-time since 2018 and currently work out of their own private tattoo studio, A Proper Tattoo, in Chicago, Illinois. 

    They mainly focus on floral, botanical, and nature-inspired pieces—truly a classic! 

    When asked how tattoo shops can better provide safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ clients, they broke it down clearly. “Walking through the door and not already being on edge that you’re the only queer, trans, or non-binary person in the room is huge,” Proper said. 

     Proper believes that the best way for LGBTQ tattoo shops to be the most affirming is for queer and trans folks to open up and start their own businesses. 

    While they recognize that opening up your own practice can be challenging, Proper hopes to see more artist collectives and crowdfunding campaigns to support these initiatives.

    A floral headpiece tattoo by Ricki Proper, a transgender tattoo artist in Chicago

    Source: Instagram

    10. Jamie King at FORT, UK

    Speaking of crowdfunding campaigns, have you heard of FORT? Jamie King (a.k.a. Boy King) is one of six artists who recently opened up the all-trans-run co-op tattoo studio in London. 

    FORT is a crowdfunded, non-profit queer tattoo space that also hosts life drawing classes, workshops, and film screenings that are low-cost or free. 

    FORT is focused on doing things differently in the tattoo industry—especially for the trans community. They use a piece of software in their digital consent forms that verify people’s age without having to keep physical copies of IDs, which may have mismatched photos, deadnames, or incorrect genders for trans clients. 

    Jamie says that while studios do need to hire more under-represented artists, they need to do it for the right reasons. “They want to look cool or want queer clientele, but what are they doing to make the industry more accessible?” 

    FORT London is talking the talk and walking the walk, so make sure to check out their space in Hatton Garden next time you’re in London.

    FORT’s logo of transgender men tying each other’s boots.

    Source: Instagram

    No matter how you identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, a queer tattoo artist is out there waiting for you!

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    Dusty Brandt Howard is a writer & a fighter. He is a trans masculine cultural narrator who builds worlds with words. You can follow his thirst traps on Instagram, his writing on Substack, or find him at your local queer bar in northeast LA.

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