An evening with Dylan Mulvaney: Her journey navigating womanhood on TikTok

On day 746 of girlhood, trans musical theater actress, comedian and content creator Dylan Mulvaney shared her experiences on her gender transition and relationship with social media to student attendees on Wednesday night.

Presented by Associated Students Inc. and moderated by 22 West Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jensen Puckett, Mulvaney began the discussion describing how they turned to content creation as a mode of expression after her run on the national tour of “The Book of Mormon” was cut short due to the pandemic.

TikTok became her new outlet to continue to create and perform by her own rules.

“I knew that, as a trans person, those opportunities were going to be really limited in a commercial capacity. So I thought, why don’t I just put stuff out on my own because I have agency over these videos,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney, who uses she/they pronouns, quickly became a popular creator on TikTok after creating her “Days of Girlhood” video diary series where they shared the progression of their gender transition, starting in 2022.

She recently celebrated two years of girlhood two weeks ago.

Third-year liberal studies major Lauren Ritter found Mulvaney on TikTok through the series and said she felt inspired by their posts.

“I thought it was interesting to watch her videos and reflect on my growing up but witnessing the things she was experiencing for the first time at a different age,” Ritter said. “I know it’s weird to say you’re proud of someone who you don’t know, but I just think it’s really cool like all the things that she’s doing and I feel honored that she chose Long Beach, we’re special!”

Although Mulvaney has known that her gender identity never aligned with her assigned sex, they mentioned that they never had the opportunity to explore their identity until recently.

“I came out so early in my life but I didn’t actually get to step into my trans-ness until the pandemic,” Mulvaney said. “I had to move home with my dad, who is very conservative and Catholic. It was the first time that I actually got to sit with these feelings and see who I was without theater or playing any sort of character. I could only be Dylan.”

During the discussion, Mulvaney mentioned it was difficult in the early days of their journey to be perceived online by millions of people so early into their transition.

Knowing she would look different as she progressed further into her transition, they would often receive unsolicited advice in the comments on what they should do to enhance their appearance to fit the societal standards of femininity.

“Anyone early on in their journey, be really clear what it is you want and what are your goals. So when the time comes and other people are perceiving you, that you’re okay with it, you’ve made peace,” Mulvaney said. “That was difficult because I was sort of the caterpillar going into a cocoon and hopefully coming out a butterfly, but showing everyone that was terrifying.”

Mulvaney instantly captured the audience as her vulnerability resonated with the crowd.

First-year communications major Scott Garreton, who uses he/she pronouns, mentioned being moved by the discussion, particularly with Mulvaney’s perseverance in battling the online hate she has received since her rise on TikTok.

“I thought that was very inspiring, at least to people of our generation because of [the relevance of] social media and how lots of people’s opinions tend to affect how we think,” Garreton said.

Despite receiving significant hate and criticism online, Mulvaney acknowledged that they have also gained once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because of her platform.

A few opportunities included meeting her childhood role models—Lady Gaga and Chris Colfer.

After Lady Gaga posted pictures of the two together for International Women’s Day earlier this month, the Instagram post was quickly met with significant online hate from extremist groups.

It was then that Gaga made a follow-up post condemning the hate speech directed at Mulvaney and all trans individuals, extending her support.

“I’d never had someone of that caliber stick up for me in that huge of a way and to have it be my popstar was so epic and so full circle,” they said.

Mulvaney had to adjust her perception of Gaga, from originally idolizing her to now knowing her as a peer.

Although the “Glee” star is not trans himself, Mulvaney was always starstruck by Colfer because of his unapologetic representation of male femininity on stage as someone assigned male at birth, which resonated with Mulvaney at a formative age.

When she got the chance to befriend Colfer after meeting him at the “Bros” film premiere, she thought it was “a dream come true”.

Besides gaining nearly one billion views and 10 million followers across TikTok and Instagram, Mulvaney was awarded the TikTok Trailblazer award for their video diary series and was invited to the White House to speak with Joe Biden on trans issues in 2022.

A lot of Mulvaney’s future goals entail more long-form content as they eventually want to own a production company that’s tailored to producing trans content.

She also mentioned that her podcast will come out later this year, her book will come out next year and that her one-woman play is currently in the works.

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