Originally published by Alex Brown on Substack on June 5, 2019.
they're free scone people, kim
image description: a rainy window with flowers, through which a rainbow can be seen. the word “pride” is overlaid in a heart-shaped font in the style of a paper banner. the image reads “puresound letter 001.”
Hello and welcome to the first issue of a lump of pure sound, also known as puresound letter! Thank you so much for subscribing, and for your patience with this first issue. I’ve been traveling around and my intent to publish this newsletter has been interrupted by things like spotty WiFi and legal pot cookies.
This first issue is the PRIDE MONTH ISSUE, and I spent much of June compiling it for you! That means this issue will include content created by and about LGBTQ+ people with disabilities.
Let’s get into it.
STONEWALL FOREVER (2019), Chella Man
ID: Chella Man looking into the camera, wearing a beanie, a Magen David necklace, and signing “I Love You” in American Sign Language
ID: A black-and-white photo of Chella Man, arms clasped behind his head, shirtless. His top surgery scars are visible.
Chella Man is an artist, actor, model, YouTuber, and activist, known around the internet for sharing his experiences as a “transgender, Deaf, genderqueer, Jewish person of color” and uplifting others in those communities. I was going to include a simple sign language video by him, but was excited to find that he created a 20-minute documentary about the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, entitled STONEWALL FOREVER. You can watch this documentary for free on YouTube.
The documentary is comprised of interviews with current and past trans activists, including some who shared their own accounts of being at the Stonewall riots. It includes images, video, and audio of LGBTQ+ life before, during, and after the Stonewall riots. These are incredibly important to preserve for archives of queer history. If you’ve been to any exhibits surrounding the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, such as the one at the New York Public Library, you may have seen these images before, but the way that Chella Man and the rest of the crew involved in the documentary wove them together with music and interview made them all the more meaningful. This documentary also does not shy away from accurately portraying the way that the LGB community ignored and disrespected the voices and actions of trans activists during the gay liberation movement.
If you’re interested in the history of gay life in New York pre-, during, and post-Stonewall, or just a good queer documentary, STONEWALL FOREVER is worth a watch.
ID: Model Aaron Philip as she appears in the music video for Miley Cyrus’ song “Mother’s Daughter.” Philip is awash in pink light, wearing a blonde bob wig, chunky purple heels, and seated in her power wheelchair, which is draped in a furry shag fabric.
Every time I started to write about Aaron Philip, she announced another collaboration, photoshoot, event — she’s just glowing up too fast for me to keep up with her. Aaron Philip first broke onto the scene in 2017 when her tweet, proclaiming “when i get scouted/discovered by a modeling agency it’s OVER for y’all!”, went viral. She was signed to modeling agency Elite NYC in 2018.
Oh, and she just turned 18 and graduated high school.
ID: A close-up shot of Aaron Philip on the cover of Paper Mag, wearing a slick blonde wig, yellow-tinted wire sunglasses, and a multicolored feather boa.
ID: Aaron Philip in a futuristic look with sci-fi yellow reflective sunglasses, polka-dot black gloves, an abstract, colorful blazer, and pink tulle knotted headscarf.
Aaron Philip is no longer just “one to watch” — she’s solidly made a space for herself in today’s modeling industry. Despite how much progress she’s made in her career in the past few years, she’s still a teen girl — she feels conflicted about the way she’s portrayed in the media, and prefers to position herself as a model, a woman, a person doing what she loves.
She has called herself “a Black girl in a wheelchair who happens to be trans,” and stated during her Miley Cyrus collaboration,
“I just want to have a good life and do good in whatever my endeavors consist of, regardless of what that might mean in the face of oppression […] I do not identify or label myself as an activist, but that's just because I care -- and I think everyone should, activist or not. I fight for my freedom by being myself."
ID: Ryan O’Connell, portraying Ryan Hayes in Netflix’s Special, laughing in a field of flowers
*this part of the newsletter contains some images that are slightly NSFW so maybe don’t look at it on the train or whatever
Special is a comedy show on Netflix following Ryan Hayes, an openly gay man with cerebral palsy, and his life in Los Angeles as he moves out of his mom’s house and begins his independent life. The show is actually based on real-life Ryan O’Connell’s memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves. O’Connell wrote the script and produces the show alongside Ben Parsons.
Ryan lands a blogging internship for a website called Eggwoke, which is a perfect and awful name. (This chapter of Ryan’s life is based off of when real-life Ryan worked at Thought Catalog.) At Eggwoke, the editor asks the team to write exploitative and overly personal clickbait content. Also, this internship is unpaid. (#relatable.)
