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Dylan Mulvaney says woman-of-the-year award ‘means so much more’ after Bud Light backlash

After gaining Attitude magazine’s first-ever woman of the year award, US trans activist Dylan Mulvaney said receiving such recognition from the UK-based LGBTQ+ publication “means so much more” after a substantial transphobic backlash undermined her Bud Light advertisement.

“No matter how hard I try or what I wear, or what I say, or what surgeries I get, I will never reach an acceptable version of womanhood by those hateful people’s standards,” Mulvaney said in social media videos that showed her accepting the award this week. “But as long as I have the queer community that sees me for my truth – I’m gonna be OK.”

Mulvaney attracted a following on the social media platform TikTok, by documenting her journey as a trans woman, her reflections on coming out, building a new wardrobe and undertaking gender-affirming care.

Her 365 Days of Girlhood videos resulted in two collaborations with Bud Light. The first went unnoticed. The second – a 60-second social media video on 1 April tagged #BudLightPartner that showed her sipping a beer in a bubble bath – sparked a wave of ire from political conservatives in the US.

A boycott organized by rightwingers against Bud Light drove sales down 27% year-on-year as of September. The brand lost its place as the US beer market’s top seller. Bud Light’s owner, Anheuser-Busch, sought to distance itself from the partnership with Mulvaney, saying the promotion was drummed up by “an outside agency without … management awareness or approval”.

Meanwhile, Mulvaney has said she faced “more bullying and transphobia than I could ever have imagined”, and she accused Bud Light of letting her deal with the wrath alone.

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“For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse, in my opinion, than not hiring a trans person at all,” Mulvaney later said in a TikTok video captioned: “Trans people like beer, too.”

A white man with long hair and a beard, a Black woman with long black hair parted in the middle, and a white woman with long blond hair parted in the middle, wearing sequined, revealing gowns stand in a row, smiling and looking very glamorous.Mulvaney (right) with Jonathan Van Ness and Dominique Jackson during New York Fashion Week, on 13 September 2023. Photograph: Adela Loconte/Shutterstock

The singer and actor Paloma Faith presented Mulvaney with Attitude’s debut woman of the year laurel. The presenter said her “blood boils” when she thinks about “what the transphobic press and social media trolls” have forced Mulvaney to endure as she pursued “the basic right to exist as [she was] born to be”.

Virgin Atlantic sponsored the award. Some have openly wondered whether the UK-based airline owned by business magnate Richard Branson could be treated like Bud Light has been, though the brands’ customer bases have key differences.

As she picked up the award, Mulvaney said: “Some see me as the woman of the year. Some see me as a woman of a year … as I only publicly came out online 560 days ago.

“Some people don’t see me as a woman at all, which is why receiving this honor from a queer publication like Attitude means so much more to me.”