LGBT Tattoos - So Many Options

Published 09.04.2022
12 min read

Years ago, tattoos were not something most "normal" people did. Bikers got them; Popeye (the cartoon character) had one. But the majority saw them as rather gross, only fringes of society got tattooed.

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Once the 60s hit, freedom of thought and behavior also hit, and tattoos began to pop up among groups of younger Americans - the hippie culture, college students, and, yes, members of the LGBTQ community. Peace signs were big. Musicians sported their instruments and other musical symbols. And black ink gave way to colorful illustration and art.

Today, tattoos are a part of life for millennials and Gen Zer's, and there's a tattoo parlor in almost every strip mall - the trend is that popular. Even grandmas are now getting in the act. And now that the LGBT community is feeling more comfortable within the larger society, it has sprung into action with pride tattoos that display their support, alliances, and their own gender identities. And social media is filled with pictures of LGBT tattoos - finished products and even ink art in the making.

If you are contemplating a tattoo or adding to your current collection of tattoos, you have so many options for tattoo ideas to show your gay pride and sexuality. Don't be afraid. Look at all the great aesthetic art to be proud of who you are. If you're ready to get inked, here goes.

LGBTQ Tattoo Ideas

A tattoo represents a part of who you are and your values. So, as you think about your tattoo design, be sure it is a symbol or drawing with meaning. Remember, it's yours forever! And because it's for keeps, be sure to use only professional tattoo artists.

With that in mind, let's take a look at LGBT tattoo ideas.

Honoring LGBTQ Martyrs - Yesterday and Today

Of course, you know all about the Holocaust. It was a horrific period in our history. Every camp prisoner had an ink number tattoo on their wrist. But did you know that homosexuals were rounded up and put into those camps too? They had to wear an armband with an upside-down triangle in pink, as a symbol of their "shame." Treatment in the camps was barbaric. They were tortured, sodomized, and used for medical testing. No one knows how many gay people died in these camps, but estimates are as high as 15,000.

Once the stories came out, LGBTQ activists adopted this symbol, turned it right-side up, and have used it to protest discrimination against themselves and all people in the world.

The point is this: If you have a desire to honor the martyrs who have gone before you or those who still face discrimination and violence, then a pink triangle tattoo might be for you. While these tattoos are not so common, they do have deep symbolism.

Oh, That Rainbow Tattoo

The gay pride rainbow (note: the term "gay pride" obviously now refers to the entire community, not just men) has become the most recognized LGBT symbol of pride for the entire community. And this rainbow has become the top tattoo design within the LGBT community. From a small rainbow tattoo on a wrist, finger, ankle, or even an ear to all sorts of variations, tattoo ideas that use the rainbow keep growing. This tattoo art comes in all shapes and sizes, are colorful anywhere on the skin, and is the most widely recognized symbol to represent the gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer, etc. population. If you looking to get tattooed with a rainbow, here are some of the most popular.

The Plain Stripes Rainbow Tattoo Designs

These can come in all sizes on any body part. In short, they are bars of the pride rainbow. Here are a bunch of options to use this design

  • a rainbow bracelet on the wrist

  • a tiny rainbow bar or flag on a finger or behind the ear

  • a rainbow band around the upper arm

  • a pride rainbow flag of any size on the ankle, shoulder, finger, neck, chest, etc.

Variations on the Rainbow Tattoo

So, just how many variations of the rainbow LGBT tattoo ideas are there? Too many to even list. But here are quite a few:

  • Some use teardrops in all the rainbow colors to remember those who have died either by violence, suicide, AIDS, etc.

  • Some put the colors of the LGBT rainbow in feathers

  • A beautiful option is putting the pride rainbow coming out of clouds, even with some birds around.

  • One fun option is the familiar bar code, but using the rainbow colors instead

  • How about a bouquet of flowers each with a color of the pride rainbow as a tattoo?

