Gay Sailor Tattoos


by R.J. Gillis

It wasn’t always a breeze to find lovers on the high seas, and we don’t have many sources about sailors who desired their shipmates. But what we do have are tattoo designs—still recognizable in today’s traditional tattooing styles—which sailors used to communicate their origins, status, and sexuality while on ship or shore. Gay Sailor Tattoos gives us a look into the lives of queer men, who, despite the dangers and difficulties of the sailing life, found freedom in their relationships and bodily expression. This thoughtful and well-researched zine brings together historical and visual details about the lives (lustful and otherwise) of sailors at the height of the seafaring profession, and their enduring cultural influence.

Zine | 16 pages | Microcosm Publishing | 2024

R.J. Gillis lives in Northern California with their wife and a growing reference library.

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