Mercury Stardust a.k.a. The Trans Handy Ma'am next to trans flag and TikTok logo. (Image: Mercury Stardust, TikTok, and Alyssa Shotwell.)

Why TikTok Users Are Flocking to the Trans Handy Ma’am for DIY Repairs

"You are worth the time it takes to learn a new skill."

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Back in March 2021, Mercury Stardust (her name an ode to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust) uploaded her first TikTok, addressing why so many burlesque dancers use pseudonyms. In addition to the occasional cat video (babies named Nitro and Apollo), Stardust discussed her life as a part-time cabaret performer in Wisconsin and how that helped her through her journey with recognizing her gender.

The first video that would set the trajectory for Stardust’s soaring popularity on TikTok came a few days later, as she reacted to a tenant being treated poorly by the maintenance technicians. Then, some videos later came with a tutorial on how to use a ratchet strap. By April 4, she called out to anyone to tag her if they needed help with maintenance issues.

Stardust remarked on how, sometimes, queer people and cis women get nervous and are sometimes talked down to by people there to help. She decided then to use her 14 years working as a maintenance technician (not including the years her father taught her how to do repairs) and the 7 years of teaching burlesque to empower people to learn how to handle small repairs by themselves.

@mercurystardust Trans Maintenance Lady #maintenance #repair #repairlady #handyman #trans #lgbtqia ♬ Wii – Mii Channel – Super Guitar Bros

While her addressing viewers as “fellow humans” is probably just a fun and respectful way to address people, this could also be a thematic holdover from her side job as a dancer and her love for sci-fi. Stardust hosts a weekly cabaret show at sci-fi-themed studio TheSpaceShip.tv.

What type of videos does Mercury Stardust make?

Since giving advice online, she’s really done it all as far as common repairs. Stardust has shown how to address issues in the toilet tank, light switches not working, low faucet pressure, splashback when plunging, getting keys unstuck, patching small holes in walls, changing recessed lighting bulbs, shower head replacement, and more.

In addition to how-to videos and basic repairs, she also gives general advice for renters. Really, if you haven’t seen her tackle it and you ask, she’ll make a video on it!

@mercurystardust #greenscreenvideo. Thank you @uhhh_reli for the question. Sink Low Pressure. #Homeowner #Home #LGBTQ #Trans #FYP #Plumbing #Sink #greenscreenvideo ♬ Steven Universe – L.Dre

On the off chance Stardust doesn’t know much about the subject, she’ll walk you through how to find the right answer. This includes things like where to search for serial numbers and Google search terms. Some of this may seem really obvious, but unless you’ve been taught, you just don’t know.

Stardust has 1.5 million followers and millions more views because she talks to people, not at us. After listening to the problem, Stardust holds and points at tools and pieces like an instructor. She’s made multiple videos on some of the same topics because sometimes minor differences make individual problems unique. Also, It doesn’t hurt that her upbeat energy is often paired with the popular, soothing TikTok track labeled Steven Universe by L. Dre.

We DO talk about Drano

My introduction to Stardust was due to my partner sharing a video of Stardust begging people not to use Drano to fix clogged drains. As someone with thick curly hair, I was a Drano fiend and really taken aback until she explained why to avoid this common “fix.”

@mercurystardust Reply to @dmv.harvey Why no Draino!? #diy #Trans #maintenance #queer #Home #maintenance #draino ♬ Steven Universe – L.Dre

Basically, Drano breaks down grease but not the actual hair (or whatever is clogging the pipes), so using it is just pushing the problem further down for someone else to fix. Stardust has discussed using the liquid as a preventative measure, but not as a go-to when there is already a clogged situation. Stardust is so anti-Drano as a fix that she and others on the platform have created videos meme-ing on this passion.

@mercurystardust #duet with @katieguinn97 Reacting to a meme video of me #homerepair #lgbtq #reaction #DIY #renting #Trans ♬ Please follow alexisdidwhat – Alexis Whitehead

@mercurystardust Drain can damage pipes and make clogs worse. Hand Auger is the best route. #Trans #ladytechnicians #diy ♬ оригинальный звук – Videographer | ROSTOV

@mercurystardust Chemicals in your drains can cause worse clogs and cost more money over time. Use a drain Snake whenever possible #DIY #Plumbing #Draino #FYP #LGBTQ ♬ original sound – Bone Broth Bastard

In the FAQ section of her website, under “How do you feel about Drano?” it just says “NO!”

Finding a way to sustain herself by helping others

Within eight months, Stardust began to work on her TikTok videos full-time with the help of donations, Patreon, and merch sales. (Here is the source of the chicken nugget-themed merch.) Pretty early on, she admitted she was approached by various businesses to do sponsorships, but choose not to take them to keep trust with her viewers.

I’m not against sponsorships for creators at all. However, it’s really admirable that she made this decision because of the space she occupies online. Though her videos are how-tos, they’re also enabling people to empower themselves and get the best job done, brand name of tool aside. Back to Drano, even with the drain cleaners, she doesn’t promote a specific brand—just a tool.

@mercurystardust Reply to @corinndella Beat kind of comment!!! Thank you xoxo #kindess #education #tiktoklearning ♬ original sound – Mercury Stardust

Stardust leads with empathy and reminds people that come across her page “You are worth the time it takes to learn a new skill.”

(via TikTok, image: Mercury Stardust, TikTok, and Alyssa Shotwell)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.