Trans Heartstopper star Ash Self is reminding people that disabled isn’t a ‘dirty word’

Ash Self as Felix in Heartstopper season to (left) and pictured on his graduation day in a cap, down and wheelchair (right)

Actor Ash Self has issued a reminder that disabled is not a “dirty word” as he prepares to bring some vital trans and disabled representation to Heartstopper season two.

The British performer, 22, is set appear in the upcoming second series of Netflix’s hit TV adaptation of Alice Oseman’s beloved LGBTQ+ graphic novels, which arrives on 3 August.

Self plays Felix, an original character for the TV show who is introduced as a new friend of Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) alongside another new character, Naomi, played by TikTok star Bel Priestley.

Ahead of the Heartstopper season two premiere, Self – who lives with chronic complex illnesses including asthma, respiratory problems, a neurological condition and a gastrointestinal condition – has issued a “gentle reminder” about how they prefer to be referred to a disabled person.

Ash Self is providing vital transgender and disabled representation in Heartstopper season two

Ash Self, who is a trans man, has stated that they are “so excited to be bringing some disabled rep[resentation]” to the Heartstopper universe as Felix when the show returns for more uplifting scenes of LGBTQ+ friendship and romance.

And when Self says disabled, he means disabled – and nothing else.

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Taking to Twitter on Sunday (23 July), Self clarified that he doesn’t like being described by “euphemisms” for disability such as “handicapped” or “differently abled”.

In the same thread, he also confirmed that Felix will be portrayed as disabled in Heartstopper, appearing on screen with mobility aids and medical devices that are Self’s own.

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“Heartstopper comes out in less than 2 weeks and I’m so excited to be bringing some disabled rep to the show, but gentle reminder that I am disabled and I do not wish to be referred to as handicapped, differently abled or any other euphemism for disabled”, wrote Self. “It is not a dirty word”.

The actor and stand-up comedian continued: “I know that other disabled people may prefer these terms but I don’t. Felix’s mobility aids and medical devices are also mine, I did not change or switch them to play the role and Felix is also disabled”.

In response to a reply from a follower who stated that it “hurts sometimes” to be referred to as “disabled”, Self wrote: “I’d actually always rather be called disabled, I am disabled and whilst it has its (many) challenges and not so fun times, I’m proud of it and I wouldn’t change it for the world”.

Self has previously opened up on social media about the prejudices and challenges he’s faced as a disabled person, stating on Twitter that despite initially viewing his wheelchair – which he began using in 2018 and only requires when needed – as a “object of tragedy”, he had since accepted it “gave [him his] life back”.

The actor, who was unable to finish his A-Levels at school due to illness and also wears a feeding tube, recently celebrated completing a degree in English with Creative Writing.

He shared pictures of his graduation day on Instagram in July 2023 – including one of him being presented with his degree by legendary comedian and The Vicar of Dibley star Dawn French.

Ash Self has been open about their gender identity and transition journey on social media

Ash Self has been out and proud on social media about their experiences as a trans man undergoing gender-affirming care.

In January 2023, Self shared an illuminating self-shot compilation video demonstrating how his voice had changed after a year of taking testosterone.

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@smashself

I’m one year on T and I’m vibing 🙂 #trans #transmasc #testosterone

♬ original sound – Ash Self

The video was shared just a couple of months after Self underwent top surgery in late 2022 after raising money for the affirming care via a fundraiser.

Sharing an image of himself on Instagram with his shirt open and chest visible, Self reflected on their relationship with their body as a trans and disabled person.

“My chest is still pretty swollen but already I feel so much more connected to that area of my body and so much less self conscious”, he wrote in the caption.

“Being trans and disabled I’ve spent the last ten years feeling mostly frustrated and betrayed by my body and obviously recovery has been tricky in itself (and continues to be) but the difference in how I feel about my body now is wild.”

Ash Self will play new character Felix in Heartstopper season two

Ash Self’s casting as Felix in Heartstopper was first announced in November 2022.

As Felix doesn’t appear in Alice Oseman’s original graphic series and is new to the TV series, little is known about the character or what their scenes might entail.

One thing we do know though is that Self appears to be relishing his time as a Heartstopper cast member, joining the likes of established show stars Kit Connor, who plays Nick Nelson, and Joe Locke, who plays Charlie Spring.

Retweeting a video of the Heartstopper cast released to mark Pride Month in June, Self wrote: “So grateful to be part of a show where I don’t have to tone myself down or apologise for who I am”.

In December 2022, Self responded to a Netflix tweet confirmed that filming on Heartstopper season two had wrapped filming by writing: “So so proud and privileged to have been a part of this season, can’t wait for everyone to see it”.

Self is just one of many actors joining the Heartstopper cast for season two: Jack Barton, who has appeared in The Pursuit of Love, will play Nick’s older brother David, while British stage actor Nima Taleghani is set to portray Truham teacher Mr Farouk.

Meanhile, Bradley Riches – who has spoken about his experiences as an autistic actor – will play Truman student James McEwan, having previously made a brief appearance in season one as an unnamed student.

Heartstopper season two arrives on Netflix on 3 August.

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