Inclusive Massage Business Celebrates Year Of Serving Pittsburgh's LGBT Community

Jan 9, 2020

It’s been one year since Body Euphoria Inclusive Massage Therapy opened in upper Lawrenceville. The business is owned and operated by Eli Shumaker, a massage therapist who says he wanted to create a positive experience for his clients, especially those who identify as LGBT.

The name, Body Euphoria, intentionally plays off the word “dysphoria,” which is when someone feels discomfort or out of place in their own body.

“The underlying principle is all bodies are good bodies,” Shumaker said. “We strive to be very radically body positive here.”

Shumaker, who is trans, said he’s had the unfortunate experience of feeling uncomfortable at other massage spaces and makes it his mission to create a safe environment.

The rooms at Body Euphoria are named after famous LGBTQ figures, including Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

“If it’s just going to be an anxiety-inducing experience, [that’s] not what massage is about,” Shumaker said.

Shumaker specializes in myofascial release, a massage technique that involves applying sustained pressure to strained tissue, but he also sees a lot of clients for chronic pain and what he calls “desk body.”

“You know, you sit at a desk for eight hours a day, 40 days a week,” Shumaker said. “Your shoulders are hunched forward and you get that spot right between your neck and your shoulder… Everybody’s got it.”

Many clients come to Body Euphoria for the atmosphere, but also because Shumaker specializes in treating people who chest bind. The practice is common among transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people and can reduce gender dysphoria and improve mental health. Shumaker said binding can be constrictive and cause chronic pain or postural changes, so it’s helpful for clients to receive massages to relax muscles.

Shumaker said most of his regular clients are people who haven’t felt comfortable in other massage parlors. One particular person, who he said comes in three or four times a month, is transgender and has serious health issues that can be slowed with massage therapy.

“It’s rewarding to be able to see someone who needs the work that I do be able to get quality work and feel safe in the space,” he said.

Over the past year, the space has hosted gender queer clothing exchanges, holistic healing sessions and LGBT gaming nights.

Body Euphoria set up at People’s Pride last year, and Shumaker said he’s excited for this year’s Pride events. He’s also considering adding another practitioner and more retail, including foot scrubs and muscle rubs.