With Special, the Netflix show he created and stars in, Ryan O’Connell has redefined how gay sex is portrayed on TV. Sex is “awkward, funny, humiliating, affirming, all within the span of, like, five minutes,” he says. O’Connell set out to depict onscreen sex in an authentic way, something rarely shown with LGBTQ people, and that includes having his character lose his virginity to a sex worker.

Like O’Connell, the character he’s based on is gay and has cerebral palsy. To show a character with a disability who has a sex life adds to the groundbreaking nature of the show and it puts the onscreen character in a group with very few others.

On this week’s episode of LGBTQ&AO’Connell discusses creating Special, why we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about sex work, and the queer community’s “garden variety self-loathing.”

Jeffrey Masters: After your car crash, you didn’t correct anyone who assumed you had a limp because of the crash and not your cerebral palsy. Why was that easier for people to accept and relate to?
Ryan O’Connell: There’s a lot of ignorance around what cerebral palsy is, and honestly, it’s not entirely their fault because, truly, cerebral palsy looks different on everybody.

Whenever I had to explain to someone that I had cerebral palsy, it always was met with confusion and I hated it. So then, with an accident, you’re just like, “Oh, I got hit by a car.” And people are like, “Oh my God, that’s so sad. It could have happened to me.”

And I think that just made me feel like much, much more digestible to everyone else.

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Special’s Ryan O’Connell wants to ‘Show the humanity in Sex Work’ by Jeffery Masters

May 14th, 2019