It wasn’t until about 10 years ago or so (depending on how progressive your state/town etc.) that receiving a massage was viewed as therapeutic.
Even today there are unfortunately continued misogynistic tendencies that present themselves with lewd expectations from (in my personal experience) white males. I don’t say cis white males (which I would more than likely be accurate in saying) because having a conversation about sexual orientation isn’t exactly kosher in a massage experience.
“Hi, what are we working on today? Would you like any aromatherapy or add-ons? Oh, and what is your sexual orientation?” Not part of the intake and setup of a massage experience.
Yet there is an added dynamic that is a part of an experience that I have to be aware of. That’s being transgender and a massage therapist.
The amount of prep (makeup, hair, etc.) becomes an even more intense requirement on a workday for me. Why? Because I have to be sure you aren’t able to even slightly tell I’m transgender. Make no mistake – I am proud of who I am as a transgender female. But I have to make sure that you’re comfortable.
I have to make sure my voice is on point and not dropping. I have to smile more and deliver myself in confidence. The slightest waver in any of those things and your degree of comfort may change and you may decide that you aren’t comfortable with me as a therapist because of your preconceived notions of what transgender and the trans community is about.
I have to exist in the potential that at any given point because I am transgender that with the president rolling back more and more of our protections that my job isn’t secure. Not because of my performance or my ability. But because of what’s between my legs and what was assigned to me at birth.
There are stories that are far grimmer than mine. I am fortunate that I can “pass” very well-meaning most people can’t tell if I’m transgender or cis female. But guess who knows? I do. When I look at certain angles of my face. Battling dysphoria. Battling self-worth. Makeup right? Hair done right? I’m not vain – I’m in self-preservation.
I wait for the day that I can say – hi, I’m Ysa I’ll be taking care of you today and not once during a session, during my life experiences will I ever worry that something may be wrong simply because of who I am. There are a plethora of scenarios that play that out with that I have been and existed in privilege outside of racial profiling and my being white and living in middle-class suburbia in Iowa.
I just want to get up one morning and get ready. And just smile because I know I’m safe, my future is secured and I don’t have to worry about anything at work besides if you do or don’t want a foot scrub.