Man Defends Relationship with TLC Star 'Trapped in Body of 8-Year-Old' Girl

Throughout the second season of “I Am Shauna Rae” — the TLC reality show following the life of a 23-year-old woman whose growth was stunted after a childhood battle with brain cancer — viewers saw Rae’s “flirtationship” develop with a man she met over the internet.

And now, he’s speaking out about some of the backlash and criticism he’s received since appearing on the show.

Dan Swygart, 27, appeared in numerous episodes of the show’s second season, which wrapped up on TLC earlier this month. On the show, the two said they met on social media, with Dan actually messaging both Shauna and one of her sisters, before sending Shauna flowers and keeping their conversations going. As he kept coming from the UK to visit her in Long Island, the two got closer — and while she said the pair kissed, they never put a label on things.

Per TLC, the reality series follows Shauna as she “strives to have the independence of an adult while trapped in the body of an 8-year-old.” In the comments of his posts throughout the season, some viewers had questioned Dan’s motives when it came to Rae.

On Sunday, Swygart posted a Reel to Instagram in which he defended their relationship — also calling it both a “friendship” and “connection.”

“Me and Shauna are still just good friends getting to know each other. But I think it’s absolutely disgusting the attitude of some people. She’s been through so much in life. She survived cancer as a child, she’s always felt different and been treated different by society. But how dare you take away her right, her human right, to have a connection, a friendship, a relationship with someone else?” he began.

“Who are you to say that she can’t have that? I am absolutely disgusted by some people’s attitudes towards her and my friendship with her,” he continued. “I cannot believe some people who deny her the right to have a friendship or connection with someone else. She is a human being, she is a cancer survivor, she’s got disability, she had dwarfism. Who are you to take away her right to have a friendship and connection with someone? How dare you? How dare you?”

He added that he did receive positive messages as well, from those who thanked him for “showcasing that it’s okay to build a connection or friendship with someone who’s different by society standards.”

When his first appearances on the show started to air in November and December of 2022, Swygart shared another Reel in which he explained that he first reached out to Rae because he was “really inspired by her emotional strength.”

“She’s this incredible, inspiring 23 year old woman who just happens to be a little bit short,” he said on Instagram at the time. “As soon as you say she can’t have a real world connection with someone else, you dehumanize her, which is absolutely disgusting.”

“She is a human being, she deserves to have relationships and connections with whoever she wants,” he added. “I think some people aren’t emotionally mature enough to understand that you can have a deep connection based on personality rather than just on looks.”

Shauna’s mother Patty Schrankel commented on the post, writing, “Well said Dan. I appreciate your coming into our lives.”

On the show, Shauna said she felt there was a “possibility” for romance after meeting in person for the first time. “Things are very open, we’re not labeling anything, we’re still friends, we’re keeping it nonchalant,” she explained, before he came to visit from Wales and made sushi for her entire family.

During the dinner, her mom asked if they had a “friendship” or something more, prompting Shauna to respond, “Why do we have to label anything? It is whatever happens, happens.”

She went on to call their situation a “weird flirtationship,” before they met up for another date and went paddle-boarding. Ahead of the date, he said that the pair were continuing to build “a connection, getting to know each other and seeing where things go.”

After that date, one of Shauna’s sisters boldly asked him, “Who are you to my sister? Do you have a label? Are you friends?” His response: “We are good friends, getting to know each other without having to label it for people.”

In a confessional, Shauna spilled a little more on the specifics of their situation — admitting, “Dan and I have kissed, I’ll just put that out there. We’ve kissed.”

The pair later talked about possibly traveling somewhere together, which would be a big step for the duo. Rae, however, was hesitant and said it was a little too soon for that.

“When it comes to specifically looking at a future that involves Dan, I would love to travel with him, I would love to see the world the way he sees it in a sense,” she said during the season finale. “I do think Dan and I have a ton of potential, it’s just a matter of if we are going in the same direction at the same time. Because he is traveling and I am not currently. That could change everything.”

“I Am Shauna Rae” is streaming now on Discovery+.

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