Permanently, a Girl Guide

I was a young Guider when, as many young adults of my generation have made the choice to do, I let someone have “craft time” on my body, drawing and colouring in a tattoo (or two).

And to be honest, while I could have worn uniform pieces that covered them up all the time, I choose not to. Guiding is an open space for truthful conversation with our young members (and believe me, the Brownies know what tattoos are and the Rangers are trying to figure out what they would get if they had the chance). My tattoos led to open dialogue about our bodies and about age restricted activities.

Still skeptical about tattoos in Guiding? What if the artwork was our beloved trefoil? I floated that question at a recent Guiding meeting and the response was pretty positive; most said that if they ever got a tattoo, it would be to show their passion and dedication to our organization with the Trefoil.

Neither of my current tattoos are “brand logos”, so I was interested in speaking with someone who already had a Trefoil inked on their body. Guider Heather is a 20 year member of Girl Guides of Canada, and has been a Spark, Brownie, and Ranger leader. This dedicated volunteer also has over 20 tattoos, including a Trefoil.

“Originally, I thought to get the trefoil permanently to commemorate the 100th

anniversary celebrations. After much consideration, I decided it would be a perfect choice for me, as I have been in Guiding for all but the first four years of my life,” says Heather. “Being a member of Girl Guides of Canada has shaped the person I am and being involved has opened up a world of opportunities for me.  I am certain that I will always be involved and love GGC. Having the trefoil on my head though, was originally suggested by my husband as a joke, but I thought it seemed fitting, as I always have GGC on my mind!”

Photo: Heather Jennings-Brown

Photo: Heather Jennings-Brown

Like me, Guider Heather has been able to turn the conversation about her body artwork into an open dialogue with her Units.

“When it comes to the girls, the younger ones love the vibrant colors and cartoon-ish look of my tattoos, and the older girls enjoy being able to ask questions about all my ink. My Ranger Unit was able to help me choose a new tattoo, visit my artist, ask questions, watch me get tattooed, and see first-hand the proper procedures for tattooing.”

For Guider Heather, having tattoos and being in Guiding has been mostly positive.

“The only issue I did have was with parents of two of my Rangers. They seemed uncomfortable about my appearance,” she recalls. “Those girls were not able to go on an inter-provincial trip with the Unit, and I feel it was due to the parents’ inability to trust me as a Guider who looks like me.  I am very grateful to all the parents that are able to get to know who I am and that I can develop great Guider-Parent relationships before they make judgments.”

So if you are recruiting a new leader and you see she has a tattoo, for the love of all things Trefoil, don’t turn her away! If the tattoo is not of a morbid or offensive nature, all Guiding members should be allowed to be themselves, leaders not excluded.

[Thank you Guider Heather Jennings-Brown, Fort Simpson, NWT for sharing your story with us!]

By Guest Blogger Sarah Lyon.

SarahBy guest vlogger & blogger Guider Sarah of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out her own blog ‘Sarah Smells the Roses‘, as well as her previous blog posts for Girl Guides of Canada:

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22 Responses to Permanently, a Girl Guide

  1. I agree! Tattoo don’t effect anyone else but themselves. Simple as that

  2. As a tattooed Brownie leader myself, I love to read of the acceptance of others like me. Bravo!

  3. Joyce Braumberger says:

    I have the trefoil on my right ankle got it 13 years ago and I am very proud to show it off when I can.

    Joyce Braumberger Deputy Cypress Hills Area Commissioner Girl Guides

  4. bishopkg says:

    As a guider for 13 years of my life, having to postpone my involvement for a time after my schooling has finished, I am excited that this is being an openly discussed topic. I am fascinated by all forms of body modification (this includes but is not limited to piercings, tattoos, dental modification, etc.). This may be due to my work in anthropology and more specifically ancient skeletons and cultural practices, but I have always been fascinated by tattoos. The colours, the symbols, the delicate artwork has a story no matter who the individual is. What they get, where they get it, at what stage in their life and even who does the artwork all has a particular meaning to individuals. I have analyzed facets of history related to the changing mentality of body modification and I think that it has come a long way. Yes, there are still some negative mentalities related to this form of expression, but I think that the more individuals talk about it, the more acceptance there will be. Especially in a realm where young individuals may have a lot of questions, it makes me incredibly proud that an organization such as this one are welcoming an open dialogue.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, and for putting a smile on my face.
    While my first tattoo was not a trefoil, the meaning behind my work does incorporate facets of what I learned throughout growing up in an inclusive environment that was Guiding: ‘tutto accade per una ragione’ (everything happens for a reason).

  5. Evan Smith says:

    I have ALOT of tattoos and several piercings and have always appreciated that I was welcome in guiding… My plan was to get the Canada Cord Trefoil tattooed on my wrist where you would see it if I were shaking hands with my left. Great to know I wouldn’t be the first!

