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The trans journey is many things. It’s exhilarating. It’s validating. But it’s also terrifying. No one knows this more than TikTok star, actor, singer, and activist, Dylan Mulvaney. Just over a year ago, Dylan decided to capture her journey into girlhood daily and on screen. And so, what started as a “happy accident”, as Dylan describes, has blossomed into an honest and joyous portrayal of one person’s journey of gender discovery. And joining Dylan on this journey? Over 11 million followers across TikTok and Instagram, and a legion of inspired LGBTQ+ people.

Dylan’s positive attitude and optimistic look on life has been seen by many as the antidote to the near constant anti-trans rhetoric happening around the world. Just scrolling through a few of Dylan’s videos, her excitement in every step of her journey is infectious. Whether it’s her latest outfit obsession, an electrolysis update, or an interview with US President Joe Biden about trans rights, Dylan’s videos have not just engaged millions of people on the internet, but touched them too, as her accessible and human diaries about key moments in her transition have seemingly paved the way to empower and educate so many.

The star’s very public transition has also caught the attention of some cruel online and right-wing trolls. An unfortunate side effect of being a public LGBTQ+ person, Dylan describes how those trying to “steal” her joy and “twist it into something ugly” are very much out there, but she simply won’t let them stop her; “If I can keep that little bit of innocence and joy that I have left, then I think that is a very powerful tool.” Just a week after Dylan marked “365 days of being a girl” with a one-off variety show in New York, GAY TIMES caught up with her to find out how this past year has shaped her transition and what’s next for one of the internet’s most followed trans voices.

Congratulations on marking 365 days of girlhood! It’s been so incredible to watch your journey, how does it feel to have reached this landmark point?

It feels like the biggest sigh of relief because I think I had a lot of pressure on myself to create content for this year, to really show up. And I think I kind of used it as a bookmark of this like trajectory that I was going on. And in a funny way, doing that show last week and then getting to day 366 was like, ‘Oh okay, I think I can slow down a little bit.’ I think I can reassess what my goals are and how I can help elevate the community while also making sure that my mental health is good. Honestly, it’s been a huge sigh of relief.

Let’s go back to the start, can you tell us why you started documenting this journey on TikTok?

Well, I started it as a very happy accident. I was doing standup comedy and I had made this serious coming out video the day before. And then I was like, ‘Well, I want to lighten the mood a bit.’ So I made that day one video with no assumption that I would continue the series. And it really turned into something a lot more vulnerable and powerful than I could have ever imagined. ‘Social media influencer’ was not on my radar of something that I wanted, but I am still finding my way in what that means. And I also feel like I’m trying to redefine what that means because there’s such a stigma against influencers. And I want to help direct people in what that actually means for me and when they follow me.

What’s something that you wish you could go back and tell Dylan before this journey started?

Oh gosh, I would say, ‘Have regular therapy appointments booked and ready to go.’ If I could go back, I would write a list of my most important goals and dreams and desires and really stick to those things. Because I think what happened this past year was that I was given a lot of opportunities that seemed like a good idea because they sounded shiny or exciting, but they were actually very different from what my initial dreams and goals were. And I feel like now I’m getting back to what I really intended and wanted to do, which was acting and performing. I got to use day 365 as a way to say, ‘Hey, I sing, I dance.’ This is what I really want to be doing rather than, you know, this really higher level of activism or brand deals. I think that it’s been the most amazing thing to create this platform to now take what I built and really do other things with it.

You have become such an inspiration to trans people of all generations, did you ever expect this level of love from the public?

No, never. I think the crazy part to me is that I’m only a year in and people were willing to see me as this woman from day one. You know, there are a lot of people out there that still do not see me as a woman and God love them, we’re trying to win them over, which I feel sometimes is this constant struggle that’s not even worth it. But I then look at everyone who did accept me, and I think it just goes to show that you can, no matter where you are in your transition and what you’ve done or haven’t done, express who you are. And there are people that are ready to welcome you and to celebrate it. 

Like anything, there have probably been highs and lows to your transition, what has been your biggest high?

I’m still riding the high of my show last week because I didn’t know I was capable of putting on a production and leading the ship and having difficult conversations with the trans ensemble members. I am proud that I don’t think I’ve changed all too much. I’ve been able to keep my energy, my spirit, my joy. I think that a lot of humans are trying to steal that joy from me right now, and mangle it, and twist it into something ugly. And if I can keep that little bit of innocence and joy that I have left, then I think that is a very powerful tool.