  • Another popular rainbow tattoo is a rainbow-colored heart

  • Bleeding rainbows or rainbow flags flown by birds have become popular

  • Adding a word or phrase to these rainbow tattoos has also become common - quotes or short phrases add more individuality to a tattoo

These are just a few options for tattoos featuring the rainbow. The possibilities are endless, and you should get as creative as you want so that your tattoo ideas represent who you are and what is important to you as a member of your unique community. And remember this: tattoo designs that feature the rainbow are not just gay tattoos for males or gay couples. They are pride tattoos for the entire LGBT community. So get that rainbow anywhere on your body and wear it proudly.

Nautical-Themed LGBT Tattoos

It's not just Popeye the Sailor Man who has a nautical tattoo. The history of gay men and all nautical industries is lengthy and interesting.

Men who worked on merchant ships were often at sea for months, even years, with no opportunity to hook up with any women. They had two options - masturbate or engage in sex with each other. Many took the latter option and engaged in gay sex, actually becoming gay for the rest of their lives. The same thing happened to sailors on military vessels and submarines. In short, there is a long history of gay relationships at sea.

Fast forward. Lots of gay men are employed by commercial cruise liners, serving as stewards, waiters, entertainers, and such. They call themselves sea queens, and gay sex is as normal as their other activities on their ships.

As a result, lots of gay tattoos have nautical themes today - everything from the nautical star to tattoos of men in all types of related sea images. Today, nautical gay tattoos include anchors, ropes, men with male torsos and mermaid tails, and so on. There are just all sorts of tattoo ideas with a nautical theme.

Other common variations are gay tattoos that are designed around the nautical star. Here is an image of the nautical star from "Tattoos for You," in case you have never seen one. While this star is not exclusively a piece of gay art, it has meaning in the community.

This star has a lot of history in the world of sailing and ships and both gay and lesbian life. It is now symbolic of "coming home," or being who you really are. For example, in the 40s and 50s, when it was still a crime for women to engage in lesbian activity, a lesbian had to be secretive about her gender identity. Lesbians had tattoo artists place a small nautical star on their wrists which could be covered up by a wristwatch. As the authors of the book, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold stated, "The cultural push to be identified as lesbians - or at least different - all the time was so powerful that it generated a new form of identification among the tough bar lesbians: a star tattoo on the top of the wrist, which was usually covered by a watch. This was the first symbol of community identity that did not rely on butch-fem imagery."

The Amazing Unicorn

A unicorn is a mythical creature. And in much of the literature about unicorns, they were associated with a rainbow. Many believe that this was part of the inspiration for Gilbert Baker to create the LGBTQ rainbow flag. But there is a bit of other history here too. Oscar Wilde, an infamous gay writer in Elizabethan England, used to wear a unicorn pin on the lapel of his jackets - just a fun trivia story.

Think about the symbolism for a minute. The unicorn was a unique creature that didn't really "fit" the norm of the rest of the animal kingdom. And members of the LGBT community have long felt that they have not been a "fit" for "normal" society. It is only logical then that a great sign tattoo for this community is the unicorn. Gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, etc. - unicorn tattoos are for all of you.

Unicorn tattoo designs come in a huge number of variations. Some feature the horn in rainbow colors. Others feature the unicorn surrounded by the colorful rainbow hues of the LGBTQ banner. There's a host of tattoo ideas related to unicorns, and almost all involve a rainbow. Find one or create one that is personalized for you and place it anywhere on your body.

Lots of LGBTQ+ allies sport unicorn tattoos in support of the community. This is why Lady Gaga has one on her thigh.

The Equal Sign Tattoo

Equality has been a dream for many - ethnic minorities, women, and, yes, the LGBT community. The equal sign tattoo began to show up in the '60s and was used a lot by those involved in the American Civil Rights Movement. In those days, such tattoos were applied with black ink, although sometimes red to symbolize blood spilled for the cause. The Human Rights Campaign adopted the red version of the equal sign tattoo to support the movement for marriage equality.

Today the equal rights sign tattoo comes in lots of forms. It might include rainbow colors; it might be in the form of a tiny tattoo on a ring finger, and sometimes it is even used as an arm or wrist band.

The equal sign tattoo has become pretty much a fixture for the community and others who support equality for everyone. And it can be tattooed anywhere.

Lambda Sign Tattoo

Here's an image of the Lambda sign from Quora.

