By Bob Gallagher
Don’t know how many of you know this but I’m an Asian American woman. I’m an ethnically Asian woman who does massage.
I read about what happened in Georgia and the uptick of assaults against Asians in the US in 2020. I thought it sad and tragic but then I moved on. I generally stay away from politics because as unifying as it can be it’s mostly known for being divisive and stress-inducing.
Then a client came in and told me she’d been thinking about me all week after this potentially race-related event. It was like an awakening, from a sleep I didn’t know I was in. I don’t know how the awakening will manifest or where it will take me but there is an aspect of my identity that I now realize I am grossly out of touch with.
Others may be more considerate of my Asianness than I am.
There’s a reason my photo is not on my website. It’s been suggested, nay, insisted, multiple times over the years I should have one but the stereotype of my profession paired with my ethnicity is too great for me to hazard that small act of courage. (Even my photo on Yelp has made more than one client a little disappointed to find I’m smaller in person than the photo suggests with the notion I can’t give a “strong” massage.)
Though there are many Asian stereotypes, many of which I can’t help but defy, the subconscious assumption that could be made of my image is one steeped in American history. A history born of wars between countries and the sexualization and fetishization of Asian women as they turned to the sex trade when their way of life was no longer available to them due to foreign occupation.
Then again as they became single women in this country after being brought here as war brides. In contrast, the stereotype made of my sobriquet paired with my married name seems vastly much safer even when occasionally asked if I’m transgender.
When people look at me I don’t think of being seen as an Asian woman. At least not day-to-day. I am reminded on occasion that is exactly what people see. The thing about being ethnically Asian is I’m not sure anyone who doesn’t know me will ever truly see me as an American even though I know no other way.
My American may be different from someone else’s American but if this is the country I was born in and pledged allegiance to doesn’t it make me an American? Make my experience American? My hope though is that for the greater good of diversity, acceptance and freedoms for all, day by day, my very existence as an Asian American becomes more and more political in this country. #StopAsianHate.
This post originally was published on the Mahalo Massage blog on March 25, 2021
NYC native Bob is familiar with the stresses of the city and the toll it can take on one’s mental health and physical body. Establishing Mahalo Massage NYC in 2010, Bob is committed to and passionate about massage—helping her clients get in touch with themselves to promote the self-healing of their mind and body.