Living Colour—Fighting stigma, fundraising for Bruce house, and supporting the community.

On August 10th people lined up for hours at Living Colour Tattoo Studio to get a tattoo from a selection of Pride-inspired designs, with proceeds going to the Bruce House’s Pantry Program.  In a single day—and 101 tattoos—over $5500 was raised and two bins of personal care items, food, personal and household items were collected.  The day-long event included a BBQ, drag performances, face painting, and more.

“We wanted to do something different, we wanted to be more community involved,” explains Mat Adams, who offers body piercings at Living Colour, “if there are people in this city who still stigmatize, or turn down HIV-positive clients, let’s shame them a little bit. We not only serve that community; we support them by doing a fundraiser.”

Sadly, stigma is still a fact of life for people living with HIV.  It can impact all aspects of life, including the choice to get a tattoo or piercing.  This is common enough to have made the news in Scotland.  Canada is no exception, “There is a lot of stigma regarding Hep-C and HIV in the tattoo and body modification world, partially because of a lack of education, a lack of understanding, and a lot of outdated information.  [Living Colour] is an open and inclusive shop, we don’t want anybody to worry that they will be turned away because they are living with HIV,” explains Mat, “It is hard for us to believe that people would still turn other people away because of [HIV status].  We don’t even ask; we don’t need to know.”

Poster with message from participants at the fundraiserAll tattoo artists and piercers follow universal precautions—best practices established by health care professionals and used in every setting from medical clinics to nursing homes. These practices protect both professionals and their clients.  PEP—post-exposure-prophylaxis—is available from emergency rooms in the extremely rare case of an accidental exposure in what is known as a “stick and poke” accident.

In Mat’s words, “When you understand how it [HIV transmission] works… what PEP is… it really doesn’t make sense to still have that mentally from the 90’s”.

In fact 1 in 5 people living with HIV in Ontario are unaware of their status, so rejecting clients based on HIV status is not only unnecessary; it is a placebo which does nothing to protect the tattoo artist but does harm the clients they turn away.  “I wouldn’t say that I’ve had anybody expressly say that they had a negative experience, but I can say from the nervousness and the shakiness from clients that have come in that they may have had negative experiences before.”

Founded in 1991 by tattoo artist Kathy McGuire, Living Colour is no stranger to community support. “The shop ran the LGBTQ2+ clothing swap for Pride the year I was hired.  They’ve always had a different feel, I think partially because it is owned by a woman [in a male-dominated industry]. I only know a handful of LGBTQ2+ tattoo artists.”

Living Colour staff plan to build on the success of this event, supporting a few causes each year.  Wonderful people!  Please keep an eye on their Facebook page for future events.

Lots of love for Living Colour Tattoo Studio for hosting this great event! Our thanks to the staff and volunteers who gave their time, the sponsors who made the day possible, and everyone who participated in making this a great day. Our clients will benefit greatly from your generosity. Ottawa is a great place to live thanks to people like you!

Proceeds will support our Pantry Program, which is currently unfunded—so we depend on donations to maintain it.  The Pantry assist clients with food and basic household and personal care items. 

Please let the event sponsors know you appreciate their support for this event! (Our apologies if we missed any, any omission is the responsibility of Bruce House.)

Cyril Cinder, David’s Tea, Deserres, St. Laurent, Devona Coe, Downtown Rideau BIA, Flora Clara, Goodlife Fitness for Women-Gloucester, Harley Queene, Hemphippe155, Hot 89.9, House of Targ, Little Jo Berry’s, Lucky Little Queer, Party City-St. Laurent, Rich O’Hanna, Riley’s Your Independent Grocer, Squish Candy-Rideau Centre, The Diamond Mine Agency, Venus Envy, Wine Rack-363 Rideau, XtremTattoo Equipment