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Body Positive Massage Therapy with Michael Quinichett

New York City based licensed massage therapist (and bear) Michael Quinichett tells us about his body positive massage practice and gives advice on how you can find a body positive massage therapist near you.

While it is true that there has been much progress in the body positivity movement, we still have a long way to go. The sad truth of the matter is that bigger bodies are still looked down upon and still disparaged by our culture and society with seemingly no end in sight. It’s pervasive, and it prevents bigger bodied people from living their best lives.

Even when it comes to taking care of ourselves, bigger people are shamed to the sidelines. Who amongst us looks forward to doctor visits and how many times have we seen videos of people making fun of fat people at the gym? We have to think once, twice, even three times before performing tasks that our thinner counterparts don’t have to think about at all. Something as simple as going to a spa or getting a massage can quickly become an exercise in abject humiliation for bigger people.

Thankfully there are people like Michael Quinichett out there who recognized this problem withing the massage community and sought to rectify it with his own practice. As we start a new year, we should do so meeting our bodies where they are and not making unreasonable goals and demands on ourselves. Health is of course important and something we should all strive for and a good place to start is a rigorous massage that can help heal the mind, body and spirit; and Michael is doing his part to ensure ALL bodies get the love and attention they deserve.    

John Hernandez (JH): Tell me about how you came to discover the need for a body positive massage practice.

Michael Quinichett (MQ): In April 2016 I graduated from massage school in Columbus Ohio, and soon afterwards I put “Licensed Massage Therapist” in the ‘work’ section of the Growlr app. I had a number of bears message me saying they would love a massage from me because I was a man, a bear, gay, I looked like a strong guy who could give deep pressure and it was presumed I wouldn’t judge them because of their size (a correct presumption)!

As the years went by these guys began telling me their horrific, discriminatory massage stories based primarily on their weight. Comments like “you’re too big for my hands” or “my table isn’t used to a person of your size.” One guy in northern California told me he drove almost an hour to a gay massage therapist’s location only to have the therapist close the front door in his face because “he was too big.” I can’t imagine the car ride back home after being rejected by a GAY massage therapist!

Like most businesses I knew I needed a niche to differentiate myself, but what I didn’t expect was for the niche to find me. The bear community has embraced me since the beginning, and I decided to double down and give back. I began joint partnerships with North American Bear Weekend (NAB), Drenched Fur (R.I.P.), Lazy Bear, and International Bear Convergence (IBC) where I helped to raise money for the AIDS/Lifecycle Massage Team.

I’ve also volunteered at both CLAW and the LA Leather Getaway in the Body Spa for those bears interested in kink and BDSM. Not to leave out the chubs, I also partnered with Bigger Vegas to do massage in both 2019 and 2021 (where a member of the Big Fat Gay Podcast spoke about his massage experience, episode 104). It wasn’t until I moved to the Sacramento, California area in 2018 that I realized the trans/non-binary community also resonated with my body positive focus. All the ridiculous stigma and bias associated with gender and sexuality were also alive and well within the greater massage community. So many trans folks (in particular trans men) were uncomfortable going to a traditional spa but were also hesitant to see cisgendered gay male massage therapists, as all of us know plenty of gay men that have toxic views towards the trans community in general.

When I moved to Palm Springs in 2020, I had two beautiful ladies of size contact me for a massage. They were visiting the area and were grateful to find a licensed massage therapist who wouldn’t judge them because of their size or their profession (today we would call them content creators).

In short, my Body Positive Massage Therapy is not just a catchphrase for fat guys. It encompasses embracing ALL bodies, period.

Photo Credit: Steven Michael Photography

JH: And we love to see it! On your website you describe receiving a massage from a therapist that was noticeably uncomfortable working on your body. Can you describe their actions and how that made you feel?

MQ: I went to a well-known, nationally recognized traditional spa and there was some uncomfortable non-verbal communication when I was on the table. For example, when the massage therapist was trying to wrap my leg in the sheet, she kept grunting and huffing and puffing. I could have helped her if she asked me to. The biggest issue was the intake (that piece of paper you fill out before the massage). I mentioned I specifically wanted extra attention on my glutes and adductors. During the massage she barely worked on my glutes and completely avoided my adductors (the inner thigh area).

After the massage I asked her why she didn’t work on my adductors. She said she wasn’t allowed to work in that region. I left the room and complained to the front desk. I told the front desk what she said and they replied the company has no policy of avoiding the adductor region. I had so many questions:

Was I doing something to make her uncomfortable?

Did she not like me as a person?

Did she think I wanted a sexual massage?

It was the lack of communication for me.

THIS is my major issue with the greater massage community. My challenge for all bodyworkers is to speak up! You are in charge. You need to lead by example, ask the questions, set your boundaries, have no assumptions and make sure the client knows exactly what they are getting and what they are not getting. Miscommunication and lack of communication cause so much unnecessary strife, compounded by a society that looks down on larger people. No wonder so many bigger guys don’t want to get a massage!

Photo Credit: Steven Michael Photography

JH: For real! I know I’m very reluctant to pursue massage for that reason. How do your services rectify the issues you noticed with mainstream spas and therapists?

MQ: Representation matters. The model on my website, business card and social media is a 6 foot something, 300 lb hairy bear. Most mainstream spas and therapists don’t have a bear as the main model representing their company, let alone having them as employees actually doing the massage. Most spas won’t hire male massage therapists. In addition, being an independent practitioner I make my own rules. So no stupid rules that don’t make sense (like having a sheet on top of you, as demonstrated in my photos). Also being a bear myself I can relate to another bear’s experience. I know what it’s like to be judged because of your size. Lastly, I’m a black bear. I’ve had black men (and women) tell me they prefer to patronize a black LMT to keep circulating the black dollar, and because they’ve had problematic interactions with white bodyworkers.

