What My Nose Ring Means to My Queer Identity

When I was 17, my mom called my dad to ask if he’d take me to get my nose pierced. I needed a legal guardian’s consent, my mom was working that day and, obviously, Ireallyneededitrightthen, god, Mom. After hanging up, she told me he’d agreed to bring me, but not without feelings about it.

“She’s not gonna like the kind of boys she attracts with that thing,” he’d told her.

The statement was absurd, an entirely foreign idea interjected into my line of thought. Bewilderment soon gave way to rage. Who said what I did and how I styled myself was for boys? I don’t think I identified as a feminist yet, but I was certain, without the academic language, that my choices were not and would not be dictated by heavily gendered, heteronormative societal expectations.

Nearly 10 years later, his comment rings comically quaint in my very queer brain. I now have two nose rings, and never have men’s opinions mattered less to me. What my dad’s declaration foreshadowed – and neither of us could have predicted – was the importance nose piercings would take on in the development of my queer identity.

Aesthetics have always been integral to how I express my gender and sexuality. My style is a manifestation of how I feel on a given day: flirty-masculine? Long shorts with a high waist. Renegade feminine? Dress with boots. My first nose ring, a small, silver ball in my left nostril, became a fixed ornament in this illustrative landscape. It signified my weirdness and made it clear to other kids in my high school that I was proud of being offbeat.

It also served as a primer for becoming queer. Turns out all the ways I was different would not reveal themselves until college, when I started caring less about what “kind of boys” I was attracting. I felt freed from the bounds of stereotypical femininity and archaic conceptions of womanhood. Upon finally coming into my newfound sexuality, surrounded by a community of queer friends, I switched the stud in my nose to a hoop.

Five years later, I broke the last bit of hetero-acquiescence with a septum piercing. I told no one about the plan that I’d contemplated heavily (but only half-committed to), and I went to the piercing studio alone. The artist had to do it twice because the first ring was too small, and I figured if I was going for it, it should be as prominent as possible.

I left with a gold septum ring, my nostril stud and the thrill of making visible a recently developed, very self-assured version of myself. I was asserting confidence in my queerness in a way that, for me, was bold. Just as my first nose ring had when I was 17, my septum piercing told the world I was a bit of a freak, and I was down with that.

I don’t plan on getting anything else pierced, at least not for awhile. I’ve contemplated a tattoo, but that feels too permanent, too ever-present for the fluidity of how I express who I am.

Molly Savard is ​driven by the intersections of politics, identity, pop culture, and social justice. She works for Shondaland.com.

Collage by Edith Young.

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  • Christina Moore

    Well I have all that pierced and more, I’m a superfreak but I’m married to the man I very much love..I’m not sure if your saying nose and septum piercings are for lesbians or just to stand out but it seems like your saying you showed your queerness by piercing these parts. Sorry to say but it is not a gender thing. Please do not influence others who may not understand the difference. Your going to have people thinking us not gays are gay because of our piercings and that’s not fair! I’m super stoked you feel pride and bold now and please do not take offense! I think it’s awesome to show ones identity with body enIAlso get that tattoo…you will love it and be glad you did!

    • Alejandra Bricolas

      did you even read this? Go home please.

      • FMOI@TherzSmthnAbtLesley

        My thoughts exactly

      • Adrianna

        Lighten up, please

    • Darcel Pastor Williams

      I 100% agree with you! I am sick and tired of the lesbian and homosexual community taken things that are normal and making things preverted! I too have piercings and mind you a Pastor. I have nose ring in fact wear two in one nostril. I take my piercings like Issac and Rebecca and in the Song of Solomon when he described his wife. She had rings in her nose and cheeks. So, let’s start taking back what what is normal and stop trying to find meaningless meaning over objects and enjoy our uniqueness!

    • facepalm

    • Nadim

      hfajkhafefru how do heterosexuals always seem to make it about them omg is this a joke

      • Deluxe_Capacitor

        P sure it’s the other way around nowadays, queer people making everything about being queer, apparently piercings and tattoos fall into that category now as well.

  • ellie

    I love this concept. It’s fascinating how parent’s comments can stay with us and I’m pleased you got your piercing regardless…and I love the fact it means so much to you!


  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    thanks for sharing <3 my nose piercing means so much to me too. like most girls in india, my mom got her nose pierced when she was very young. she never thought twice about it until she moved to canada with my dad. there, she'd go outside and her nose always seemed to precede her. she told me about a time when she was in the mall and a little boy ran up to her shrieking about that "thing up her nose". my mom didn't mind at first, until the mother of the boy pulled him away, hushing him, whispering to her husband about "foreign barbarism."

    fast forward to when i was 16 and wanted to get a nose piercing of my own. i thought it was beautiful and would make me look older ( i am cursed with a baby face). my boyfriend at the time was very against it; he said it would make me look like a "hooker". i reminded him that my own mother has a nose piercing and that seemed to shut him up. still, the seed of doubt was planted. i ended up not going through with it.

    then, after tons of waffling–and finding feminism and wanting to take pride in my culture and seeing kendall jenner wear an indian nose chain at coachella and being like "wtf"– i finally went bit the bullet a year ago. it hurt more than i thought it would and i was slightly disappointed in the overall look, which was less "traditional indian" and more "teen girl goes to claires as an act of rebellion." but still, i liked it. i almost texted a pic to my ex-bf.

    the best part, though, was my mom's reaction: she was so proud. she said that she considered taking off her nose ring when she first moved here because it made her feel like an alien, but she kept it in anyway, as an act of defiance. i understand what she means. 25 years later, every time my stud catches the light in the mirror, i feel the same way.

  • _lauristia

    Inspiring! The way, we as individuals conceive our bodies and the way we feel them ours, as Agrado said in All About My Mom “Because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.”

    I went right to the tattoo because I work a lot at old fashioned offices, and piercings are a major problem on getting a job.

  • Jam Jam

    This is sweet. I like any analysis into why we present ourselves the way we do.
    Although, I read your dad’s sentence as meaning maaaaybe he thought it would attract boys and knew you wouldn’t want that attention? Just sayin’. Sometimes our parents are wiser than we give them credit for, especially when we’re teens.
    I’m with you on tattoos! Older people I grew up with had tats, so it never felt ‘rogue’ to me, and I like the chameleon aspect of clothes, hair, makeup. Why have an accessory that narrows the look?

  • I pierced my nose at 23 and it’s one of my favorite features! It’s a subtle gold ring and feels so perfectly me. Sometimes I wish it were bigger and more noticeable, and I would pierce it all over again if I had to!

  • Amanda Sheumaker

    Thanks for the peek into your psyche. I just got my nostril pierced at the age of 54. I love it! I definitely identify with the freak part since I was a teenager, though. But for me it was because I was a feminist Witch in bloom. Not many of those in a village of 800 in the mid 70’s! Back then all I had to do was get two piercings in my ears and wear a sterling moon and star!

    You write very well. Much continued success!

  • Samantha Perez Jones

    I really enjoyed this read and the coming of age aspect and self affirming of your identity. I got my lower lip pierced at 15. I took it out at 17. And now Im considering getting a nose ring, but will most likely wait until I secure my first job out of gradschool. My lip piercing (along with my hair chopping) was definitely my way of affirming that I did not care that I could not/would not meet conventional beauty standards, or imposed respectability standards. Im not queer, but interestingly enough the only person who has ever looked at my face and noticed the tiny scar hole was a queer coworker/friend who just smiled and said “i used to have my lip pierced too.”