I grew up in San Diego, which hosts one of the largest Pride parades in America. As a queer teen, I would sneak off to Pride parades with a group of older friends — one of which borrowed her parent’s car so that I could live my gay fantasy for an afternoon. My friends, mostly straight cis-gals, were ready and willing to corroborate my story if my parents called asking whose house I was hanging out at.
In reality, I was in tiny short shorts flailing my limbs to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
This year, Pride looks a little different for me: I’m no longer that boy who would lie about my whereabouts to privately live my queer truth, I’m now a newly realized trans woman living in Los Angeles with a large queer social media following.
Although this year I may still wear tiny short shorts and flail my limbs to Katy Perry’s “Firework” (no promises!), the main difference between then and now is honesty.
Honesty to myself, to my family, to my community.
Did I know back then that I was a woman? There was so much guilt and fear that it’s hard to say. My womanly aspirations were small and muddied. Those Pride parades in my teen years undoubtedly brought me closer to my truth and gender identity.
Initially, this year’s Pride felt like a finish line for me, an “I did It, I’m a woman!” celebration.
However, I don’t want to force the expectation of a finish line on myself, since gender and sexuality can be wildly fluid. Now I think of this year more like a goal post.
I’m looking forward to freely experiencing things, like picking out my outfit for this year’s festivities, and maybe even trading in the shorts for a skirt (I have loved leaning into my feminine style lately), as well as celebrating with loved ones.
Three years ago — pre-Covid and still male presenting — I was backpacking in Amsterdam the week before their Pride festivities. I met an 18-year-old queer Russian boy also traveling on his own. We were staying at the same hostel and decided to spend a day sightseeing together.
It was his first time out of Russia, and watching his face take in all of the rainbow Pride decorations lining the streets was what I can only imagine experiencing your child’s first trip to Disneyland is like.
His expression went between shock and joy, pointing at any rainbow flag in sight (there were many). He looked at me and said, “In my town, this would be illegal, you could be jailed. And if we were to show affection to each other, it could be even worse.”
My hidden trips to Pride parades as a teen felt less like suppression at that moment. I felt sadness, but also gratitude to be myself back home. So I took his hand in public and held it, the initial fear in his eyes softened to comfort, and he quietly cried as we walked hand in hand. I’ll never take my Pride experiences for granted after that day.
My queer journey has led me to new avenues (uh, hello, over 3 million TikTok followers!), and as a content creator, I have a newfound responsibility this Pride Month to use my platform to highlight the community as proudly as possible. Though I don’t like to think of myself as an “influencer” or especially an “activist” (both of those words intimidate me for different reasons), I realize my voice matters.
I receive hundreds of messages from youth and adults, all expressing their gender identity hopes and dreams to me, and while I can’t respond to every message, knowing that my videos may give someone the confidence to live their truth is reason enough to continue.
Maybe next year, I’ll be more confident in labeling myself an influencer, or oof, even an activist. For now, I am thrilled to be girl Dylan, living her truth, proudly, for anyone who wishes to watch.
Dylan Mulvaney (she/they) is a trans actress, comedian, and content creator living in Los Angeles. Previously touring with Broadway's Book of Mormon as "Elder White," she turned to social media to find creativity once the pandemic hit. She now has over 3 million followers on TikTok, where she highlights her trans-gender journey in a series titled "Days of Girlhood," which has received over 200million views. Dylan is currently writing and developing scripted content, and her greatest hope is to bring trans and non-binary stories to the stage and screen.
A version of this article was originally published in The Pride Edition of the Goodnewspaper.
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