TikTok Star Dylan Mulvaney Recalls Coming Out as Trans at Age 4, Tells Trans Youth: ‘There Is a Light at the End of the Tunnel’

Dylan Mulvaney
Tati Bruening

While accepting the Groundbreaker Award at this year’s Queerties on Feb. 28, Dylan Mulvaney declared, “It’s day 352 of being a girl!”

The 26-year-old TikTok star, who has been chronicling her journey on social media, will mark one year of transitioning with “Dylan Mulvaney’s Day 365 Live!,” a one-night only cabaret show on March 13 at New York’s iconic Rainbow Room. The live stream event, which benefits The Trevor Project, will feature appearances by Dominique Jackson (“Pose”), Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Jonathan Van Ness (“Queer Eye”), among others.

Mulvaney’s show will include original tunes plus standards and covers of Kate Bush songs. She’s planning on four wardrobe changes thanks to designers like Christian Siriano and fashion house Amsale.

Mulvaney was appearing in “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway when the world shut down due to the pandemic. Back at her childhood home in San Diego with her “very conservative family,” she came to terms with her gender identity and began her transition. Since then, she’s amassed almost 11 million followers on TikTok and more than 1.7 million on Instagram. In October, she was invited to the White House to discuss trans issues with President Joe Biden.

I caught up with Mulvaney for this week’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast just after she checked into New York’s Plaza Hotel to get ready for show rehearsal.

Who was the first trans person you met?

Watching Laverne Cox on “Orange Is the New Black” and just being like, “Oh my gosh, that’s an option, that’s a thing.” I came out to my mom at [age] 4. I told her, “I’m a girl.” We were very, very religious so she was like, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” But I didn’t know that I could transition. I didn’t know that there were options or resources. The first true nonbinary person that I grew close to was E.R. Fightmaster, who plays a really beloved character on “Grey’s Anatomy.” We met doing a comedy improv show at UCB. I was enamored by them… Just to watch someone so confidently, there was some swagger there in this, like, “I know who I am.” I wanted that so desperately. I’m just really grateful that that was my first person I had met. Trans people really are some of the most important people you can have during a transition because at first, I think I was coveting the approval of cis women so desperately that I lost sight of the community that really matters and that I really want to represent, which is trans people, especially trans-feminine people.

What is your relationship like now with your family?

Some of them will be at the show. My dad and his fiancé and my best friend’s family — they’re like a chosen family — are coming.

How are things with your mom?

We’re BFFs. We fight like sisters, but I firmly believe that a child is placed in a parent’s life for a reason. I know that I was put in my parents’ life for a reason. I’ve seen my entire family grow and completely evolve in their views. I know those things are possible. When I see this crazy hate that I get on Fox News or the Daily Mail or whatever it might be, sometimes I get of the mind space: “Oh, just forget about them, there’s no purpose in even trying to make them understand.” But then there’s also part of me that doesn’t want to give up because I’ve seen change within my own personal life. A lot of the time, it just comes back to having someone physical in your space so that they know I’m not some monster or that this isn’t some fad. I think that has really opened the eyes to a lot of my loved ones in my life that maybe wouldn’t have understood transness before.

Just hours ago, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a state ban on gender-affirming health care for minors. What do you say to the kids in Tennessee?

I would say you are the bravest person I know of already, and now you are even braver. And God forbid you can’t get what you need at this moment, please, I beg of you, whatever that guiding light is that brought you to your true self and your identity, please keep following it. Even if it looks a little bit dimmer than before, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will get what you need somewhere, someone will get you that thing. And I will do everything in my power to also help with that. But you can’t lose it, because I lost it for many years and now I’m still finding it. I wish that I had had it for as long as they potentially could.

If you could sit down with Gov. Lee, what would you say to him?

I would maybe tell him my story. I would say, “Hey, this is who I am. I’m Dylan Mulvaney, I’m not some monster. Here’s some of my life experiences. Here’s why I feel the way I do.” I think there’s many activists in this world that are so on top of the facts and on the hard hitting, really deep, grounded work. I think what I can bring to it is a personal experience to hopefully somewhat warm a heart. I don’t even think of myself as an activist at all. That is so something that I think gets projected just onto any trans person. But when the time comes, I would be glad to step up for these youth.

Do you ever see yourself leaving TikTok?

I think I’m ready to shift to whatever that next thing could be. I think it will always be such a fricking miracle in my life. I thought it was a kids app that you dance on. But I do think I’m going to scale back a bit.

What musical would you love to star in?

I would love to play Glinda in “Wicked.” I think Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” could be an interesting take on something darker, but adding some of my quirk and zaniness to it.

You went to your first awards show — the Grammys last month — with Chris Olsen.

He was the best date ever. He was the one, when I started popping off — I didn’t really know other influencers, I wasn’t part of that world — who reached out to me. We had some mutual friends, and he was literally hopping on the phone being like, “This is who your agent should be. This is how much you should be getting paid.” That is what we have to do for each other in this industry.

What’s the next big awards show you want to go to?

I would like to eventually host the Tony Awards one day. That’s my dream. Hopefully I’ll attend this year. That would be major.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Mulvaney on “Just for Variety” above or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.