We need a LOT more black bear licensed massage therapists! If that’s you, contact me and let’s chat!

JH: And what tools and equipment do you use that cater to bigger body types and those with differing levels of ability?

MQ: My massage table in my home studio in Astoria (Queens, New York) is an aluminum table (Oakworks) that is wider, longer, and can hold more weight than a standard massage table you’d find in a spa. It’s also lightweight which makes it easy to travel to homes, hotels, and Airbnb’s. Being able to have a massage in your home is wonderful for those with mobility issues (and it’s nice for you to just roll over and go to bed when we’re done). Another issue some bears have with laying on a massage table is the face rest. It can feel unstable and the pillow can be too small for a big necked bear! Oakworks has a Quicklock face rest which is super durable and can rotate in multiple planes for ultimate comfort. Also instead of using a traditional bolster (that round thing they put under your legs) which can be so squishy that it doesn’t actually supply any back or leg support, I use a foam roller. Lastly, I keep my table much lower than most massage therapists and this aids in helping bears, chubs, men of a “certain age”, and those in wheelchairs or on crutches get on and off the table much easier.

Photo Credit: Steven Michael Photography

JH: That sounds reassuring! What is your massage technique of choice and where did you study?

MQ: I LOVE Thai Massage. Whenever guys ask me about Thai Massage I usually describe it as a yoga class where I’m doing all the work. I’m pushing, pulling, and twisting your arms, legs and torso into yoga-like positions. It’s traditionally done on a mat on the floor but I’ve adapted it to more of a Western aesthetic since we’re used to massage on a table. It can be done rigorously or very soft and gentle depending on your preference. Also it’s traditionally done fully clothed, and practitioners in Thailand (still to this day) will go to the Saturday night market or the big Sunday market in Chiang Mai and do Thai Massage literally right there on the street in front of everyone.

My Thai Massage journey began in July 2017 when I took a traditional (floor) Thai Massage class. Then in August of 2022 I took a Table Thai Massage class with Ron Garcia at the Somatherapy Institute of Massage near Palm Springs, California. Finally, in January of 2023 I visited Chiang Mai, Thailand for individual Advanced Thai Massage with Lar Thanakrit Khamtanong, a gay native Thai Massage Therapist who also teaches at the renowned International Thai Massage School (ITM).

My initial massage therapy licensure is from the American Institute of Alternative Medicine, which I obtained on April 15th, 2016 in Columbus Ohio through the State Medical Board of Ohio, graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Photo Credit: Steven Michael Photography

JH: How would you encourage people who might be self-conscious to try massage?

MQ: A great question. Your body is sacred, and allowing someone to touch you needs consent, trust, and safety. If someone wanted to try a massage by me but was a bit self-conscious, I’d first set up a phone call to listen to their concerns. Or even better we could meet in person (if you’re in the NYC area) or set up a Zoom call. To allow a stranger to touch your body puts you in a vulnerable place, and the only way to feel comfortable with your potential massage therapist is to actually interact with them, make sure you are comfortable with them and their energy, and that you feel safe. Do all of this BEFORE you book the appointment.

JH: Great advice. Now,  a lot of bears, myself most definitely included have excess body hair. Are there techniques to work with hairier guys without the massage becoming painful?

MQ: Another great question. The short answer is yes. It all depends on the technique and experience of the massage therapist. There are tricks regarding positioning, pressure and even using towels that are effective. As a footnote, there are actually massage techniques that involve pulling the hair on the top of your head! It’s a form of Myofascial Release, but don’t worry I won’t be using that technique (unless you want me to lol).

Photo Credit: Steven Michael Photography

JH: Umm I think I’d pass on that haha! NYC based bears are able to book a massage. Do you have advice for bears in other places in terms of finding a local massage therapist?

MQ: I call massage “the 2nd oldest profession” mainly because you can pretty much throw a rock and find someone or a business that does massage. If you’re looking for a massage in your area I recommend asking yourself the following questions to pinpoint your specific needs:

1-Why do you want a massage?

2-Can you get what you want in a massage through a friend, or does it require someone with formal massage education?

3-If it does require someone like a Licensed Massage Therapist, ask for a referral from a local friend, colleague, or ask local groups on social media. People love giving referrals. Type in what type of massage you want and do some research. If you live in the United States, most folks who have a formal education in massage are called “Licensed Massage Therapists.” In California they are called “Certified Massage Therapists.” In general if you want deeper pressure or are recovering from an injury you want to make sure they have some sort of training.

If you are looking for a body positive massage therapist, Google it. It’s a very popular catch phrase and you may be able to find a bear friendly massage therapist that way.

5-Go to their website (if they don’t have a website I would consider that a yellow flag). Call or text them and tell them what you want. If they don’t have a phone number, don’t go (that’s a red flag).

Here’s a big caveat with everything I’ve mentioned up to this point. Let’s be real. We’re bears and we like to have sex. The term “massage” is a catch-all term that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. We’ve all heard of the seedy body parlors that charge for “extras.” To be clear I am a Licensed Massage Therapist who does therapeutic, non-sexual massage. There are lots of folks who offer sexual services and I applaud them.  Sex work is work.

JH: Excellent advice. And how can we book an appointment with you?

You can book an appointment by calling or text me at 646.504.7233, or online via my website at

JH: Wonderful! Thanks so much for joining me Michael and for all your amazing work!

Photo Credit: Steven Michael Photography

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John Hernandez

John Hernandez is the Editor in Chief of Bear World Magazine. In addition to bear culture, he specializes in entertainment writing with a special focus on horror and genre films. He resides in New York City with his husband.