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If Tiktok’s Dylan Mulvaney could go back and give herself one piece of advice before her transition, it would be, “Buckle up. This is about to be exhausting but worth it.”
When she first embarked on her journey, the 25-year-old actress and comedian decided to chronicle her experience online, though when she started, the videos “were mostly for my family and friends,” she told E! News in a recent interview. “I had no intention of making one every single day.”
But within five days of posting “Day 1 of Girlhood” in March, Dylan had acquired a following, one that grew to a million in just weeks as people became “invested in me and my transition and what was going on in my life,” she shared. “I decided that highlighting one little part about my experience as a girl, as a trans person, a creative person [on a daily basis] could potentially help a lot of people.”
On Day 91 and counting, 4.2 million people are following her candid, heartwarming and LOL-funny diary on TikTok.
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Overall, Dylan reflected, “I think the coolest part has been seeing people feel inspired to be themselves and getting these messages of hope, acceptance and support. As overwhelming as this whole experience has been, and as exhausting as it’s been, I do feel very much energized by my followers and by all the love.”
At the same time, she admitted, “Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. I never expected to be an influencer. That was not a dream of mine.”
The TikTok star who’s now taking all platforms by storm talked to E! News about her journey, her relationship with her family, the highs and lows of girlhood and what she’s learned along the way:
E! News: Since making your transition public, is there a moment that stands out as especially challenging?
Dylan Mulvaney: Around Day 10 I realized, Oh, now I see why a lot of trans people keep this as a very private process. Because, all of a sudden, I now have millions of people chiming in on what I should do, or what I look like, or what I should try. In some ways, that’s lovely, because I love having direction. But I also need to make sure I’m taking ownership of this transition and it doesn’t become owned by the public.
I also am nervous because people are starting to follow me as I look like now and a year or two from now I will look very differently. I just hope that these people can see me in a new light and accept me as that person as well. So, there are daunting things ahead and there have been so many challenges along the way.
E!: How do you deal with hearing all these opinions?
DM: I just constantly have to check in with myself and say, ‘Dylan, are you doing what you want to do? Are you looking the way you want to today?’ Sometimes I show myself not all dolled up, and that feels beautiful and vulnerable because I think there is a stigma, with trans women in particular, about always looking as feminine as possible. I want to open people’s minds to see women in a different light.
E!: On Day 73 you talked about an exchange that you had with your dad. Why was it so momentous?
DM: My dad is traveling right now in French Polynesia, and he introduced himself to a young girl and he said, “I’m Jim Mulvaney,” and she asked, “Are you related to Dylan Mulvaney?” He said, “Yes, that’s my son.” She said, “You mean your daughter?” And he said, “Oh, yes, yes, that’s what I meant.” Then this fan started talking about how much she loves my content. To hear a stranger talking about me in such a positive way as his daughter was really impactful for him. Then he called me and was like, “Hey, I love you. I’m so proud to have you as my daughter.” We don’t get to see each other all that often but I think he’s very much ready to see me, as girl Dylan.
E!: How has the rest of your family handled your transition?
DM: I come from a super-conservative family and a very Catholic upbringing, so I’m this wild card of the family. But ultimately they’ve all voiced to me that they see what I’m doing is for good. And they know that, no matter my gender or what I’m doing on the Internet, my heart and intentions are good. One of my family’s biggest concerns was that I wouldn’t find success as a trans person or I wouldn’t find love, or I would face quite a bit of hate. What my family is seeing now is that the world has cast this safety blanket over me and is choosing to cherish me. So my family is like, “We don’t have to worry about Dylan as much as we did before” because they see that what I’m doing is goodness.
E: You shared a childhood photo of yourself dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for Halloween. Looking back, what would you say to that kid?
DM: That’s my favorite picture of me as a child because it’s the one photo I have as a kid in female form. I remember seeing an older boy at school go as Dorothy as a joke the year before and getting so excited. So my family and everyone at school was under the impression that I did it as a joke. But to me that was the best day of my life. I spent so much time looking at dresses and playing with Barbies, and it was that one opportunity to really be that girl that I wanted to be. If I was to talk to that child now I would say, “You will get a lot more days than just this day. You have to be patient, but when it arrives, you can be Dorothy every day.” But I do want to stress that when I look back on my childhood, I don’t see it as a terrible thing because I did voice my desire to be a girl very young, age 4.
E! Do you remember the response you got when you would say that?
DM: I did not live in a place, or even in a society, that was going to support a trans child, especially at that age. But I’m such a positive person. I said, “Okay, then we’re going to make the best of what we got.” And I made the best of what I had during childhood, which was being a feminine little boy and still playing with Barbie dolls. Of course, if I was 4 years old now, hopefully I would have the resources to be that girl. But I don’t look back at that time as a darkness. I look back at it as a chapter.
E!: Is there an experience you’ve had as a woman that has lived up to your expectations?
DM: One of my favorite moments has been going to the girls bathroom with my girlfriends. Before, as a gay man, as a gay boy, I would always watch my girlfriends walk into the bathroom and have that Kiki moment. Sometimes I’d sneak in, but there was this level of shame, like, “Oh God, I’m in the girls bathroom.” But now it’s, “Oh, I belong here and this is my space.” It is scary sometimes, but especially if I’m with another woman, I do feel very safe. And it’s been just fun to enjoy girl joy—it’s a real thing! Women really know how to gas you up and make you feel good. I love Joni Mitchell‘s song called “Both Sides Now”: I’ve seen the clouds from both sides now, from up and down. I really do feel like I have seen gender from both sides.
E!: Does it feel like having that knowledge is power?
DM: It’s more of a unique opportunity to compare being a man and being a woman and share what I know. I will say that being a man did come with so much privilege, and I really hope people know that being trans is not for attention or some sort of mental illness. This is who we are. And it’d be silly for me to throw all of that manly privilege away to be a woman because I’m now dealing with things that I didn’t even know were going to affect my life as much as they have. But this has given me so much more empathy towards women in my life, now that I know some of these things that they go through. And I’m only skimming the surface. I mean, who knows even a year from now what else I’ll have experienced as a woman?
E!: What’s something you’ve experienced as a woman that you weren’t expecting, such as that post you made about a ride share?
DM: I had heard from girlfriends in the past that they feel very uncomfortable and was like, “What are you talking about?” It’s a very safe system, but some men, I think, can take advantage of any situation that they’re in. And I think safety has been a huge part of discovering womanhood because not only am I being seen as a woman, but also there’s this level of being worried about transphobia, hate crimes, just negativity coming my way. And, crazy enough, wearing a mask has been really helpful to me because I can shield the stubble or, you know, not have to make contact with another person face to face.
E!: If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself on “Day 1 of Girlhood”?
DM: Take time for yourself that is not just for the Internet, because in order to be this person for other people, you have to be this person for yourself, first and foremost. If you give everything away, then you’ll have nothing left for you. And, please take a break after Day 100 and go on a vacation somewhere—and turn off your phone.