Content Warning: This interview with Diego contains mentions of mental health issues and gender dysphoria.
Interviewing Diego: from journaling to sharing his experiences
We had the pleasure of interviewing Diego, a content creator and artist with almost half a million followers on TikTok. What initially started as a journaling activity, trying to better understand his identity, quickly turned into a platform to educate others and showcase his experiences as a trans person. Diego talked to us about his journey with his gender identity, why they began posting content on TikTok and about their true passions.
Besides being a content creator Diego is also an incredible artist who draws comics. He grew up being creative, drawing, singing and playing the guitar. While he started creating content for himself, his videos soon became popular as many members of the LGBTQ+ community related to what he was saying. Diego explained that his journey questioning his gender and sexuality was not a singular experience but one shared by many. In being so open about his struggles, Diego’s content resonated with audiences across the world and grew his platform to almost half a million followers.
What sets him apart is the way he is able to use humour to educate others on important issues facing the trans community. His videos take a light-hearted approach while discussing serious matters. Most importantly, he is genuine. I think this is what truly makes him approachable and easy to connect with. Whether you scroll through his TikTok or simply watch one of his videos on your ‘For You’ page, you will find yourself in a safe and welcoming space, where you can explore who you are, share similar experiences or simply laugh at his Oscar-worthy acting performances. You get to experience trans joy and hardship in a way that still educates audiences on what navigating life as a trans person can look like.
What inspired you to create content on TikTok?
Diego: I started TikTok because I needed a kind of journal … to better understand myself. I was doing it to talk and ask questions about everything that had to do with my self-discovery journey. I was making content about my life and people were enjoying it and following me. Although that part was very nice, I was not doing videos for that reason. It was more of a personal blog.
I was explaining things that I was feeling. The comments were also from people explaining their experiences which made it beautiful. I was not reading definitions, but I was reading people’s lives and emotions. It was so complex that trying to work with labels wasn’t going to help me. I needed to feel and experience things. That is why I tried using different pronouns and wearing binders.
Diego expressed his gratitude towards his followers as he rarely experienced bullying or harassment online. While there were some hate comments now and then, every time he wanted to try out different pronouns or names, he was met with acceptance – something that up to that point was so foreign to them. A lot of his followers were also questioning their gender which made for a sense of community.
Once his platform grew and he felt more comfortable with his gender identity, Diego shifted his videos to more ‘conscious content’. He was aware of the responsibility he had and wanted to use it for good, educating those he could on what it means to be queer and trans.
Diego: I think that educating people is important. I have always felt that representation and being yourself works better for me. I just talk about the queer and trans experience and if you’re mad about me talking about my existence … then you don’t have to be here.
His relationship with TikTok also changed. While he initially needed the platform as a way to better understand who he is, he explained how he doesn’t need it to understand himself anymore. ‘Now it’s a place to explain who I am’.
What does creating content and making art mean to you?
Diego: Art is expression. I am not a religious person, … but I firmly believe that the point of life is to find meaning. I love being trans, but I have a problem with how hard it is. But that’s not my transness’ fault. I think it’s a gift to be trans, the gift to live it, understand it and share it. I always felt that telling stories was what I loved doing. That’s why I make videos now. I love recording the regular stuff that I do and talking about it. It’s me being a happy, trans person.
Sharing his journey and experiences as a trans person truly resonates with a lot of his followers. However, watching his videos, you will also find comments supporting and celebrating Diego for his physical changes since starting testosterone or complimenting his new hair colour. You can truly feel the care his followers have for Diego and his gender journey. One follower stated ‘You sound and look amazing, congrats’ and another commented ‘You are really inspiring me with this video’.
Diego’s journey with his gender identity
While he spoke about the importance of showcasing trans joy and perseverance, they also acknowledged the suffering that comes with being trans in a world that does not allow you to be who you are. During the interview, Diego opened up about his journey with his gender identity. Having dealt with a lot of mental health issues and an eating disorder, coming out as trans saved their life.
Diego: When I think about myself before questioning my gender, I see a very sad and lost person. I really didn’t know who I was … and I was never comfortable with my gender. The only exception was when I was a child because gender didn’t mean anything. I used to always hang out with boys in my class and I never even thought that that was a problem.
Diego recollected the first time he understood what gender was and how it played a difference in his life. After a certain age, other boys did not behave similarly towards him the way they used to. It took him a while to realise that the gender you are perceived as actually plays a role in our society and it is not void of meaning. ‘I realised that it was not about me being me, but it was about me being a girl or a boy’. That was the first time they adjusted their behaviour to align with social gender norms.
How was your experience growing up as a queer and trans person in Italy?
Growing up in Italy, LGBTQ+ issues were not talked about. This lack of recognition of LGBTQ+ identities made it difficult for Diego to accept his trans identity. While his family was not actively homophobic or transphobic, they did not acknowledge queerness as a possibility.
Diego: Sometimes people just don’t want to see it [referring to LGBTQ+ identities]. Growing up with people who don’t want to see it, you also end up not seeing it. That’s why for the longest time, I put my feelings in a box, threw away the key and didn’t think about my gender. When I was in high school, I tried to fight for it again and I think that was one of the toughest moments of my life. I realised that I couldn’t talk about it. I wasn’t allowed to. This resulted in many family problems as they were close-minded. I came out as bisexual … and the reaction that I got was definitely not the best. So, … I automatically thought ‘I am not going to talk about me questioning my gender’.
