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  • symbaluna

Challenge the Binary

One of my deepest desires is for my Journey Spa brand to be as authentic as myself towards breaking out of the binary of the societal standard and status quo. I am a non-binary gender nonconforming massage therapist, but I am not “out” as such at the spa I temporarily work with. I am no one’s madame or lady, and I have never been. I am not on that side of the planet AT ALL. Doing the work to be free to be “out” not just only while I am working for myself, seems to be bigger than something I can do by myself. I used quotations in the previous statements because I don’t care for the idea of Black Queer, Transgender, and Non-binary people having to do so. Cisgender and heterosexual people don’t have to come out. Alas that is the status quo. This is their world. Anyone who is not white, cisgender, and straight has to navigate carefully what places and times are safe to be out in as an “other”.

Every June a lot of the major companies and industries mix a PRIDE flag with their logo because they absolutely want those LGBTQ+ dollars. However, July 1st, when PRIDE month is over, as well as before it started, LGBTQ+ folks especially Black LGBTQ+ folks are ignored, if not, at the bare minimum, tolerated. These companies, industries, and corporations are not actually inclusive and many higher executives could still be in the closet, for all we know, hating themselves and us at the same time.The Massage Therapy industry is no exception, the same.

I began my social transition 2 years ago in 2020, although I can look back to my childhood and see evidence that I sometimes wish I had during younger me times. One of the difficulties of a long term relationship that I entered into, during my 20’s, was my partners not supporting the changes, I believe I wasn’t even fully aware of, that I wanted to make in my trans masculine transition. Finally, since leaving that space, I could begin. For many Queer and Transgender people, the names we were given at birth no longer suit us. I was privileged to make a choice about if I would stop using it or not. I feel like a late bloomer in many areas of my life, including this one, so I felt late to initiate the name changing process legally. I was struggling financially during my 20’s, which is also why I don’t currently have any healthcare, and to dive even deeper, lack of healthcare is a reason why I don’t currently have access to a medical transition. Financially, changing my name wasn’t available to me, and I no longer lived in my birth state to easily access my birth certificate,so I decided to utilize my privilege and keep it to maintain my educational and licensing credibilities. Going forward, I decided that I would introduce myself as Symba Luna with they/them pronouns, and I would sign my legal name when necessary. I find that funny because my signature isn’t a legible name anyhow. The best part for me was realizing that I knew my name in 2017 years before I acted on having this freedom.

Irregardless, all of the operations within Journey Spa will be done in a gender affirming way for staff and clientele. Journey Spa has evolved and transitioned with me since 2018. Almost immediately as a massage student, I knew that I wanted to not only have my own business, but I wanted to have a successful spa brand that all Black people would benefit from. Now that I can see what is lacking for LGBTQ+ people in the massage therapy industry, I intend to fill that gap as best as I can in conjunction with teams of collaborators and individuals that align with my vision and work ethic. We have some paths and experiences before our final transformation, but my personal stories that I’m sharing with you is part of that foundation for when the time comes, and you all see me and my teams growing and expanding in providing quality, convenient, gender affirming care. Before I moved to South Carolina, my self employment positioned me away from popular spa brands. I’ve been planning a relaunch in my new city, and due to this, now I’m currently working for a different spa brand, saving my coins, and getting a read on the pulse of what life is like here for Black LGBTQ+ people. I went from a space of gaining confidence living as my authentic self, not adhering to anyone else’s rules, to now being in a space where I fell like I have to shrink, ever so slightly, watch my mouth, and be careful what I say to my Asian and white, straight, cisgender coworker I order to not be additionally “othered”, aside from being the only Black individual in the entire work space.

Although I have my own lived experience, I will never pretend that I am fully equipped to educate non LGBTQ+ people on our plights. Much of that personally is extreme social anxiety intertwined with realizing that I don’t yet know enough about transitioning. This perspective is what brings me to the lacking educational information around Hormone Replacement Therapy, the endocrine system, gender affirming surgeries, medical and no medical transitioning, and gender affirming care for Transgender and Non-binary people. I realized that maybe I might be able to find continuing education courses that speak to these topics, but also these subjects should be part of the massage therapy school curriculum as a foundation. In my search I did find some areas with LGBTQ+ massage therapists teaching their own classes. This is nice, but we absolutely need more. I also recently joined a Facebook group with other LGBTQ+ massage therapists so I’m interested to see how I can contribute to progressing this conversation amongst ourselves to break the binary barriers in the mainstream massage therapy world.

Breaking the binary is as necessary as always to be also “down with the patriarchy”. The discomfort and imbalance of society where some folks have to or feel a pressured need to “come out” also brings forth a new understanding of “passing” for me. Historically and socially “passing” is connected to being able to prove your proximity to whiteness. Ironically, “passing” for cisgender is also a respectable Negro’s proof of proximity to whiteness so one can try to imitate the “nuclear”, “normal” life that whiteness says it’s best to have. Not to forget to mention that cisgender people assume that everyone is heterosexual, unless you’re a certain type of flamboyant. It’s a rude insult to Blackness to believe that you can look at someone and automatically know how and who they love.

My Blackness is my queerness, and I acknowledge that what I have is, a cisgender psssing privilege, is something that many of my Queer and Transgender siblings sometimes strive for in order to be safe in their every day lives. However cisgender folks have it all wrong. Neither I nor my siblings want to be cisgender. In fact, I would prefer to eradicate and denounce these societal gender norms and practices and utilize this passing privilege as an opportunity to dream up the newspaper brand of Journey Spa where Queer, Transgender, Non-binary, and any and everyone far away from the intersections of whiteness, will always be safe from whiteness in the Massage Therapy, Reiki, and Birthwork that we provide. Journey Spa will be a brave environment in which Black LGBTQ+ people will receive respect and quality gender affirming care from Black LGBTQ+ massage therapists and birthworkers that are educated on Hormone Replacement Therapy, transitioning, the endocrine system, pronouns, and comfortability measures that benefit all stages of transition. Journey Spa will be an intentional space where Black Queer, Transgender, Non-binary therapists and clients like myself have the freedom to be their whole and full selves with hakuna matata around perceptions and judgements of who they might be being counterproductive to the healing that we seek. Journey Spa will be a home that you don’t have to come out or pass to he cared for in.

-April 3, 2022-April 7, 2022

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