And in terms of the lows, I love that you don’t let the negatives, or the trolls, or the criticism get you down, so let’s talk about a low that maybe helped you in the long run or turned into a high?

I think a certain low that I had was facing criticism from certain women in the trans community that made me feel like I was not welcome or I was not accepted, or that I was doing a poor job of representing us as a community. And then I had this realisation, what I learned from that is that, just because we’re trans, it does not mean that we’re going to see eye to eye on every subject. And really, it’s such a small part of who we are, there are such a multitude of other things to connect on, but also to not see eye-to-eye on. And that has made me realise that just because someone’s trans does not mean… It’s like when you say, ‘Oh, I’m trans,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, do you know so and so?’ There’s such a diversity within the community itself that I think that it really opened my mind. I specifically want the trans community on my side, but I have to make peace with the fact that I’m not going to have the same experience as everyone else.

Totally, and that intersectionality is important. I’m non-binary and I definitely understand that pressure of, ‘How do you represent an entire community?’ But I definitely feel that in your content you are speaking from your perspective.

Thank you, that is always the goal because I’ve really tried to never say, ‘This is what it’s like… This is how it is being trans.’ I identified as non-binary for a year before coming out as a trans woman. I went by they/them pronouns and I think even being non-binary at that time was even more challenging because there was a lot less information about the community. But also it’s even more faceted because you’re no longer being held to these gender norms or stereotypes and it really blows the lid off of everything. So, I can relate to you in that way. Every one of us is so different that it would be crazy to try to group us all together.

100% and that intersectionality is something we notice in the GAY TIMES audience all the time. So like you, we have an audience looking for guidance and hope. What’s your message to queer readers at home?

I would say: hold on to any piece of joy that you have in your life right now, because there’s a lot of people trying to take that from us and they’re being really, really loud. And we need to be equally loud and proud and accepting, especially our allies out there, being vocal towards the support of our community. As well as really making sure that we are not exhausting ourselves. If we need to be in this for the long haul and if this is a battle that we’re going to be fighting for some time, we need to make sure that we are not fatigued and that we are taking time for ourselves and that we do not need to feel guilty about having a moment of joy or selfishness. I think that sometimes in our community, like any time we spring into doing something for ourselves, it’s seen as this enemy moment, and I think we have to be able to fill our lives with other things than just this darkness that’s happening. So yeah, just keep fighting and I really think it’s going to get better soon. I just think we’re in the thick of it right now.

Right now, as you’re likely very aware, anti-trans legislation is sweeping a number of US states. What’s your message for those outside of queer bubbles, who are being told negative things about gender-affirming healthcare and don’t know what to believe?

I think if someone was to hear something negative towards a gender identity or journey, I would ask, ‘Think about who’s saying that to you? Who’s telling it? Is it somebody that you trust in this category, in this field?’ Because I have a lot of family members that don’t fully understand transness and I love them and I know that they support me, but I also know that they don’t have the information necessary to be creating this sort of factual advice. Sometimes I’ll listen to these haters and I’ll start to go, ‘Oh god, maybe they’re right.’ And then I think about all the people that I love and admire and that are role models to me. And I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe those are the people that I should be listening to.’ So I would just always go back to: who is this person that’s saying this thing and are they credible? Do they have the knowledge to back it up?

So 365 days is one thing, you’ve got a lifetime to look forward to, what’s next for you?

I am now starting to write some books. I am hoping to pitch a TV show in the near future. I would love to get back on Broadway and on the stage. I’m now ready to show the world that transness can supersede TikTok and enter the mainstream in bigger ways. I really want to now tackle Hollywood and everything that comes with that to really cement that we are here and deserve to show our stories. A lot of people can also learn through scripted content and sometimes having a little bit of that fictional element actually helps people better relate. And I want to see a trans girl in a rom-com. I want to see trans people finding love and success and not just playing prostitutes or victims on TV. So that’s my goal right now, going forward this next year. Also, it’s going to be about taking a second before I post or maybe not throwing so much vulnerability out on the screen, but making sure that I am ready and that I think it needs to be told. Because I’m now in learning mode, I want to absorb as much information as I can.