Exmormon tattoos are a billboard and message to everyone around you. A tattoo loudly proclaims, “I am not Mormon anymore.” Don’t get a tattoo just so you don’t “look Mormon," that is not what I’m suggesting here. However, when you were a member of the church, your identity and image were heavily controlled. An exmormon tattoo is one way to remake yourself in the way you chose.
As a man, being Mormon means always cutting your hair to a certain style, shaving, looking clean cut, and probably wearing too much BYU gear (or at the very least, too many pairs of basketball shorts).
For a woman, it means you’ve always made sure to cover your shoulders and knees, wear just the right amount of makeup, only worn one pair of earrings, you’ve avoided coloring your hair, and shunned tight or revealing clothing.
These laundry lists of what Mormons should look like are extremely limiting—the church wants us to cosplay as housewives and businessmen from the fifties. An exmormon tattoo is one of many ways to build a new you, away from the silly rules and judgment of Mormonism.
Many exmormons choose to get a tattoo to represent their journey out of the church. Some popular exmormon tattoo designs are subtle, you may not always want something directly associated with the church on your body. Rather than getting a tapir—the popular and very cute exmormon mascot—you could get something related to evolution or history. If you feel so moved, get a design that’s loud and proud.
This is my favorite exmormon tattoo. When he finally realizes his entire life has been a production, Truman chooses to leave it all behind. He steps out of the TV studio, off to experience the real world beyond. I highly recommend watching this movie if you are on your way out of the church; you'll notice many parallels.
This falls in the "loud and proud" category. It also feels reminiscent of Tyler Glenn's "Trash" music video. Nothing feels quite as sacrilegious as mocking the image of Joseph Smith.
This has to be one of the most metal lines in The Book of Mormon. Thanks, 2 Nephi 28:7-8. Grab a verse or two from the scriptures and slap it on your skin. I can see their faces now.
Mormons and Christians alike have always been frustrated by science. The premise of science, aka observation, experimentation, and evidence, is the antithesis of faith. Here is my favorite evolution tattoo—straight out of Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species.
These cute little guys are a reference to Mormon apologists, who erroneously suggested said tapirs could be the anachronistic "horses" mentioned in The Book of Mormon. As fun as it is to imagine a Nephite riding a tapir, it doesn't stand up under scrutiny. The tapir is one of the longest standing symbols of the exmormon community.
Burn it all to the ground.
Just because you're leaving the church does not mean you have to walk away from your heritage. If you have pioneer roots and a family line in the church, a nod to your ancestors is a gentle way to acknowledge your personal history in the church. A bee or a beehive is a symbol of harmony, cooperation, and industriousness for the early pioneers of the church.
This prison-style tattoo is sure to offend members and nonmembers alike. Pair with a mullet and a beer in a brown paper bag for full effect.
My first tattoo was when I was twenty six, a few years after I formally left the church. It took me a few years to work up to getting a tattoo after I left the church. I didn’t share the decision with anyone except for my husband. My family saw it for the first time when I showed up for Christmas, and though it was certainly noticed—silence was the chosen form of acknowledgement. My first tattoo was the letter “J” on my wrist—solidly out in the open for all to see.
My three tattoos are for my family: one for my husband, and for my two sons. I figure if your tattoos represent the most important people and things in your life—how evil can they really be?
If you do plan on telling your family beforehand, just be prepared for parents and most members to try to dissuade you. There may be less drama if you just go for it, then show it off at the next family function.
Discouragement doesn’t really work after the fact when it comes to tattoos. Mormons are right about one thing: tattoos last a lifetime and are painful to remove. But rather than avoiding them altogether, just make your choice carefully.
Tattoos are deeply personal, don’t give in to pressure to choose an easily visible spot or to conceal. Choose a placement and design for yourself, not out of fear of judgment.
Don’t be too thrifty when choosing a shop or an artist—you get what you pay for. If you’re not sure about a certain design, you can get a fake tattoo printed to sample design and placement before you get the real thing. Despite common depictions in media, tattoos do not hurt too badly. To me, it feels like a small burn, and the feeling goes away pretty quickly.
Celebrate yourself when you get a tattoo. It can be a very nerve-wracking experience. You'll wonder what your family and friends in the church will think. Don't worry about your family. Don't worry about judgement. Allow yourself to do something you want without a care in the world what anyone thinks.