A Field Guide To Safer Poking


We don’t give up on a fad, just because it’s a fad!

The 90s are technically over and much of the rest of the world has given up on industrial bar ear cartilage piercings. But the queers? We aren’t inclined to give up a fad just because it’s no longer a fad.

We’ve got staying power, goshdurnit, and younger queers stick to body modification the same way the older generation has remained loyal to the non-ironic use of the fanny pack.

My sarcasm implies I’m judgemental of the piercing-love but this is not the case.

I’ve got some standard and less than standard piercings myself. It’s just that as a queer nurse I’ve gotten enough 2 am phone calls from someone who “missed” while they were attempting a labia piercing at home (missed what? Is always my first question) that I’m wondering if we could adopt even “safety second” at our motto.

I talked with Aimee Ross, our community’s superstar piercer, (aka the Bearded Lady of Ptown) to chat about safer piercing: 

Why is it safer to get pierced in a shop?

I get calls all the time “what do you mean the bathroom isn’t an option, we burnt the needle.” Great, so you just added carcinogens to the needle. Burning doesn’t equal sterility which then means you are literally playing with fire.

If you go a reputable shop, you’re going to be pierced in a clean, septic manner and you’re going to receive implant grade jewelry. And then they’ll give you information and information is power. Getting a piercing is a small part of having a piercing. You need to about how to care for it afterwards.

What are some reasons a person might avoid getting a certain type of piercing?

You have to consider your lifestyle and the type of work you do. Do you work in an industry where you have to work with dirt (eg landscapers.) If you’re working a job in a kitchen and leaning over a steam table eight hours a day, it might not be the right time for a facial piercing.

Or if you play beach volleyball professionally, you want to think seriously about how much you dive on your belly all day. Maybe you should leave the navel piercing until you retire. If you’re playing on a rugby team, stuff in your ears can easily get torn out. Piercings aren’t made for jousting.

That’s not being judgemental, it’s just about…

It’s just about safety.

What should you look for in a place to get pierced?

Well, first off they should be a member of the Association of Professional Piercers, this is a recognized organization in the industry and they have a set of standards, protocol and procedures. You need to look at the quality of aftercare, ethics, information, the whole gamut.

And when you go in to talk with the piercer, they should treat you with respect no matter what age you are. The rules are different in different municipalities, but no one should agree to pierce you if you’re underage without the right permissions, because if they’ll break that rule, what other rules might they break? The rule about autoclaving?

Ask if you can have a tour of the facility, ask to see the cleaning area. If you can do it at a restaurant, you sure can do it when you’re getting something put into your face! You should be given as much time and information as you need, and no one should rush you.

Any shop worth their metal will give you the aftercare sheet, send you home and let you think about it.

Anything people should know about the timing of their piercing?

Well, you can’t be sick, if you needed to be antibiotics you should be off them a minimum of a week. You should be as physically ready as possible, not stressed out.  And I’m not going to pierce you if you’ve been drinking, because there’s a good possibility you’ll bleed more. And you have to be ready to make a commitment, a real commitment to self care.

I’ve known folks who needed top surgery but weren’t sure for various reasons if they could get to a place with self care that they needed to be to have a procedure like that. So they got a piercing and built their self-care muscles by taking care of it. It really is a commitment.

Piercings can be a point of reference, we don’t have many rituals in our society as whole, so piercings done right can be a valuable ritual and marker in our lives.