What’s going on with Chase and Aaron
A brief summarizing of the abuse allegations Aaron Ansuini (and other corroborators) have directed at Youtuber Chase Ross.
To say the least, there’s been a falling out between the two co-hosts of the podcast You’re So Brave, Chase Ross and Aaron Ansuini, and it’s affecting a lot of of folks in the online LGBTQ+ community. Essentially, Aaron has accused Chase (with evidence) of manipulation, abuse, and the hoarding money and power.
It’s complicated, so I’m going to try to quickly summarize what’s happening here for your convenience. If Aaron doesn’t want me doing this, just let me know and I’ll take it down. I’m going to pull the narrative from tweets, DM screencaps, and videos, as that’s where the majority of the information is being revealed. I have no personal stake in what’s happening except that I enjoy their podcasts and want others to have a reasonably clear idea of the situation without having to wade through the muck of social media threads.
Some context: You’re So Brave is a podcast made by and for trans men (which, full disclosure, I’m not, I’m a cis guy who’s always looking to be better about trans issues). Chase Ross is a popular Youtuber and sociologist, Aaron Ansuini is an all-around creative (art and music in particular) and small-scale Youtuber. They were considered something of a dynamic duo in the community. Their podcast had a very loose structure, would occasionally center on trans issues, but was mostly the experience of enjoying the two of them banter and be friends. Telling scary stories, discussing conspiracy theories, relating their dreams — things like that. The big appeal was getting to listen to trans guys just be people.
Last month, You’re So Brave stopped producing episodes. I was a patron of the show on Patreon, and on November 2nd I received a message from them: “Unfortunately, the podcast will not be continuing for the time being. We appreciate your understanding, and we are sorry if this disappoints you.” The message went on to explain that they were stopping payments, would still be making content on their respective channels, that they needed a break for personal reasons, and that they would “super appreciate not making a big deal of out this”.
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point my boyfriend noticed that Chase and Aaron aren’t following each other on Instagram anymore. I’m not on Insta, but I’m on Twitter, so I checked there too and noticed they weren’t following each other there either. Weird, we thought, but then we weren’t sure if they were ever following each other to begin with. Their relationship always seemed so good on the podcast (though of course hindsight is 20/20, and now I notice warning signs), so it was surprising, but, hey, people are entitled to private lives, so we didn’t look into it any further. People fight sometimes, it happens. It’s none of our business.
Then, just a couple days ago, Aaron went public with how Chase has treated him. He deleted the original tweet out of fear of backlash, but enough people continued to message him afterward that he made a follow-up thread. The thread explains how many people have sent Chase money and how unnecessary those sums are to him.
“This person will always be in crisis,” Aaron writes. “They will never let you believe that they are not struggling. This is to remain in a position of power, where they are receiving constantly, and are always victimized.”
The hoarding of money is one thing, but Aaron goes on to explain how Chase got angry with him for receiving a free STP (Stand-To-Pee, a prosthetic for trans men to do, uh, exactly that).
Aaron continues in another tweet:
“Apparently, he’s the only trans youtuber who deserves to receive free prosthetics. I ‘didn’t work as hard as him for it’ **i payed my pack n play, I worked for them for free, and I made a review video at my own expense. But once again, my work isn’t as valuable.”
“He got better at hiding the abuse because we used to receive regular emails from viewers expressing concern in regards to the way he treated me.”
Aaron’s tweets show him to be exasperated and worn out by Chase’s behavior. He explains that Chase “told him off” for speaking at Youtube headquarters without his approval. He shows how much work he put into the podcast, and his guilt over it ending like this.
Another thread follows, starting with a defeated feeling that Chase will deny everything, then adding other accusations. Calling Aaron’s girlfriend a bitch, telling trans women they can’t use the T-word, “sneaking into phalloplasty post op Facebook groups because you think you’re the exception because you Do So Much Good™”.
Aaron goes on to say that he really wanted to just be left alone, but that Chase wouldn’t leave him be.
“Silence has not worked and I don’t think it ever will,” he says, another statement that feels like the end of it, but isn’t. Because, of course, there’s more to the story.
