Every day is Canada Day when you have the maple leaf tattooed over your heart like I do. You become the unofficial Canadian ambassador to street fairs and dance floors, a shirtless governor general. Attached to the leaf is every stereotype, misconception, and stupid question ever put forth about our nation; the most common being “Do you know Ted?”
Know him? I’ve slept with him!
The original concept for my tattoo was for an armband. It was the late ’90s, it’s what people did.
“Why not go all the way and tattoo ‘Fag’ across your forehead?” opined a friend.
That said, the maple leaf was a no-brainer. I was living in the States and sick of being mistaken for American. The tattoo was my passive aggressive way of saying, “I’m not from Wisconsin.” It didn’t always work. A few guys thought I was from Vermont.
A US marine once asked me if he could cum on my maple leaf. “Only if you let me burn your flag,” I told him. He hovered above me, mid-stroke and slack-jawed like I had disobeyed a direct order. Call me a prude, but I felt it was another form of American imperialism.
At street fairs I was a target for visiting Canadians. “Go Canada!” they would shout or take pictures next to my tattoo like it was the Grand Canyon. Otherwise I was the resident almanac. “What was the name of that group of artists who painted stuff,” asked a pie-eyed lesbian at The Eagle.
“The Group of Seven?” I said, sounding like a contestant on Reach for the Top.
On a visit home, an old friend took one look at my maple leaf and asked, “Why didn’t you just get ‘Fag’ tattooed across your forehead?” It was like I had tarnished the good names of Alex Bauman and Victor Davis, my tattoo nothing more than the Nike swoosh. That is still the only negative response my little maple leaf has ever elicited. It somehow stands to reason it would come from another Canadian.
When I moved back to Canada, I was afraid my tattoo would become as cliché as a fanny pack and spandex shorts, but it still manages to provoke a reaction. Where once my leaf was a symbol for what I am not, it now symbolizes what I am for: gay marriage, universal health care, opposition to the war in Iraq, and the Cirque du Soleil.
Whether or not those are Canadian ideals or Canadian misconceptions remains to be seen, but for now, perhaps more than ever, my leaf serves as a reminder that we are still true, we are still strong, we are still free.