My name is Symba Luna, pronouns (they/them/g)
Updated: May 7, 2022
I am a nonbinary healer by way of Massage Therapy and Reiki. I use my hands to feel energy in muscles and auras with coaching and breath checks associated with body language and responses. In the world of Reiki, I have the privilege and freedom to express my energy in affirmation of the gender expansiveness that I know about my soul. What I mean by this is with Reiki being energy healing, there is no school or test the West could monopolize for capital. I chose my Black energy “teachers” as I see fit, and there’s no money that I have to give the state to regulate my techniques and practices. I move as freely as energy centers that open, receive, and give love. In Reiki, I am who I say I am, and anyone receiving my healing believes me.
However in Massage Therapy, which brought me to healing first, the individual states have their own schooling processes and licensee requirements to judge if MTs uphold and maintain the education behind their certification. In these individual state boards, the u.s. western standard with background checks is said to be preventative against abusers and predators using their hands to make money and deceive their clients while abusing, assaulting, and taking advantage of naked bodies. But is it really working if a white Massage Envy employee could find employment at multiple locations instead of being reported to the state board? Is it working as designed for them? As a survivor of assault by a white chiropractor who maintained his credentials after assaulting many of his clients, it’s obviously not just the massage board that white males slip through the zero tolerance policy cracks. But I digress, because the white western american problem of sexual assault and touch healing is a subject for another scroll.
I do not even like that I used the word “male” two sentences ago. I began my writing off by stating I am a nonbinary healer. My pronouns are they/them/g as I take Chicago with me wherever I go. As a Black queer healer currently developing my relaunch of my business in a new city, I navigate the binary world of massage therapy and the medical industrial complex mostly with frustration and discomfort on a day to day basis. I left massage therapy school in 2014. I got my license in 2017. I have worked at 4 different spas while I have also been developing working for myself and owning my own brand. Massage Therapy is one of the few industries dominated by cisgender women. Although being perceived as an cisgender woman bothers me, I understand my spirit chose this experience based on how society operates. If I’m going to be oppressed daily through multiple intersections, I might as well take one advantage for my benefit. Cisgender men can and do thrive in this industry, but I believe that can vary and depend on region, race, and skill. Two Black cisgender men I came across in my career expressed to me that they did not feel they would be able to succeed like their colleagues because of their race and perceived gender. White cisgender men may not have feelings like those when historically they are not falsely accused of sexual assault. The challenge here was realizing that the Black cisgender men who are not embracing trans and queerness in community, and squirm in discomfort by the realities of race and gender in an industry where they are a minority, are usually holding a telltale sign that they have not been aware or empathetic of the ways in which Black cisgender women navigate industries with glass ceilings.
I acknowledge that a cisgender woman massage therapist may give cisgender women clients who are also survivors or just plain nervous about the experience a different sense of safety due to the lower statistic of cisgender women as predators. I like helping people feel safe and secure. I can also relate to the discomfort of having some cisgender men massage me. My question and what I am pondering on for my future brand is, could I not also do that same safe space holding as a genderless, gender neutral person? Could I go around massaging people without being called “ma’am” all day or while working at an all cisgender women’s spa so constantly under cisgender woman perception? This is my experience on top being the only Black therapist and navigating internalized racism. This is me beginning this conversation publicly for the first time. Are there any other nonbinary, gender fluid, gender nonconforming massage therapists out there? Journey Spa is a business that wants to figure out how and then design how we plan to be gender expansive. I feel like it is just as simple as adding nonbinary and transgender therapists to the industry for nonbinary and transgender clients to chose from with correct pronoun usage. A very simple start.
When I first started massage therapy school, I noticed the disparity around Black people giving but not receiving massage therapy. It was my first time receiving a massage by going to receive the education. For many Black people massage therapy is a luxury still, even though exposure has shifted things over the years. The awareness of the connection of touch and healing is growing. All bodies deserve to experience healing in releasing tension and growth of their body awareness. All bodies undergoing hormone replacement therapy deserve to relax in their bodies. As an industry, massage therapy already acknowledges individuality in creating massage sessions and consent through autonomy and privacy. We already properly drape everyone in the same way to keep them modest and privatize genital areas even when the client chooses to be naked. I want to urge us as a community, allies, and advocates to take it at least three steps further. Massage Therapy schools need to educate on HRT, the endocrine system, and massage benefits, the importance of affirming an individual's gender transition, and we need to adopt gender neutral and inclusive language in our intake and SOAP Notes sections. We have to stop assuming we know everything there is to know about an individual based on their perceived genitalia. As licensed massage therapists we are avoiding those areas because that is none of our business.
So what is our business? Our business as bodyworkers is no different than when caring for cisgender people. Is your client taking their hormones as directed? Has their doctor approved massage therapy after any recent surgeries? Are they stretching with their workouts? Are we using their current name and pronouns? Are they dealing with a chronic illness or pain? If they are, gender is not relevant at all to oxygenating their blood, improving their circulation, stretching and releasing tension from their muscles, and helping them relax from the stress that brought them to us. These kinds of questions and more can greatly improve emotional and mental well-being of queer and transgender people while we also address their physical well-being through therapeutic massage and gender affirming care. As intuitive healers, Black queer, trans, and non-binary massage therapists deserve gender affirming work spaces. At Journey Spa, your body and transition is yours, and we are going on this journey together. With everything we do, we nod to the historical and societal context, and this is one of the first things that come to mind when I consider the life and world that I want to create. In order for everything that is anti white supremacist to thrive, we also need to create new societal norms. Black queer, transgender, and nonbinary people exist in the now and in the future, and we deserve to be acknowledged and included in healing spaces. We are creating one more space here for nonbinary, transgender, and queer folks, especially Black, like ourselves.
March 11, 2022 - March 13, 2022
Symba Luna #ChiAsShit