Starting with a quote tweet of the text “Support @AaronLinguini as a Creator”, Aaron says,
“This meant a lot to me. I know it’s a simple phrase, but after being told repeatedly that I’m not real a youtuber, that I don’t work as hard, deserve less, that people only know me and care about me in context to my abuser, that my work belongs to him…”
The thread takes a turn into a brief story of how Aaron wanted to use the funds raised with one of his designs to pay for Chase’s cat’s vet bill. He had to fight to use his own design, to pay for his friend’s cat. “I was treated like a bad friend, and told repeatedly ‘this isn’t what friends do’”. Then the real kicker: Chase had the money all along to cat for this vet bill. “I then find out this person makes so much money on patreon, that he now has to hide the amount otherwise ‘these fucking people keep lowering their donations’ ….because only he deserves to get help. No one else.”
Others appear in the replies to these tweets backing up Aaron’s stories, expressing issues with Chase’s behavior on the podcast, or meeting Chase in real life and him being cold and rude to them. Aaron retweets many of these onto his timeline, for example here, here, and here.
One of the most heartwrenching tweets is the following:
“Amongst all the shitty abusive behaviour, there is still a PERSON. A person I fucking loved and have so much trouble letting go of, and feel awful for ‘doing this to’. This whole ‘exposing’ shit is bullshit and I hate it. But so is manipulating a community. So is hoarding money.”
Others have also come forward explaining how Chase has done the bare minimum in supporting the artists who have helped him. Here is a banner designer, explaining that they were paid just $20 for their work and just a retweet in recognition. Here is a photo editor, who didn’t ask for payment, but never even received credit for their work.
Aaron also states that he had to fight for the rights to his design for the t-shirt spearheading their You Can’t Delete Us campaign, a movement to help fight against Youtube’s subtle practice of censoring, restricting and demonetizing LGBTQ+ Youtubers. What’s more, Aaron says that Chase kept all the money from the campaign.
There are more threads and one-off tweets. One is a criticism of Chase’s giveaway practices, one that gives more information about how Chase pockets money from artists for himself (which he goes into further here, backed by another Twitter user here), one about how he was not allowed to edit anything in the podcast (despite Chase’s screaming, belching, other unpleasant sensory experiences that many have complained about), another a discussion of how unfair Chase has been to the unpaid volunteers who help caption the podcasts, one delving into Chase’s whisper campaign to convince Aaron that he’s the unreasonable one, one about how Chase uses large and expensive gifts to guilt Aaron into sticking around, one explaining how Aaron’s medical needs were invalidated, which in turn leads to how Chase would always demand the podcast be filmed at his home instead of Aaron’s, several questioning what he has to gain by coming out with these accusations (“I think I’ve been told to kill myself more in the past couple of hours than I have in my whole trans existence”). There’s even one explaining why Aaron blocked Chase on social media, as if the rest of it weren’t enough.
Outside Aaron’s timeline, Twitter user Jacin (@FaerielyPsychic) has a thread with a telling story about Chase and Aaron. In it, Jacin is at the Philly Trans Health Conference and approaches Chase at their table, where Jacin is trying to buy a sticker. Chase ignores Jacin in lieu of talking to someone else that he knows. Later on, he meets Aaron, who is very pleasant and kind to him, and later Aaron’s girlfriend Karyna, who is also really kind. Aaron quotes this thread with an explanation:
“He acts, at conferences, like he’s too important. His needs (hunger, thirst, exhaustion) are inflated and the need of other diminished.”
A thread with links to the retaliation against Aaron’s accusations can be found here. It’s too complex to go into detail, but suffice it to say that Chase’s supporters are creating multiple accounts, putting up the same word-for-word defenses of him, claiming that Aaron owes Chase a ton of money, that Aaron is “off his meds”, and altogether using direct messages on a variety of platforms to persuade people that Aaron is in the wrong. Aaron even links the podcast’s financial records to show that he doesn’t owe Chase money.
Incidentally, Ty Turner, who is a friend of theirs, made a video a few months ago that he relinked to on Twitter yesterday with the suggestive comment “fun fact: i made a video several months ago talking about how i considered quitting YouTube because i didn’t want to be associated with certain members of the community”.
