Deaf transgender activist Chella Man explains how he expresses love using sign language

19-year-old Chella Man is a deaf, genderqueer, Jewish person of color known for his YouTube channel and LGBTQ+ activism. He’s one of this generation’s leading voices on inclusivity and diversity, a position, he explained to Teen Vogue, that he took on because there was no representation for artists like him growing up.

While Man speaks English thanks to his cochlear implants and lipreading, he can also communicate in American Sign Language (ASL). In a video posted to his Instagram, Man explains how important sign language is to the queer community because it allows deaf or hard of hearing people access to queer terminology.

Man taught In The Know how to express love through ASL, including phrases like “I love you,” “You are beautiful,” “You are handsome,” “I miss you” and “I’m grateful we met.”

“My favorite way to express love using sign language is typically to my partner, MaryV, by telling her she’s beautiful,” Man told In The Know. Man and MaryV have been together for over three years.

“But then another way I use [ASL] to basically everyone around me is the sign language hand symbol for ‘I love you,’ which is actually the combination of ASL letters ‘I, L, Y’ in one,” he continued.

“I” is represented by holding out your pinky finger, then change your hand to an “L” shape with your forefinger and thumb and finally hold out your pinky and thumb for “Y.” Together, keeping your pinky, pointer finger and thumb out, all at once, represents “I love you” in one gesture.

“Going to bed every night and because the lights are out and my cochlear implants are typically out, I can’t hear anything and I can’t see anything, so before we fall asleep I’ll typically feel MaryV’s hand on my chest [making the gesture,” Man explained. “I can feel that she’s saying ‘I love you’ in sign language, and I’ll do it back.”

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