One of the truly great things about the current explosion of TV shows available to watch via streaming, broadcast and turtles acting out plays on the back of giant floating rocks – OK so that was last one isn’t a thing but such as is the multiplicity of options these days, it could well be – is the diversity of people and stories finally getting their time in the televisual sun.
One such example is Ryan O’Connell who released a book in 2015 called I’m Special … and other lies we tell ourselves which talked about what life is like for a man who is gay, disabled and how it’s next to near impossible to run from yourself (especially if you’re being truly honest with yourself.)
Reflecting a voice honed over many a YouTube video and blog post, creative outlets that brought him a well-deserved profile, Ryan is grateful for the platforms the current wave of television programming is offering someone like himself, all the more important when he remembers what it was like growing up as a kid who was gay and had cerebral palsy.
“Growing up, if I had seen a [disabled] gay guy on TV or in movies who reminded me of myself, it would have probably altered the course of my life forever. I know that sounds dramatic, but when you’re young and you feel like a freak for being who you are, not seeing yourself being reflected back at you basically confirms that. It tells you, implicitly, that you don’t matter.” (Queerty)
But his success and the way so many people, disabled or not, have identified with his humour-laden empowering message, have given him the opportunity to provide that once-absent example for today’s generation of queer kids.
His upcoming show on Netflix, Special, which follows working on Will and Grace and writing a film for Dreamworks, is specific sure but Ryan believes it will resonate with all kinds of people, whoever they are.
“I think the fear many have is that a show about a gay disabled person will only be relatable to people who are gay and disabled but that’s bullshit,” he explains. “The personal is universal. You find shared experiences through specificity. I want people [both disabled and not] to watch Special and see themselves in it.” (Queerty)
All eight episodes of Special premiere on Netflix on 12 April.