In particular their mother’s reaction ‘froze’ their self-discovery journey. He tried to adhere to social gender norms, being hyper-feminine. However, expressing femininity while being perceived as a woman only caused more harm to their mental health. His gender dysphoria also led to an eating disorder. While their mother has since accepted their transition, at the time, Diego was only met with invalidation.
Diego: So many times we as trans people have to go through difficult problems just because we are not allowed to understand who we are. It is really a suffering. I remember telling my mom that I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror – that was obviously dysphoria – but she couldn’t even comprehend it and suggested it might have something to do with my weight. However, she was also the one who saved me and helped me recover when my eating disorder got to a really bad point.
Why representation matters
Once the pandemic hit, Diego was forced to stop working and stay at home. Work was the only distraction he had where he could simply shut off his brain and not think about his gender dysphoria. But now, ‘I had to be in a room with myself, with my thoughts for months and so I had many dissociating episodes. Luckily, I also had access to the internet.’ Initially, he downloaded TikTok only as an observer and not as a content creator. He slowly started to see trans people on his timeline. We jokingly acknowledged how TikTok’s algorithm knew he was trans before he did.
Diego: One day, I shaved my head. Seeing myself with this different appearance did something to my perception of myself. It showed me that I could be myself but in a different font maybe. So I tried doing more self-discovery. For the first few months, I identified as a lesbian. I used to have a lot of problems with intimacy and sexual interactions with men and so I thought it was because of my sexual orientation, but later I understood … that it was not about who I was attracted to but about the fact that I didn’t feel comfortable with my body.
It was not exactly about the body in itself – even though my dysphoria is quite strong – it was more about my role. I used to date straight men and my role was defined by their expectations. That was very confining, but I didn’t have the terms and I didn’t have the knowledge to understand what was happening.
One day, one of his friends publicly came out as a trans man. This provided Diego with the opportunity to ask questions. While he was seeing trans people on his social media, he needed to have someone in person whom he could talk to in order to better understand what it is like being trans. ‘I remember thinking he was the happiest person I have ever met in my life’. This realisation that you can be trans and happy, and your experience does not have to be defined by dysphoria and suffering, gave Diego hope that he could be happy too. ‘It made me feel hopeful.’
Waiting endlessly for life-saving medical care
After speaking to his trans friend, in the summer of 2021, Diego called the gender identity clinic in his area – the only clinic in the entire region of Tuscany. However, similarly to other healthcare systems, the waiting times were long. ‘You are going to wait with a clear conscience of who you are and what you need but you cannot have it until they give it to you. That is the most difficult part.’
While waiting, Diego was very depressed. ‘I felt like I couldn’t do anything to speed up the process and I felt abandoned. I started thinking that they would never give me testosterone because I didn’t expect it to be this long of a wait.’ The only thing that helped his mental health was feeling like his family was slowly starting to accept him. While they previously expressed their support for his transition, Diego hadn’t felt supported until then. After almost two years of waiting, they finally received their first testosterone shot.
‘The first shot of testosterone tasted like hope’
While discussing the impact of gender-affirming healthcare on their life, Diego also mentioned the importance of being respected and people using the correct pronouns.
Diego: As soon as people treat you the way you ask them to you automatically feel better. It’s that simple. While I was still battling with my gender dysphoria, it changes your life completely if people around you don’t remind you that they don’t see you for who you are. I don’t have what I need physically but at least people around me can see me, which is life-changing.
Having the support from his friends and family truly improved his mental well-being. Their experience coincides with research that proves having at least one supportive family member positively impacts your mental health. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that young LGBTQ+ people who had one supportive adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt.
Moreover, having access to gender-affirming healthcare saved his life. ‘The first shot of testosterone honestly tastes like hope in a way that I can’t even explain. It’s the first shot so you don’t see a difference, but you know change is going to come’.
Since starting their self-discovery journey, they changed how they identified. Now, they see gender as ‘fluid’. ‘I personally identify as a boy because I need this label in our society. But to me, my gender is not a thing. I just know what I want to look like, but my gender does not exist’.
Diego, you have changed your hair colour so many times. Do you have a favourite look?
Diego: That is a very nice question because I am very attached to my hair colour. Changing my hair colour was such a beautiful thing to do and it distracted me from other things … it was a reminder that appearance is changeable. I think that pink is the best colour on me. Now, I am going to try and go natural for a bit and maybe even grow out my hair.
Advice for future trans content creators
Diego: Do it. Don’t perform for anybody. Creating content about being trans or queer is not a performance. You don’t have to make it look good and you don’t have to reassure people. Just talk about you and your experience. Everything can be interesting, and we want to see it.
We always say: be happy and be proud. But honestly just exist. Don’t let society or anyone else make you feel like you don’t deserve to exist. Because you do. You’re valid and your existence doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be a perfect trans person or a perfect content creator … you deserve to be your own person. This can mean that you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what your pronouns are, or you don’t know what you want to do. I know that we want queer people to be happy and to thrive, but the thing is that as soon as people understand that they can be themselves, they are going to be happy and thrive. So, just exist … and resist.
These beautiful words left us longing for more. To keep up with his latest content, make sure to follow Diego on TikTok and Instagram! If you would like to see more of his art, check out their Instagram page.
This interview is part of a monthly series titled Showcasing Our Community: Trans people making a difference, where we spotlight trans content creators and share their experiences with the wider community. The intention is to share and celebrate the work of trans individuals with GenderGP’s community and to spread some positivity and light through the world.
We thank Diego for being so open and sharing his story with us. If you are a trans content creator of any sort, such as an activist, artist or TikToker, and this interview inspired you to share your own journey, then make sure to contact us via: email@example.com. We look forward to sharing who you are with our community.