  6. Patti Carson says:

    as an “older” guider with a couple of tattoos i really appreciate this discussion- I think the role model that these guiders are providing, by being true to themselves and practicing and modeling good informed decision making is great- as well as providing influence that breaks down the stereotypes!!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think this is a great opportunity to teach young girls that people with tattoos are not scary or bad and that we should not judge people by their appearance.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There’s even a bit in the Ranger program about body art, says the Guider with an archangel on her back.

  9. Debbie Dauphinee says:

    I am a former unit Guider, Area International Advisor, District Commissioner and Area Commissioner. During my years of Guiding I had tattoos and many piercings. I still am getting tattooed. One of my tattoos is of a trefoil and it is over my heart. I was not a girl member and came to Guiding during my adult years. I cannot tell you enough how much Guiding changed me personally. That is why I got the trefoil over my heart. I cannot repay Guiding enough for what it has taught me and how much I grew personally. I may be taking a hiatus right now from Guiding but I still believe in Guiding and all that it has to offer. Did you ever take the time to ask someone why they chose a specific tattoo? Many times it is for a deeply personal reason not because we “run with a bad crowd”.
    Be unique. Be yourself. Be proud. Be happy.

  10. Anonymous says:

    i had to smile about tattoos, I have been in Guiding over 65 years–I have a tattoo,you can see when I swim and my eyebrows are tattoo, looks great

  11. Anonymous says:

    I just got my first tattoo, and being as it is a charm bracelet, I thought a perfect charm would be my Canada Cord pin… it’s amazing, it’s on my wrist, and I’ve always been proud to have Guiding in my life (even if I can’t be in it right now, due to conflict of schedules, etc).

  12. Carmen says:

    I have tattoos – my girls have asked and I have answered as to meaning. Great discussions! my next one- canada maple leave overliad with a 3 fingered hsnd sign of guiding- on the back of my neck. Gotta love guiding!

  13. Anonymous says:

    While I have no problem with a guider having tattoos and would not distrust someone with tattoos, I do have to say that I would be very disappointed if my daughter was involved in a unit where it appeared body art was being promoted (helping to pick out designs, watching the guider get tattooed, etc). It IS a very personal decision and I wouldn’t have a problem with education about safe body art, the permanence of it, the meanings and history as the previous commenter mentioned etc. but there is a line. It is absolutely your decision to get a tattoo (or many), and I wont judge you for that, but then I would also expect that you would respect our decision to raise our daughter that getting a tattoo is not something we would approve of for her, and would rather that a trusted organization like GGC didn’t sensationalize it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was always raised to believe that it was my body and I chose what I wanted ( or didn’t want ) to do with it, I think that’s why we were always so forward and open to our parents about things. I’m sure if I knew they wouldn’t “approve” of something I’d be hiding that and a lot more from them.
      And I don’t believe that showing the girls how much thought and effort ( and pain ) go into getting a tattoo… if anything it probably made them think twice about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        As I had posted earlier. I hope that people could respect the way we have chosen to raise our daughter. Instead you judge us. That’s pretty hypocritical in my opinion given that the original post was about teaching acceptance and tolerance.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As a Spark leader and DC I do try and wear longish sleeves, particularly when we are out in the public since both of my arms are covered in ink from above my shoulder to below my elbow. I take out my nose ring also. These are personal choices though, I have never felt like I’ve needed to cover up. And it’s not to hide them, all of the girls and parents know that they are there – since there’s over a dozen – it’s not about forcing acceptance, since I have never felt anything but. I cover up so that I’m seen and remembered for my actions with Guiding and not my ink.

  15. Emily says:

    Great blog. Although I don’t have a tattoo and was raised by parents who do not believe in permanent tattoos I do not think at girl guide leader should be discriminated or left out because of their tattoos. Wear your tattoos with pride and show them off.

  16. Pingback: Why I Volunteer with “The Trefoil” | GirlGuidesCANBlog

  17. Anonymous says:

    love the ink. I represent the leadership team of a downtown Toronto Ranger group. We have inked leaders, leaders who ride motorcycles, one who is ex military and still shoots on a range, We are bold, noisy, aggressive big city girls. We might not want to have a tat ourselves but we support any adult person to choose for themselves. If we want to bring Guiding into the 21st century with young strong women in the lead we are going to have to love ALL our sisters, especially the ones who bring different viewpoints to the meeting.Our gals are multi-ethnic, multi-coloured, multi-capable and altogether remarkable and altogether normal. We love them all. If you make it to Toronto look us up, 1st Grenadier Rangers. :)) Ann (Dazzle )

  18. Pingback: Tattoos: To Ink or Not to Ink? | Girls' Respect Groups

  19. susie says:

    Hmm, as a 40-plus year member of Guiding, I never thought of having the trefoil as a tattoo. I think you’ve given me inspiration for tattoo No. 2. I appreciated reading this blog post and the sentiment behind it.

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