ID: Ryan’s mom saying “Why don’t you write an article about your disability?”
Shortly before this internship, Ryan gets hit by a car (more accurately, tapped by a car) and is left mostly unscathed, save for a fractured elbow. (The real-life Ryan’s car accident was actually much more serious.) However, when his coworkers discover that he is the victim of a car accident — an incident that, as his insufferable editor points out, Could Happen To Any Of Us! — everyone assumes that his limp is a result of the car accident, and not because of his CP. Ryan uses this misunderstanding as an opportunity to rebrand himself to his coworkers as not someone who has an “unrelatable” congenital muscular condition, but as a survivor of a car accident.
Meanwhile, Ryan is befriending Kim (Punam Patel), a plus-size Indian woman and badass writer whose articles stay at the top of Eggwoke’s most read content, week after week. Kim is probably my favorite character on the show for her incredible lines, confidence, and compassion.
ID: Kim saying “Our bodies, we love them, it’s crazy”
One of the most meaningful scenes on the show has been written about a few times already, but is worth mentioning again. This scene features Brian Jordan Alvarez playing a sex worker named Shay. Shay is friends with Kim, and Kim encourages Ryan to pay a visit to Shay because Ryan doesn’t want to be a virgin anymore.
ID: Ryan and Brian, kissing in bed.
The scene is handled with such intimacy, kindness, and care that I’ve watched it a few times already. (It helps that I love Brian Jordan Alvarez too — if you haven’t checked out his webseries The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, I super-recommend it.) In an interview with Vulture, O’Connell expressed how important it was to show the sex scene:
Was the sex scene the toughest scene for you? It’s a much more real gay sex scene than TV and movies typically show.
“I am so frustrated by the lack of representation of gay sex in TV and film, like in Call Me by Your Name when they panned away to the moon. I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me? […] I want to bring gay sex to the forefront in a very accurate, human way. And so I knew with this sex scene, there wasn’t gonna be no panning away to the fuckin’ moon! We were gonna see how gay sex is done. I wanted it to feel real. In season two, ideally, I wanna show a lot more gay sex. It will all have to serve the story, but I wanna normalize gay sex, and I wanna show different flavors of gay sex other than Queer As Folk porny whatever. I think it’s what fucks gay men up. We’ve been so hypersexualized, and it’s just assumed that we fuck like rabbits. It’s also a really intense, emotional thing for us too.”
Each episode of Special is only fifteen minutes long, an aspect of the show that some viewers will appreciate, but will leave other viewers wanting more. Ryan O’Connell didn’t actually intend the episodes to be so short:
Was it your idea to do short episodes?
No fucking way. That was [Warner Brothers]. I’m a half-hour bitch, okay? That’s what I know. Honey, I don’t go chasing 15-minute waterfalls. I stick to the rivers and lakes that I’m used to, and that is a 30-minute show, okay? I’m actually really glad that Netflix bought it as is, because if they wanted to do a half hour, I’d have to rewrite the entire series and that would not be fun. But for season two, mama wants a half hour!
The rest of that interview is just as entertaining as that segment, btw. https://www.vulture.com/2019/04/ryan-oconnell-special-netflix.html
“I’m so happy and blessed because I feel like the stories of marginalized people get told on Verizon fucking go90 or Awesomeness TV. I was really nervous that Special was gonna air on an abandoned oil rig in Marina del Rey and you were gonna need a DNA sample to get access to it. I wanna reach as many people as possible because if this show had come out when I was a teenager, it would’ve saved my fucking life. When you don’t see yourself being reflected back at you, you’re implicitly told that you don’t matter. That your life does not matter, it’s not worth being told, it’s not worth being discussed. And that fucks with you on such a deep level. By the way, you don’t have to have cerebral palsy to relate to my story. Any gay guy who doesn’t feel they fit the mold or that they’re fit enough — which, spoiler alert, is all gay men — can relate. I know it sounds corny, but I really hope this story helps people. This business is so fucked up and arduous, it’s such hell, that I cannot imagine doing anything that’s not worthwhile or meaningful. That’s why I’m here. Not to sell a story about some girl with magical bangs to ABC.”
Special is streaming now on Netflix. You can follow Ryan O’Connell on Twitter.
ID: Kim saying, “Eww. ‘Brand’? Go to jail.”
Thank you so much for reading the first issue of puresound newsletter! I would love to hear any feedback you might have in the comments below, or you can reply to this email. Hopefully I’ll get the next issue out in a more expeditious manner!!
In the meantime, stay cool, stay queer, fight ableism and fascism. I love you!