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The App That Queers Love (Hint: It’s Not Grindr)

woman getting a head massage

It's from a massage company with LGBTQ workers in its mission.


Few things are as distressing to some as being in a big box store in September and hearing holiday Muzak already piping in through the loudspeakers. That's because for some LGBTQ folks of a certain age, the whole "home for the holiday" season is a bit of an additional stressor. It's the perfect cue for a massage, a treatment which is increasingly being offered to reduce stress, pain, muscle tension, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Enter Soothe, the on-demand massage app that celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year.

The service can deliver a licensed, insured massage therapist to your home, hotel, or even the office within an hour via, the Soothe app, or, for die-hards, an old fashion toll-free number. The app is extremely popular with LGBTQ users, in part because of a corporate culture that welcomes them too.

One gay VP is making sure of that, but he's got plenty of help. After tenures at DogVacay and RadPad, Jeff Bishop-Hill made the jump to Soothe, in part because of the environment for LGBTQ employees and clients.

"When I met our founder, Merlin Kauffman, it was very evident he wanted to make Soothe into an inclusive company for everyone, including the LGBTQ community," says Bishop-Hill.

jeff bishop-hill

The vice president of operations, Bishop-Hill (above), was one of the first few employees of Soothe. Since launching its massage-on-demand app in Los Angeles five years ago, Soothe is responsible for giving nearly a million massages in 70 cities in four countries.

Bishop-Hill has helped develop this international expansion, lead the company to become the global leader in on-demand massage, and recruit, train, and background check over 13,000 massage therapists.

Much of the company's success is thanks to the loyalty of their massage therapists, like William Tarrant who enjoy the benefits of working with Soothe.

"You have the ability to take clients at your discretion and you are not committed to a set schedule, just the appointments you have accepted," Tarrant says. "I like the idea of treating no more than three to four clients per day at this level, so I can provide undivided attention, a nonrushed session and possessing the ability to treat the client in the comfort of their own home and tackling their source of pain or discomfort."

As a gay mobile bodywork practitioner, personal safety has long been a concern, Tarrant admits, especially when visiting a stranger's home to provide treatment, but he's always felt secure with Soothe. "Soothe makes this transition safer by gathering info about the client once the session has been booked," he says.

He says the company's pro-LGBTQ philosophy filters down to his everyday work too, "Soothe the company and the management are very LQTBQ-supportive," says Tarrant. "There has never been any judgment," about his sexual orientation he says. "I always felt supported by the concierge all the way up to the corporate level of Soothe. This level of support from a company allows you to become a confident, efficient, and seasoned massage therapist."

william tarrant

Tarrant (pictured above) can thank Bishop-Hill for that environment.

The VP acknowledges, "It was also my mission to make sure Soothe was a warm place to work for LGBTQ team members--this is in the ethos of our culture, not just our HR policies. Being a gay person myself and knowing that a person's orientation or identity can be complex, it was easy to help build this culture, and I am proud of what we have accomplished."

Bishop-Hill says Soothe has "an incredibly diverse team, including people in the LGBTQ community, racial minorities, and religious minorities. It is fun to walk around our Los Angeles or Las Vegas offices and see Pride flags on employee's desks and in their offices."

Indeed, Christopher Malanche (below), Soothe's social media and customer success specialist as well as a digital media producer, agrees.

"Although I didn't initially know much about the culture when I started at Soothe, he says, "it didn't take long to recognize that the company valued individuality, creativity, and innovation. Our company is so diverse that something like orientation is such a non-issue."

chris malanche

Malanche, who is also gay, has been with Soothe for several years, in part because, "I've always enjoyed being able to wear many hats and Soothe has always supported and encouraged me to explore any aspect of the business I've been intrigued by." The now-triple-titled social guru, adds, "The in-office massage perks are just an added bonus."

"Our biggest promoters are fitness and wellness enthusiasts who value how easily accessible Soothe makes getting a massage," Malanche says. "Our LGBTQ community makes up a big part of that. I'm excited to see what direction we take to appeal to broader audiences, including all my LGBTQ friends and family."

Of course, these days queer fans are just as likely to see Soothe on TV (The Ellen DeGeneres Show) or in the pages of Vogue or The Wall Street Journal. The company keeps growing too, expanding its international presence in Germany this summer with more to come. There's also a new massage and stretching option for the workplace called Soothe at Work, which features "corporate chair massages and assisted stretching to help ease anxiety and stress at work," Bishop-Hill says. "The benefits of this program can be quite surprising, such as increased workplace performance and improved mental clarity." He adds that in-office massages can fight poor body mechanics and relax the muscles that can impact carpal tunnel syndrome.

The workplace option also makes it easier for folks new to on-demand apps (say those who haven't jumped on the Uber and Postmates bandwagon) to try out Soothe. Since LGBTQ folks tend to be first adopters of new tech, that may not include many of us. In fact, Tarrant says that of his own client-base, at least 10 to 15 percent may already be LQTBQ-identified.

"As a professional, I leave it to the client to disclose personal information," he says. "Some clients have mentioned up front that they are a part of the LGTBQ community, but you have to be mindful and respect other people's decisions."

Tarrant admits he sometimes will come out to his female clients to make them feel more comfortable and he's done couples massages for same-sex couples who "were very nice to me and showed the utmost respect."

He says that the environment has helped him immensely.

"I'm a top-rated therapist with Soothe," Tarrant says. "And I owe my success to this company who has provided a platform for me to gain experience in mobile massage and to excel in my craft."

Sure, there are always complaints at any job but the ever-exuberant Malanche says the number one complaint he gets isn't too bad.

"We get asked to come to different cities all over the world," he admits. "There's such a huge demand for a service like ours overseas and abroad. My reply: 'Soothe is still expanding and recruiting therapists. It's only a matter of time before we come to your city. Keep checking in!'"

For these guys, and the many LGBTQ Soothe workers (therapists and corporate drones alike), it's critical to keep Soothe the friendly workplace it is while it continues to grow and expand around the globe.

"Our corporate culture is important," says Bishop-Hill, "as it sets the tone for our relationship with our massage therapist partners--the true life-blood of the company. Many of our therapists identify as LGBTQ, and it was important that the safety net we put in place started with our team at headquarters."

He says they extend "this acceptance to all of our therapists and clients as well--we have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of sexual identity- or racial-intolerance, and specifically protection for our trans brothers and sisters."

Malanche concurs: "Orientation, gender, appearance, disability--none of those things have anything to do with performance. We welcome everybody."

Bishop-Hill points to another benefit for Soothe's thousands of LGBTQ workers.

"Having LGBTQ management and staff definitely makes Soothe more well-rounded," Bishop-Hill adds. "We are particularly proud to offer opportunities for employees and massage therapists in states where there may not be any LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws. [Worldwide], Soothe will always be a place that LGBTQ persons are able to apply for a position and not be judged because of their sexuality or gender identity."

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Diane Anderson-Minshall

Diane Anderson-Minshall is the CEO of Pride Media, and editorial director of The Advocate, Out, and Plus magazine. She's the winner of numerous awards from GLAAD, the NLGJA, WPA, and was named to Folio's Top Women in Media list. She and her co-pilot of 30 years, transgender journalist Jacob Anderson-Minshall penned several books including Queerly Beloved: A Love Across Genders.
Diane Anderson-Minshall is the CEO of Pride Media, and editorial director of The Advocate, Out, and Plus magazine. She's the winner of numerous awards from GLAAD, the NLGJA, WPA, and was named to Folio's Top Women in Media list. She and her co-pilot of 30 years, transgender journalist Jacob Anderson-Minshall penned several books including Queerly Beloved: A Love Across Genders.