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Why I Want to Become a Massage Therapist by Cameron Stodghill

Updated: Feb 11

Swedish massage instructor at Avalon School of Massage

Massage has been in my life since I was eighteen years old. I used to go to the nail salon in my neighborhood where they offered massages along with their regular services. Nine times out of ten, I would ask my LMT, Kat-Toung, if she could just work on my back and shoulders, since that has always been my trouble area. I remember always leaving my one hour massages feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It came to a point where I would try to get bodywork done once a month because I saw the therapeutic benefits of it, and not just the relaxing benefits. By the time I was nineteen or twenty, I had the thought that if nothing else was working out for me career wise, I would try going into massage therapy.

When I was twenty five years old, I came out as non-binary. For those who don’t know what non-binary is, it is an identity within the transgender community. Non-binary folks don’t feel they are necessarily a male or a female, or they tend to feel somewhere along the spectrum between those two genders. For me personally, I just identify as myself. After coming out in early 2019, I started to bind my chest down using tape and a binder. The binder is basically a very tight compression crop-top. I would wear it almost every day, for about eight hours at a time. As you can imagine, the compression did a number on my back, which was already my problem area. After a few months of binding, stretching wasn't doing enough to relieve my back pain and I knew I needed a massage. Although I had been to the same LMT for years, I was terrified of how to go about getting my massage as a newly out trans person. I was thinking thoughts such as "How would she react to me changing my name?", and "Am I going to have to explain the tape on my chest?" Because of these daunting thoughts, along with several others, I didn't get a massage due to the fear of being misgendered, disrespected, threatened, or even harmed.

Roll around to 2020, and the pandemic is in full force. Even if I gathered the courage to get a massage done, I wouldn't be able to since most massage establishments were closed. Instead, I used this time to get to know myself better. I was very fortunate, in a sense, that I was able to go through the awkward stages of my transition during quarantine, and that I didn't have to worry about social situations. By 2021, I was preparing to have my top surgery (double mastectomy) done on my birthday, May 20th. At this point, I haven't had a massage in about two years and I wanted to make sure my body was as prepared for surgery as possible. After asking around the trans community if anyone knew of a trans-friendly LMT, I was able to find one. I ended up having two sessions with her before my surgery date. She was a friend of a friend and made me feel so safe and welcomed. Energy, the LMT, asked what my pronouns are, what areas of my body needed work, and she reassured me that her presence was a safe space. Those two sessions I had with her ended up being the best bodywork sessions that I have ever had. At that point, I was sure I wanted to pursue a career as an LMT. It had been this thought in the back of my head for about ten years now, and it was time to finally act on it. However, my reason was more than just being a career where I can make good money. My reason for becoming an LMT is to be a positive resource and a safe space for the transgender and queer community.

After speaking to several folks in the transgender community, some of the reasons why they don't get massages are; the fear of being misgendered, disrespected, or being touched inappropriately. Some other reasons were: "having a stranger touch me", "being worried about what the therapist is thinking about me", "dysphoria", "it's too much money" and "being touched and it triggering my past trauma and abuse". All of these are very real and legitimate reasons why so many trans identifying people don't get bodywork done. I know I thought some of these things myself when I first started to transition.

Currently, I have been taking weekly testosterone injections for two years and three months, and I am eight months post-op of having my top surgery done. I also understand that I now have a lot of privilege being perceived by the world as a white, cisgendered, straight male. Recognizing this privilege, I want to use it for good and help my trans siblings by bringing healing body work to them. This also includes the BIPOC community, especially trans women of color, who are the most marginalized. Everyone, no matter how they identify, deserves to have positive, safe, and healing bodywork modalities accessible to them.

If you are an Avalon student interested in applying for the Dr. Sophie Rydin Scholarship, please click here.

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