It’s a lot, and this story is still developing. If anyone would like to add anything to this, if I’ve forgotten something important, please let me know in the comments. And, again, if I’m overstepping, please let me know. I’m trying to just organize what has already been said into a more linear fashion so people can keep up.
As it stands, there’s just a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. You’re So Brave has helped me learn a lot, be a more sympathetic, sensitive person, understand a whole range of identities I was hazy on prior. But it’s important to hold people accountable, and just because we enjoy someone’s content doesn’t mean we can let these things slide. Even if you’re not convinced of wrongdoing, or think that Aaron is exaggerating, the point stands that Aaron has spent the last two days pouring his heart out on Twitter and corroborating stories with others. Not only is that enough to take these accusations seriously, it shows that it just isn’t likely that he’s making this up.
UPDATE #1 1/2/2019:
An earlier version of this article stated that Aaron Ansuini made the You’re So Brave logo, the one currently serving as the thumbnail image to this article. This is incorrect. The logo was created by graphic designer Harry Thory. Much thanks to Thory for contacting me via email with the correction.
One small thing: A few days after the accusations came out Stef Sanjati posted a Twitter thread, which explores power relations and abuse more broadly and doesn’t address what’s going on with Chase and Aaron specifically.
On December 19th, Chase put out two tweets:
“I am aware of all the tweets and I know you want me to respond. Please know that I went to bed at 9pm yesterday and I’m still catching up on everything. I am being accused of taking money from the community, among other things. I want to address all the claims… ….just bear with me. I did not steal, or lie about where money was going. I also want to say that I do not condone harassment and violent threats against my friends or their animals.”
This post was followed up 3 days later by an extensive apology posted on a Google Doc. I would prefer not to analyze the text itself and rather just present it for others to come to their own conclusions. A few key points, however, will serve this summary. Here they are copied from the document:
- Regarding the allegations in general: “I can admit that, yes, there are things that I have said and done that are abusive, but I never had the intention of hurting you. I also realize that just because they weren’t intentional, that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. And I am sorry.”
- Regarding his behavior toward the volunteers who’ve helped him: “I would like to apologize to anyone who has helped me with giveaways, captions, art work, and overall help (like sorting through and editing pictures this summer for a video I was posting). It was understood, at that time, that these were volunteer based and in exchange I would give a shout out/credit you in the description of the video. Unfortunately, people fell between the cracks and their efforts and time were not acknowledged. This is my fault completely and I’m sorry.”
- Regarding payment for art commissions: “I would like to apologize to one specific person right now.[…] You did the banner for my side channel, and did the banner for the giveaways. I paid you for the channel banner, however, we lost touch after the giveaway banner was done. I am so sorry. I completely understand why and how you are frustrated.”
- Regarding crediting Aaron for his artwork: “It was never my intention to make it seem like the art Aaron did for projects we did together to come off as my work.”
- Regarding asking people for money: “I want to apologize to anyone who has felt pressured in the last year to donate to me. This is not my intention at all. Last year I was not in a good financial place and genuinely struggling. I am very grateful for all the financial help I received from my followers and friends.”
The rest of the apology can’t be sufficiently summarized, since it is all about offering context from Chase’s point-of-view. For those curious, I will say that it responds to the idea that Aaron owes Chase a ton of money, to Mike’s comment about Aaron “being off his meds”, the T-shirt giveaway that was purportedly done without Aaron’s consent, Chase sneaking into a post-op phalloplasty Facebook group, and Chase turning the You’re So Brave Patreon on after they put the podcast on hiatus, among other details.
It’s a long and complex letter, and again I’m not here to analyze it. Chase does the arguable right thing in that, whether or not you believe his perspective, he does insist on listening to Aaron and to not denigrate or harass him.
“We should all support and believe victims. That is not something that should every be taken lightly.”
Thank you to Hannibal Lecter (hopefully an alias??) for responding to this essay with a heads-up on these updates regarding Chase’s response and Stef’s Twitter thread.