Indigenous tattoo artist Phoebe Bull shares her journey to self-discovery and acceptance | Spare News
(ANNews) – Life can be challenging. The journey is long, full of twists and turns, and as participants in life itself, some, like Phoebe Bull, are colorful and full of valuable life lessons.
It wasn’t an easy road for Bull. “I’ve been called names like ‘He-She, Boy-Girl, Tomboy, Dyke, Lesbian and Gay,'” she said.
Bull has been in and out of various Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions. “It’s ironic that I found and accepted myself lost in the community in such an institution,” she explained.
Born in Edmonton and raised in Maskwacis, Bull struggled as a youngster, but she was loved and supported by her mother, Molly Potts, a respected elder at Maskwacis. Now 38 years old, she identifies as LGBT, Two Spirit and Lesbian. Despite her trials and tribulations, she remains optimistic about life and hope and is a testament to her mother’s strength.
In an exclusive interview with ANNews, Phoebe Bull opened up about her journey through the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and her career as a tattoo artist.
“I faced many challenges growing up on the reservation,” she said. “The boys accepted me more. I’ve made friends with more boys than any girl.”
“I enjoyed most sports like basketball, soccer, floorball and ice hockey. I also enjoyed snowboarding and BMX riding,” she added. “I excelled a lot more than most. But because of that, the boys would get jealous of me and be mean to me.”
Bull said she finally accepted herself as a lesbian at the age of 30.
“I found myself and accepted myself into an institution,” she explained.
“I’ve been to Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Institution, Lethbridge Remand Center, Edmonton Remand Center, Edmonton Institution for Women, and Fraser Valley Institution in British Columbia.”
According to Statistics Canada, Native Americans make up about 32 percent of the federal prison population, despite making up less than five percent of the total population.
However, Bull estimates that 95% of the women she encountered in prison were Aboriginal. Second, she explained that about 50% of these women are lesbian or bisexual, and finally, every single woman struggles with problematic behavior that locks them up in prison.
Bull explained that there are many programs in prison, such as AA/NA meetings, support groups, healing programs that were mandatory for release, educational courses and classes, work ticket training, work release programs, and ETAs, “the means a temporary absence from prison so that we can do things in the community that will help us reintegrate into the community.”
“The CSC, Correctional Service of Canada, wasn’t that bad, but I’m only speaking at the federal level. Unfortunately, there were many atrocities at the provincial detention center in Edmonton,” Bull said.
“I don’t speak for all the guards, but some guards were extremely abusive towards the inmates,” she added. “I would not recommend anyone committing any type of crime if they do not wish to be subjected to such treatment – not to mention the abusive behaviors of other inmates, bullying, hatred and jealousy that I have experienced in these facilities. It can be scary to be deaf to almost everything.”
Bull is now a tattoo artist. “It’s my passion,” she explained. “I never knew I would like to do this. I enjoy creating art for people and being creative in general.”
“I’ve had people burst into tears. But I’ve also seen people angry or even lost in life,” Bull said. “A small tattoo helps them and puts a smile on their faces.”
“I love seeing the look of satisfaction on their faces when I’m done tattooing. I love what I do with tattoos. I only do it part-time but would love to do it full-time one day,” Bull said.
“I think tattooing comes from my childhood. From the age of 4 to 6 I was always locked in my bedroom by my mother’s abusive husband who also abused me as a child. It wasn’t sexual abuse, it was emotional and physical abuse,” Bull said.
“And so many hours a day he locked me in my room. When I was six years old, all four walls of my bedroom were covered with drawings and paints… I enjoyed intricate drawings in prison. For one side I would need 3-4 hours.”
Phoebe believes this is where her creativity and love for tattooing comes from, and she connects with many people on that level. She specializes in memorial or sentimental tattoos.
If you are interested in getting a tattoo or booking Bull, you can find her on Facebook @PhoebeABull.