This dit-to-say essay is based on a conversation with Charlie Carter, and it has been edited for length and clarity.
Although I’ve been creating content on Instagram since I was 14, I was initially apprehensive about posting on TikTok due to its slightly grumpy reputation in its early days.
But in 2019, I started posting on the platform while working full time as a debt collector. My videos typically featured a transformation from male to female, allowing me to show off my queer artistry through makeup and fashion. It also created a space for me to explore my gender fluidity at a time when I was struggling with feelings of dysphoria around my body and my identity.
In April 2020, I posted a 15 second video captioned “Bro to Beauty”. In the first half, I’m dressed in a traditionally “male” outfit, then mid-jump, I transform into my female presenting self through the use of hair, makeup, and clothing. It quickly went viral, gaining over 360,000 views.
I received many comments from viewers who assumed there were two different people in the video and seemed unable to believe that both versions were me. I think society is very used to labels and a gender binary, so when someone doesn’t adhere to those rules, it can be hard for some people to understand.
Since then, I’ve continued to post about my life as a fluid parent, featuring my young daughter in some of my videos, which often seem to resonate with viewers. I grew my platform to over 180,000 subscribers and received almost 4 million likes on my videos. While I’m excited to be able to offer more queer representation, the journey hasn’t always been easy.
Deciding to post about my daughter was a tough choice, but it really resonated with my followers
I was initially unsure about posting about my one year old daughter Myla as I was concerned about her privacy and safety. But being a dad is a central part of my life and I always aim to be authentic as a content creator. I decided it was important to be open about my experience of parenting as a fluid person.
I posted my first video with her in February 2021, with us dancing to Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells,” followed by a video that showed me wearing high heels while pushing her stroller, which I captioned , “We are the future”.
But the one that really went viral was a woman’s “get ready with me on a daddy’s day” video that showed me doing my hair and makeup while taking care of her. I realized the video was exploding when my phone was racing, with constant notifications about comments and likes. It was completely surreal. To me, it was just a depiction of a mundane morning for me as a gender-fluid father, but so many viewers seemed impressed, shocked, and amazed at what they were seeing.
The video received 9.2 million views and 1.6 million likes. At first, the attention felt like a serotonin boost, but the influx of new followers, posts, comments and likes was also overwhelming.
Some comments expressed “concern” that I was “confusing” Myla with my female presentation, but many others came to my defense by expressing how accessible a parent I should be to Myla. Some added that they were delighted to see the result of a future generation who will accept so well.
For me, the response reaffirmed the importance of educating people about the fluidity of sexuality and gender while challenging the traditional parenting archetype. After becoming a dad, this became important to me. I want to show people that parenthood isn’t exclusive to straight cis people – it’s for everyone. We are also parents and active members of society.
Despite some pitfalls, I’m glad my platform offers an opportunity to increase visibility for people like me.
Last year during Pride month, I posted a TikTok video that showed me receiving anti-LGBTQ hate at a train station. It went viral and received over a million views.
The incident was a scary and traumatic experience, and while I received an overwhelmingly positive response, it also became overwhelming. People started approaching me on the street which was extremely difficult to navigate and felt overwhelming.
The experience changed my perspective and I realized that millions of views and thousands of comments on my videos were no longer just numbers on a screen, but real people.
I’ve been lucky enough to cultivate a community of lovable and supportive followers on TikTok, but negative comments and reactions also pop up from time to time, though I think those commenters are probably indoctrinated with hate.
More importantly, having a platform and going viral multiple times allowed me to engage younger viewers and show them that fluid people do exist and that we are just regular people.
As a fluid working-class kid, there was no representation for me and I never thought having my own child would be a possibility. So it’s magical that young homosexuals can see themselves in my experience and have this representation.
I would be content to be working class for the rest of my life. However, I love that my success on TikTok has allowed me to pursue content creation full-time and expand beyond the platform to other opportunities. (I recently entered Season 4 of the BBC Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up star makeup contest.)
Hopefully, when Myla is older, she can see her father leading a full life and standing proudly in who they were.
For more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital literacy team coverage here.