RIP Shannon Larratt (1973-2013)
Photo courtesy of Modblog.
Yesterday, the body modification community lost a leader. Shannon Larratt, founder of BMEzine.com -- the first definitive online publication and community for those who decorate and alter our bodies -- died, as I've learned from other friends and BME's Modblog and Shannon's final post on Zentastic.com.
This is an incredibly hard post for me to write. Shannon was not just a friend, but he changed my life in many ways. He taught me to open my eyes to see the beauty in all forms of personal artistic expression, not just with tattoos and piercings, but with scarification, suspension, saline injections, skin sewing ... a myriad of modifications that has the masses laughing and pointing at the freaks.
BMEzine and the IAM community -- a pre-Facebook home and townhall -- was like the island of misfit toys, where we "freaks" could all share our experiences, our kinks, art, and random thoughts in a safe online environment and feel comforted that there were others out there who got it. One of the great changes to my life is the incredible and plentiful friendships that sprang from IAM. I am forever grateful for this.
Another great impact was being immersed in the online community through BME, and it's reflective discourse, that led to me to truly explore legal issues within body modification. Shannon encouraged me to pursue research into tattoo law and offered me a forum with my Legal Link column to share my thoughts and get feedback on how the law affected modified people around the world. So many shared their passions and personal stories. These discussions were the hallmark of BME.
Shannon notes the importance of this sharing in his final post:
For a long time the body modification community, while deeply isolated from the mainstream in a way that may be hard for younger people today to really relate to, had a wonderful sense of solidarity -- a sense that we're all in this together, a sense of all supporting each other's personal paths, from the subtle to the extreme -- but now it feels like there's infighting and intra-community prejudice. We once all worked together to better ourselves and share our experiences -- for example the creation of BME's various knowledge-bases (birthed from the earlier Usenet FAQs) that brought the world level-headed accurate information on modifications and their risks, as well as the thousands of detailed "experiences" that people wrote -- whereas now it seems like the majority of modification media is just about posting pictures, devoid of any real stories or information, reducing them to visual pornography for people to "cheer and jeer" at. All of these changes have slowly eaten away at the character of the body modification community and changed it in subtle and unpleasant ways. I do think this is a fixable problem though, and I have talked to many, many wonderful people (both artists and enthusiasts) who have a strong passion for body modification that I am sure could be part of a restoration effort. I truly hope they will fight to keep changing the world for the better.Recently, Shannon and I talked at length about the "cheer & jeer" of body modifications. I disagreed with a lot of his support for dangerous procedures, and he would remind me to be careful not to create "anti-mod media" in my criticism of such (and other issues in tattooing). Our debates were exactly what you'd want a debate to be: respectful, informing and even mind-changing.
In discussing Shannon as the ultimate cheerleader of people's adornment and body morphing, my friend Julien said it best, "He trusted people to do right by themselves." Shannon had faith in people, especially people for whom society treated with little respect. He understood it because he lived it. Even in his last post, he discusses how he was not given the proper pain management for his chronic illness because doctors looked at him and thought he was just a drug addict. His life was dedicated to changing this prejudice and offering support to all of us who have faced so much discrimination because of the way we look.
I could probably write a million more words on Shannon's lasting effect on my life and on so many others. But I'll just end by affirming that Shannon's legacy will live on, and in honor of him, let us express love for each other even more so and make our own positive impact on the world.
UPDATE: Read Shawn Porter's wonderful tribute to Shannon
Feel free to share your own Shannon stories on the Needles & Sins Facebook group page.