Thomas Lavi: Professional and Affirming Care for Every Body

Massage Is for EveryBody Thomas Lavi

By Lisa Bakewell

Thomas Lavi was one of the winners of ABMP’s Massage is for EveryBody 2022 contest, and we wanted to share more of his story, which exemplifies the inclusive values of this campaign. Please join us in celebrating Thomas!

Thomas Lavi, owner of Lavi Massage in Oakland, California, is a transgender man and certified massage therapist who is both passionate about providing healing touch and dedicated to advocating for the queer and transgender communities where safe, respectful, and rejuvenating touch is often lacking or inaccessible. “My ultimate goal as a massage therapist,” he says, “is to offer those less often served by massage—such as transgender folks, people of color, elderly folks, folks with neurodiversities, and folks with marginalized body types—the chance to experience transformation and connection through safe and healing touch.”

The practice of massage therapy offers a pathway to a deeper vital bodily connection, “and everyone deserves the gift of healing touch,” Lavi says. “I feel called to work in massage because of my own journey in learning to embrace my body as a transgender man. I believe that none of us can truly be at peace until we find comfort and safety within our own individual bodies.”

Finding comfort and safety in our bodies requires knowledge of trauma-informed care, which Lavi says is a practice in awareness, empathy, and adaptability. An MT must acknowledge that every client has a unique story in all aspects of being: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. “My approach as a practitioner,” he says, “is to respect that story, be patient with its unfolding, and honor how I must adapt to allow space for healing to occur in each of those aspects of being.”

Lavi says his practice is growing and expanding to include specialized knowledge designed to offer comfort and enhanced quality of experience to his clients. “Subtle, yet important acts, such as using inclusive bodily language and respecting my client’s pronouns are foundational to my practice.”

Lavi also employs integrative work practices to meet the needs of his clients. Inclusive draping is one of the techniques Lavi uses, which is designed to offer comfort for people of varying body experiences and sizes. He also employs consent-based therapy to continually ensure his clients’ safety and autonomy. Other services include trauma-informed care and scar massage techniques for those healing from gender confirmation surgeries.

When it comes to trauma-informed care, Lavi says it’s most important to go a little slower. “Take the time to listen. Understand the need being presented, ask questions to make sure you’re affirming the person appropriately, and check in throughout so you can adjust accordingly. Be open to doing things a little differently than you may normally do them. And take the time to take thorough notes, after the session, so you can build on what you already learned about them, their story, and their needs.

“Utilizing affirming language and explanations of draping procedures to help the massage process feel affirming and safe can also be very important for folks with larger bodies. [Make] sure you have adequate sheets and blankets to keep them feeling covered and safe.”

Lavi’s aspiration for his massage therapy business is to always include empathic, professional, and affirming care to LGBTQ+ folks. “As a massage therapist,” he says, “I see endless possibilities for learning and growth, but I feel most excited by the potential to inclusively expand the culture of massage and by the opportunity to offer healing touch to important communities in need.”

Related content:

• Massage is for EveryBody is ABMP’s annual celebration of massage therapy and the philanthropic efforts of our members. Read more about the event and the guiding principles that drive it.

• Read the winning essays from 2022’s Massage is for EveryBody celebration.

• Enter your own essay or video submission for the 2023 Massage is for EveryBody event. 



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