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Meet the non-binary tattoo artist bringing hope to the trans community and turning profits into top surgeries

Emma Powys Maurice August 28, 2020

Billy founded Tits 4 Tats, a community-supported LGBT+ tattoo studio (Image: Heather Glazzard)

In the face of torturously long waiting lists, trans people are finding creative new ideas to fund their surgeries — and one non-binary artist is leading the way.

Billy is a trans masc tattoo artist who’s bringing hope to their community with a new LGBT+ tattoo studio, Tits 4 Tats, that puts all profits into surgery funds.

Within weeks of opening they raised over £4,000 trans people in need, a feat that speaks to the generosity of the LGBT+ community as well as their appreciation for the queer-friendly service Billy provides.

“Tattoos have done so much for me in my body, and I want to share that with others,” Billy told PinkNews.

“Obviously so many people want tattoos, but tattoo shops can be so inaccessible and expensive for queer people. People are coming in with their scars, which makes them uncomfortable, and yet they’re comfortable enough to share that with me.

“Tattoos are a very intimate thing and I feel so honoured to provide that service for people. I just love to do it.”

Through their simple yet quirky stick and poke designs, Billy has found they can help fellow trans people feel comfortable in their own skin, healing with their art as well as the money that comes with it.

(Image: Heather Glazzard)

The designs are priced on a sliding scale that takes into account what feels affordable to each individual. Customers donate the fee to the Tits for Tats fund, which is distributed between multiple fundraising pages at the end of each month.

The response has been so overwhelming that Billy has left their job to focus on the studio full time.

“It’s been beautiful and mad,” they said. “I didn’t expect it to be big. Tattooing is just something I’ve always done and I saw it as a way to make money for my friends. But the really wonderful thing is the words that come with it, how grateful people are. It’s still not quite real to me.”

Tits 4 Tats was always centred around other people’s surgeries.

Billy’s ultimate aim is to normalise community funding, to show the LGBT+ community there is strength in numbers and that it’s OK to ask for help.

Their work has allowed many trans people to bypass years-long waiting lists to get the gender-affirming surgeries they desperately need — but it took some prompting before they realised that they, too, were deserving of support.

“I’m not very good at asking for help or expecting it. When it came to my own chest surgery, I just thought it was going to be years of saving and waiting on the NHS,” they said. 

“Tits 4 Tats was always centred around other people’s surgeries, but with the response it got, my friend was like: ‘You need to do yours now, you need to be a part of this. You’re working for this and your fundraiser needs to be there.'”

(Image: Heather Glazzard)

Billy has wanted chest surgery for years but that need crystallised after they came out as trans and non-binary a year ago.

Unfortunately their dysphoria is compounded by their severe asthma which causes chest pains when they wear a binder, forcing them to balance the physical distress of binding against the mental agony of going without.

“The asthma and the dysphoria are all interconnected and it makes me more aware of my chest,” they explained. “Sometimes I’ll be so intensely hyper-aware of it, it drags me out of real life.

“It’s hard to have loads [of pain] on top of what you’re already feeling. It just makes you 10 times more aware of your chest than you already are, when you’re thinking about it so much anyway.”

They see chest surgery as a way of finally “matching up” to how they see themselves, giving the same sense of comfort in their own body that they endeavour to give others through their tattoos.

Now as they add their own fundraiser to Tits 4 Tats, they can appreciate the simple beauty in their community reciprocating that support.

“It works so well: It’s skin to skin, a beautiful circle. They are giving me their skin to help me feel better in mine,” they said.

Tits 4 Tats is based in Wood Green, North London. Click here to find out more, or donate to Billy’s surgery fund.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

lil one for @noranordfromnorway – thank you 🌹

A post shared by TITS 4 TATS by BILLY SLICKS (@tits444tats) on

 

More: Chest surgery, tattoos, Tits 4 Tats, Trans fundraisers

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