So, how did this come to be associated with the LGBT community? This is a letter of the Greek alphabet, and the Gay Activist Alliance decided to use it for their gay rights campaign in 1970. Before that, it has been used as a symbol of liberation - probably the reason for that choice. It is also a physics symbol for energy, and that's a cool symbol for gay activism. Then there is the Lambda organization in Washington DC - a legal activist group for gay rights.

This is not one of the most common LGBT tattoos, but it is becoming so. And people who are getting inked with these can put the rainbow colors in the letter. You can choose any size lambda tattoo, obviously, even for fingers and ears.

The Gender Sign Tattoo

Everyone understands the gender signs. And this is a tattoo specifically symbolizing lesbian and gay love. Here are some examples from

See the source image

The tattoo can use either the world signs of male and female figures or the "scientific" gender symbols on the right. They can be made even more emblematic than just that of a lesbian or gay couple if they are in the form of a rainbow tattoo to also show solidarity.

The EKG Gay Pride Sign Tattoo

We've all seen pictures of EKG's, even our own perhaps. And an image of the EKG has become a universal sign for the heart. The LGBT community has latched onto this for an LGBT tattoo design idea. These are far more meaningful than simple pride tattoos to show gay or lesbian love. They speak to where the heart is in unity with all those in the LGBT community. In fact, their hearts are as one.

Now this tattoo can be in plain black ink just like the real thing, but that would be a bit boring. Plus, such a tattoo will not signify anything about gay pride. Just like the equal sign tattoo, making a rainbow tattoo out of the EKG would be perfect. Here is an image of this tattoo from Body Art Guru.

LGBTQ Tattoos

This is one of those tattoo designs that tells everyone what's in your heart with a beautiful array of rainbow gay pride colors. And they can even be small enough to fit on a ring finger.

The Rainbow Gay Pride Infinity Tattoo

What a great to celebrate Gay Pride Month - get a small rainbow tattoo in the shape of an infinity sign. This is one of those tattoo ideas that is increasing in popularity.

The infinity sign is really a math symbol, representing something that has no beginning and no end. This relates to the LGBT community as a whole - it has always existed, even in prehistoric times, and it will always exist, no matter what else may change in this world.

Adding colors to make this a true LGBT tattoo will be perfect.

An LGBT Tattoo of an Eye

There is a lot of historical and mythological symbolism involved in the image of an eye. As an LGBT tattoo, though, it would be pretty unique still today. Some are not really great - such as two eyes on the lower belly of a gay man looking down at his penis or a gay couple with a matching eye tattoo directly on their penises.

But here's the thing about the eye. There's lots of meaning that refers to having insight, great perception, and being an "open" person. If this sounds like you, an eye could be one of the tattoo ideas you should think about. and if you have a rainbow inked in that eye, it tells everyone that it is an LGBT tattoo and worth discussing.

An LGBT Tattoo Playing Card

A gay couple may want to display their relationship by getting matching tattoos of the "King" playing card, with a cool variation. Instead of the card having just one king, it could have two facing one another and use rainbow coloring. The same goes for lesbians who can each have a queen playing card tattoo. Other gender identities could come up with their own LGBT tattoo created from the playing card idea. With rainbow coloring, pride for the entire LGBT population can be shown too.

So Just What is an LGBT Tattoo?

LGBT tattoos are whatever you want them to be. There are just gobs of tattoo ideas that others have already come up with, and you can find them all over the Internet or on the bodies of your comrades. An LGBT tattoo can be as standard and as common as you want; an LGBT tattoo can also be as personal and unique as you want; and an LGBT tattoo can be dark, light, funny, or serious. The important thing is that your LGBT tattoo says something about you as a person, as a community member, and as someone worthy of respect and dignity. A rainbow tattoo is nice, and you may want just that, tiny, small, or large. But can you also say more about yourself with an LGBT tattoo that says more than that? Then get some more. Take the tattoo ideas that you see all over the place and think about those tattoos that represent you more uniquely. Then, see how you might want to change things out a bit to make your LGBT tattoo truly yours. Just be certain that your tattoo is one you will love having forever.

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