My Tattoos, Queerness, Ex-Orthodoxy… Oh My! 

To the average person on the street, or even to colleagues, I provide minimal reasoning behind the myriad inscriptions on my baby phat flesh. A stranger doesn’t deserve my full story or energy. But contrary to my former network of frum/pious jews who have demonized every tattoo I’ve taken upon myself, each one of my tattoos has Jewish significance. Every tattoo was another leap of faith, acknowledging that the path I carve for myself is further from the one that was expected and set up for me to follow. 

With my tattoos,  I am an artsy-fartsy Jewess who has forged my own authentic derech (path).

My first tattoos were written across my fingers.

My first tattoos were written across my fingers. “Mx. Enigma”—my artist persona, which means to me being certain of the uncertainty in my journey. I immerse myself in my vibrant Mizrahi Enby (non-binary) magic by overcoming adversity. To me, this is tikkun olam (repairing the world). 

Next, I got a tattoo on my right deltoid of a pomegranate—pierced with a vine that spells “Gorg!” in script letters. To which my Mizrahi mama asked, “Who is George?” “He’s my goy toy, I met at church” I’d joke. My mother’s hazel eyes would light up hotter than her homemade schug

Every time I need to affirm myself, I kiss my shoulder, and speak to my body, “Hey Gorg.” 

The rimon (pomegranate) is always a mysterious and ancestral fruit that brings me back to being uniquely different in confined settings—like at my neighbor’s Ashkenazi family seder, where they served meals without spice. Or celebrating Passover with extended family members’ who would show off their wealth to us and treat us like the “tzedakah-case mishpacha,” the poor part of the family. To be honest, their attempts to make us feel special just made us feel less equal to our affluent white counterparts. When the rimon came out at these formal Passover tables, I’d let loose and devour it, hoping to get my pristine white buttoned shirt messy and have an excuse to remove myself. Even as late teenagers, my sibling and I had to chant “Mah Nishtana,” two brown Jews being pressured to sound exotic to entertain their American guests. This humiliation/otherness was the price of admission. Thanks Mom! 

Every time I need to affirm myself, I kiss my shoulder, and speak to my body, “Hey Gorg.” 

The older I got, the more I realized my fertility options were waning. This was in part due to my desire for a non-nuclear family and my transition superseding the desire for biological children. Through my tattoo, I manifest the rimon’s blessing to be bountiful with descendants like “plenty of fish.” Rimonim can also signify the countless prayers of gratitude to the universe to fill our lives with joy. As I journey to find the right artist for each new tattoo, every design on my non-ideal, androgynous guf (body) symbolizes a milestone in my yiddishkeit (Jewishness) where my spiritual connection with the divine is mine to grasp.

I now have a roadmap on my curves.

I still struggle with internalized fatphobia, cisgender people projecting their transphobia on my gender ambiguous body, and a mind that isn’t fully liberated from harmful messages of my frum past. But I’m ten times more pleased with expressing my physique openly, empowered by marking my unconventional frame with my nontheistic Torah, a vessel that connects me with my creator. I am just another work in progress, a recovering survivor of domestic violence, leaving behind diets, toxic masculinity and femininity, and enforced religiousness that never felt invested in my hip, carefree spirit, queer, nonbinary, Mizrahi, millennial Jewish existence.

I now have a roadmap on my curves. My tattoos remind me where I’ve been and encourage me to continue inscribing the next verse on my 5’9 ½, 200 lbs body with debilitating conditions. I’m worth it, yummy, and can experience intimacy and wholeness by others who meet me in my fullest form. 

Mx. Daniels (they/she/yenta)  is a Queer-Mizrahi artivist, mixed media producer, and writer who is a 4th generation Brooklyn Jewess. They’re currently an arts production manager at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Communications Associate at New Yiddish Rep, a Jew’V’Nation fellow with Union for Reform Judaism, and a 2021-2022 Jeremiah Organizing fellow with Bend The Arc serving social justice causes in NYC metropolitan area. Their award-winning films, journalism, and platform have provided resources for OTD, Queers & Jews of colors yearning for affirming representation in media and sacred spaces. When they aren’t building mutual aids, being a radical yet fabulous activist, they’re at home with their cat Leah, reading, and taking long jogs while kvetching with neighbors on the state of their community. Follow their work @mx.enigma.