InspiHERed By: Ana María Agüero Jahannes
InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week Ana María Agüero Jahannes, an Oakland-based massage therapist, shares.
ELIXHER: Tell us about Ana. Who is she?
ANA: I’m the founder of Wild Seed Wellness which offers affordable massage therapy for queer and trans people of color. I’m a certified massage therapist, photographer, graphic/web designer, dancer and a whole mess of fun. My home base has always been Savannah, Georgia. That’s where I was born, raised and my parents still live there. They are Black American and Colombian. I had a 6-year stint in New York City and now I live and work in Oakland, California.
ELIXHER: How and why did you begin doing healing work?
ANA: I went to New York University, studied Media, Culture and Communications, graduated and started working in art education and community organizing. I lost a job leaving me with a wonderful amount of time on my hands. People all around me were talking about hustling. I figured I needed a hustle, so photography and massage therapy became my hustles. More importantly they became my passions. Now I don’t hustle. I take my time. Slow cook on low heat. Learn my crafts in and out. (I went back to school for massage therapy.) And share them. I’m a full-time massage therapist with a blossoming career and I’m in L-O-V-E love with my work.
ELIXHER: Tell us more about Wild Seed Wellness and why you created it specifically for queer and trans people of color.
ANA: Massage therapy services at Wild Seed Wellness are sliding scale. I want people to be able to make bodywork a regular part of their wellness routine. Every 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month, I provide donation-based massage. I practice Thai Massage (“lazy man’s yoga”), Deep Tissue (for undoing tension and retraining muscles), Swedish (for overall body relaxation), Trigger Point Therapy (for relieving chronic pain) and Pregnancy Massage (for bringing a new life into the world). I also offer consultations to help you understand what’s going on in your body.
Why the focus on queer and trans people of color? I have an intake form that my clients must fill out when they make an appointment with me with some optional research questions about identity, lived experience and connections to stress and wellbeing. One question asks, “Consider that there are three kinds of stress – acute, episodic and chronic – which can negatively impact your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. How are your identities linked to stress and your wellbeing?” Taijhet Nyobi, a client of mine, has definitely begun processing these connections and said, “Uncomplimentary and/or incongruent realities, ideas, or perceptions of my physical body affect the way I walk, literally, in the world. I have had to become aware of my slouching to appear more masculine. Slouching makes my chest less visible. This, along with binding, has caused serious tension in my neck, shoulders, and lower back.” There are very real and direct connections of how we are perceived and treated to how we carry ourselves and what physical pains we feel.
They continue, “As a gender-nonconforming person of color there are few places where this is celebrated and validated. Confidence is a struggle and feelings of isolation are frequent. Institutions that are beneficial to healthy lifestyles are often avoided, specifically Medical Institutions because of [their] lack of awareness.” This is essentially what I explained to my mother when she asked if I was limiting my business. There are a lot of us. In my friend’s words: “Looks like you got a job to do.” Wild Seed Wellness is necessary. I truly believe that. I’ve struggled myself to find bodyworkers who “get me,” much less respect me.
I feel honored when queer and trans people of color ask me my advice on how to treat themselves from low/”blah” energy, bad posture, scar tissue from top surgery, heartbreak or pain between the shoulder blades. I am a wealth of knowledge and I’m committed to deepening my understanding of healing through massage therapy, bodywork, self-care and the like. More than anything I want to disseminate that information. It’s my way of supporting myself and my families. The biggest compliment is when someone makes an appointment, or better yet, comes back a second time.
If you want to add your voice to this research, I have a short questionnaire you can fill out here: Wild Seed Wellness Health Survey for Queer and Trans People of Color.
ELIXHER: What’s your favorite self-care practice?
ANA: Grounding. Feeling ungrounded is having energy that is not harmonious in my body. My body is a sacred space and I have an exercise that I do to get rid of any energy that doesn’t belong there. I visualize a connection from my body to the center of the earth. Thus far for me it has taken the form of a bright ray of light, roots of the most enormous tree and a waterfall. It leads to the brightest, most energetic space. When I feel something that doesn’t serve me I visualize it going down this path to this space where it immediately vanishes and returns to where it actually belongs. I close this path at the end so I don’t accidentally rid myself of myself. Then I take a deep breath and smile. That’s how I begin all my massages. I do the same thing to ground my spaces so I feel safe in them.
ELIXHER: Fill in the blanks. [Blank] gives me [Blank]. In return I [Blank].
ANA: Sunlight gives me life. In return I bless her with my bare skin. Chaos gives me life. In return I give her order.
ELIXHER: When was the last time you felt utter pride to be a part of the queer community of color?
ANA: The last time? I’m a little bashful because I’m putting myself on blast, but I’mma rock it. I had really amazing safe, consensual queer sex last night. Key words: safe, consensual. And everything about it was sexy. Defining our relationships for ourselves and being about it is something that I’ve witnessed in my own network of queer and trans people of color. I’ve been part of and heard beautiful stories about listening to inner voices, communicating with lovers, creating safe spaces, trying new (freaky) things, forgiving, embracing and growing (up).
ELIXHER: Now tell us about a time you felt deep frustration with our community. In that moment, what was your wish/hope/prayer for us?
ANA: Drinking just to dance. Being reckless in our bodies. Hurting ourselves when we know better. I hope that we prioritize holistic health. Let’s practice harm-reduction. There are a lot of choices we do have power in making. Don’t ignore your friends’ unhealthy habits. Speak up to them with love.
ELIXHER: What’s next for Ana and Wild Seed Wellness?
ANA: Fundraising and expansion.
I will be launching an online fundraising campaign soon to cover funds for rent and utilities at a permanent space, equipment, marketing, 1st and 3rd Tuesday Donation-Based Massage days and gift certificates to elder queer and trans people of color.
I just began a semester-long film class through QWOCMAP (Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project). By the end of spring, I will launch online videos with self-help tips. I want people to have resources and see themselves represented in those resources.
Keep up at wildseedwellness.com and Wild Seed Wellness on Facebook.