The Trans Useful Ma’am: the house restore TikToker championing renters | Renting property


In April 2021, Mercury Stardust, a Wisconsin upkeep technician, was “cleansing another person’s poop off myself” after a clogged rest room got here aside. She occurred to see a video of somebody asking find out how to use a ratchet strap, a type of complicated-looking thingummies usually used to tie down cargo. As quickly as she tidied up, the 33-year-old responded as digital natives usually do: she recorded an educational video, carrying a (clear) flannel shirt and overalls whereas skillfully dealing with the device in query.

The minute-long video launched her signature enthusiastic and inspiring patter, ending with: “Studying one thing new is a triumph, and I’m happy with you.”

It was TikTok that launched a burgeoning media empire. Immediately, because the Trans Useful Ma’am, Stardust has greater than 2 million TikTok followers of her DIY house restore movies and a New York Occasions bestseller, Protected and Sound: A Renter-Pleasant Information to House Restore. The e book is a singular hybrid: half unconventional trans memoir, half renters’ manifesto and half self-help information.

Once we sat down on an October night on the anarchist Firestorm Books co-op in Asheville, North Carolina, she was on cease 24 of a 52-city tour – and driving throughout the nation to make each date. Stardust, whose identify is a mashup of the queer icons Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust alter ego, was drained. Very drained, but in addition very, very shocked that giving recommendation about fixing a stripped screw gap with toothpicks might go viral.

When first approached about doing a e book, she recalled: “The very first thing I stated is ‘I need it to be for renters,’ and it was such an enormous pushback for that. Everybody was like, ‘I don’t know. Is there actually a marketplace for it?’”

This even though hundreds of thousands of Individuals hire (even the US Census Bureau can’t say what number of; the most effective guess is a 3rd of US residents at any given time). All these individuals must know whether or not portray is allowed and who’s answerable for what repairs.

Stardust went on to inform her potential publishing collaborators: “My downside is in the event you imagine in me or not; that’s what it comes all the way down to. If you wish to work with me, we’re gonna [center renters and her expertise]. And we’re gonna do it as a result of trans individuals are not allowed more often than not to exist exterior of their transness, proper?”

Viewers of Stardust’s house restore movies aren’t solely getting efficient restore recommendation, they’re getting it from somebody who clearly is greater than her trans id. Within the feedback part of her movies she’s steadily requested: “Why does it matter that you simply’re trans? Can’t you simply do the work with out bringing all that up?”

In an October 2021 TikTok, she defined that her house restore movies are additionally acutely aware advocacy for the trans neighborhood. “If you study from a trans lady, then you take information from me and utilizing it in your on a regular basis life; that’s plenty of energy,” she stated. “So, in flip, once you use the information I’m supplying you with, and somebody asks you, ‘Oh, my God, who’d you study that from?’ It’s a must to say: the Trans Useful Ma’am. That helps loads.”

Rising up in rural Wisconsin, Stardust realized house restore from her father, a farmhand and truck driver. She has by no means considered such duties as gendered, particularly as she was equally drawn to feminine-identified issues reminiscent of make-up and enjoying with dolls. She turned concerned in theater whereas in school, happening to grow to be a cabaret and burlesque performer and trainer on weekends, first as a person in a lady’s world, then as a lady in a lady’s world. To pay the payments, she labored in the course of the week as a upkeep technician.

Stardust has discovered notable similarities between these two vital components of her life. She mused that folks usually had difficulties studying each house restore and burlesque, in coping with stripped screw holes and stripping, if you’ll. Most often, she feels this stems from a insecurity and the assumption you possibly can truly do one thing. So, as Stardust stated, once you’re serving to somebody study a brand new ability, you might be “strolling round emotional landmines and you haven’t any concept the place they’re”.

Whilst a renter, Stardust stated repeatedly, your property remains to be your property. Writing Protected and Sound drew from her life because the longtime renter, typically squatter, home-maintenance professional and trans lady that she is or has been. These identities and experiences, together with having her personal rented house damaged into twice, imply that greater than something, Mercury Stardust desires you to really feel secure.

She factors out that renters usually have the distinctive concern that numerous individuals have keys to their house: the proprietor, the constructing supervisor, the upkeep employees, the earlier tenants. So she has recommendation on issues reminiscent of find out how to add supplemental door locks that don’t require drilling or modifying the door body – with out endangering the safety deposit.

What she noticed as an total disregard for renters led Stardust to depart her job as a upkeep technician after 15 years – simply months after that first video – and grow to be a full-time content material creator. In August 2021, in a video message to her followers, she stated: “I refuse to work for a office that sees tenants as animals, and who sees tenants as lesser-than, as in the event that they’ve failed the system by being renters and never property house owners.”

Landlords might complain that renters have all the facility, however in the long run, the landlords personal the land, personal the buildings and sit down with lawmakers to make coverage. “I feel renters ought to have a tenants’ union,” she advised me. “Tenants’ unions to me are the form of route I’d hope that we will go and the usual that we will set.”

Most of Stardust’s 1,600+ TikToks are about house restore, however a month or so after her breakout video, she regarded straight into the digicam and delivered what appears to be her raison d’etre: “I’m a lady who walks into strangers’ properties and offers them assist in moments of want. Irrespective of what number of instances I’m referred to as a freak, regardless of what number of instances I’m referred to as a slur, I do that service as a result of it’s the suitable factor to do. And I care extra about them than how they understand me to be.”

This perspective pervades her e book and movies, and it might be a big a part of why she has but to be banned anyplace or eviscerated by some rightwing talk-show host.

Not that it’s all rainbows and kittens, as anybody who places themselves out on the web is aware of full nicely. Stardust has obtained her share of demise threats, recommendations that she can be higher off useless and “encouragement” to commit suicide.

Nonetheless, she’s decided to double down on treating people like people. Following every part of Protected and Sound, there’s what Stardust calls the “Emotional Reset”, a few paragraphs that assist put issues in perspective, with a QR code that may take you to a video on her web site.

Stardust’s compassionate DIY recommendation is all about affirmations and subsequently is extra about you than concerning the free rest room seat jangling your nerves. You might be worthy of a comfy house. You may learn to do the restore. You are able to do a superb job.

In truth, turning to a random web page in Protected and Sound, the phrase “you” seems 18 instances. Practically all books written by transgender authors are first-person, post-transition memoir, written both as narrative or a collection of essays; “I” is the phrase that seems most steadily. Stardust’s e book stands out in that it’s written within the second particular person, as a present. In certainly one of her Emotional Resets, Stardust says that the instruments you purchase “ought to make it easier to alongside in your hero’s quest, not prohibit you or make your job tougher”.

The hero’s quest takes many kinds in literature and folklore. Usually, the at first reluctant hero goes on an journey, is victorious in a disaster, and returns house reworked, with presents to bestow on mankind. It’s laborious to conceive of a extra apt description of Stardust or of her work.