In the early days of modern body modification, it was definitely a man’s world. Doug Malloy, Jim Ward, and Fakir are credited as being the “fathers” of the modern piercing movement, but while they were servicing a primarily male clientele, Raelyn was blazing a trail among women, offering piercing, branding, and scarification in the lesbian BDSM community. While Doug, Jim, and Fakir get the lion’s share of the credit for what modern piercing has become since it emerged in the late 70s, Raelyn’s name has unfortunately little more than a footnote—and that’s a shame. (It is called “his-story,” after all.)
While she made her home in the Bay Area, Raelyn made a tremendous impact on early body modification on the East Coast through her travels. In the early 90s, she would see clients and do workshops in and around the Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas, offering not only piercing, but branding and scarification services as well. She presided over a women’s space, but welcomed everyone from Philadelphia’s queer community. What body modification became in Philadelphia owes a debt to Raelyn’s early visits, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Infinite would probably not exist if it weren’t for her.
Raelyn battled inflammatory breast cancer over ten years ago. Our last post about Raelyn, published this past May, reported she was dealing with a recurrence that returned to sites in her brain, bones, mediastinum and lungs. She had recently finished a course of 25 radiation sessions, in June of 2013, and spent the fall and winter recovering. Although that radiation did a good job on many sites, Raelyn was still undergoing radiation treatments. Last Saturday, she lost that long, final battle.
Her partner of many years, Babs, was requesting help with medical bills, and with Raelyn’s passing, funeral costs have added to this expense. To anyone who is able to give even a small amount: any donation is useful and appreciated. You can send funds through the GoFundMe site (although they do take a percentage of all donations), PayPal donations can be made to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, or checks or money orders can be sent to:
1271 Washington Ave., #640
San Leandro, CA 94577
The world is poorer for her passing.