There were a few pivotal moments. The first came when I was in a state legislative committee hearing listening to legislators comment about human trafficking legislation. They didn’t know what to call us: “there’s massage parlors and then there’s…. well, you guys.” That’s a problem.
Then, in a city council stakeholders meeting, the mayor asked massage therapists to “take one for the team.” He wanted massage therapists to submit to establishment licensing to stop human trafficking. The licensing ordinance would regulate massage therapists as adult entertainment. Can you imagine any other healthcare profession being asked to give up their core value of being a healthcare profession? I can’t.
In those moments, I realized that we, as a healthcare profession, had a problem. I realized that we will never be taken seriously as a healthcare profession when policymakers view us through the lens of adult entertainment. It’s not enough to have in place the essential building blocks of a profession (association, educator, regulatory, and research groups) to be successful. No, we need one more: A political advocacy group.
Such a political advocacy group or organization would take on the policy makers on the federal, state, and local levels. Yes, there are some groups that are policy advocates. But what is critically needed is a group to directly influence lawmakers. These are the people who actually determine the framework that governments and other policymakers work within. To some degree, the professional associations have stepped up to the plate on this, but they have their own agendas: protecting their memberships. And sometimes what’s good for the association isn’t necessarily good for the profession.
The massage therapy profession needs a policy advocacy group that is independent of the associations. We need a group that will consistently fight for, protect, and advocate for massage therapy as a healthcare profession. And, we need a group that will teach the rest of the profession exactly what it means to be a healthcare profession: How we can be helpful and compassionate without compromising the core value that we are a healthcare profession.
On another front…
In a conversation with colleagues, we were also deeply concerned that we’re aging out, and where will that collective knowledge go? How do we recruit our replacements? How do we train them? Other questions arose too: How do we provide education about political activism? How can we provide a one-stop shop for resources to deal with the main issues facing our profession? How do we get people to effectively lobby legislators? And many more.
So, here we are. There’s a need for this type of advocacy in our profession, and I’m starting up a movement. I’m partnering with a non-profit group to start this movement and more information will be coming soon. Will you join me?