What we see on our screens is a direct — and often flawed — reflection of the world around us. People like TikTok creator Dylan Mulvaney knows all too well how the industry can sometimes erase the identities of marginalized communities — which makes her even more motivated to be a changemaker.
As an accomplished actor and comedian, Mulvaney — who uses she/they pronouns and just celebrated their first Pride Month a trans woman — started a TikTok career in 2020 using the platform as a substitute for their typical stage work on Broadway during the pandemic .
Mulvaney’s TikToks took off on March 12 of this year, when she began her “100 Days of Girlhood” series, a video diary documenting her transition process and major moments like her first dress, first pair of heels, and more. “I was questioning her gender and I had identified as nonbinary and was going through a private time,” she recounts to POPSUGAR on day 109 of her transition journey. “Then, once I did know that I wanted to be a trans woman, I thought about how — as much as there are incredible trans idols and role models in the industry — I felt like I didn’t have one that I could watch from the start and watch how they got from point A to point B.” The series, which Mulvaney originally as started a joke, has since turned her into a leader among TikTok’s queer community.
“The frustrating part can be that, often, we’re auditioning against cis people or heterosexual people for trans and queer roles.”
“The group of humans surrounding me with love and acceptance and being my cheerleaders online, in my comments, in my DMs, it’s overwhelming,” Mulvaney says. “It’s from trans people, it’s from cis people who are reliving their girlhood. Some of my favorite followers are trans men that are finding peace in the fact that they didn’t enjoy their girlhood but now I can enjoy mine. It’s been so special to also see parents of trans kids messaging me and saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t know about this topic but you really helped me approach the subject with my child.’ So, if I can be a service to anyone through this app, I’m happy to do it.”
Since the launch of their TikTok platform, Mulvaney, one of the app’s 2022 LGBTQ+ Trailblazers, has gained over 6.2 million followers and begun auditions for their first role as a woman onscreen — a journey that has been exciting but arduous. “The frustrating part can be that, often, we’re auditioning against cis people or heterosexual people for trans and queer roles,” they say. “Queer people don’t always have the same opportunities. A lot of established actors or very successful [actors] sometimes take those queer roles and take those trans roles. It would be awesome to get to a place where a trans person is also playing a trans character, and I think we are starting to see that.”
Image Source: TikTok / @illumitatiana
While the entertainment industry as a whole is far from an accurate portrayal of life in 2022, Mulvaney says she hopes we can get to a place where queer people are telling their own stories onscreen — and soon.
“I think that seeing trans people in the media is how we get a larger amount of acceptance, especially in states and cities that don’t have a blossoming trans community,” they say. “Ultimately, people are afraid of things that they don’t know, so if they see me on their TV screen and they can tell that I’m a kind human being and I’m doing good in the world and have love and acceptance , it will help them also do that in their normal lives and share that experience with their families and their loved ones. Hopefully, we’ll get to a place where there’s a trans person in every story, of every color, disabled trans people — so we’ll just get to a place where our media really reflects what’s actually outside of our houses and our apartments and in this world. Hopefully, I’ll get to create some trans stories — whether it’s scripted or unscripted, onstage or onscreen. But I think it all comes back to reflecting the realities of society.”
“Gender euphoria, for me, is those little moments. It can be very subtle, such as putting on lipstick or a very big thing like going to a doctor to talk about a potential surgery.”
Mulvaney is doing her best to make strides for the trans community in the entertainment industry, encouraging fellow trans actors and comedians to achieve their goals — even when certain obstacles seem insurmountable, and especially in light of recent anti-trans legislation. “Don’t get discouraged by the level of doors that we have to try to open,” she advises. “Network and find other trans actors to speak with and share experiences and auditions . . . We all have to help each other out because we are not in competition with each other. We are here to help the greater trans community accepted become.”
Mulvaney says they appreciate trans elders in Hollywood like Alexander Billings, Laverne Cox, and “normal people” on TikTok who inspire by being their authentic selves and making them feel accepted, a small dose of “gender euphoria.” “Gender euphoria, for me, is those little moments. It can be very subtle, such as putting on lipstick or a very big thing like going to a doctor to talk about a potential surgery,” they say. “There’s the good and the bad, and what I’m trying to do online is show on both sides. Gender dysphoria isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s how do we work through it to get to that euphoria place.”
As the trailblazer patiently awaits their first onscreen role as a woman — rather, she notes, as Elle Woods or a character like Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — she adds that she’s grateful to fans on social media who have cheered her on over the last 100 days and beyond. “Fifty years from now, if I was the next Ellen or Betty White or Audrey Hepburn, I might look back, and I’ll be like, ‘It’s all because of TikTok.'”
See some highlights from Mulvaney’s “100 Days of Girlhood” series ahead.