10 Questions We Have for Mercury Stardust, TikTok's Famous 'Trans Handy Ma'am'

Mercury Stardust is a popular TikTok creator, author, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and burlesque performer who wants renters and homeowners alike to feel empowered wherever they call home. Order her new book, Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair, and find out what to keep in your tool kit and see which HGTV personality she would invite to perform in a burlesque show.

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June 21, 2023
Woman Stands Posed with Toolboxes and Hammer at Bench

Mercury Stardust: The Trans Handy Ma'am

Mercury Stardust is an author, educator, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and compassionate DIY expert with 15 years of professional maintenance technician experience. Read about her TikTok post that lead to fame, learn tips on landlord negotiations and pre-order her new book "Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair."

From: HGTV Handmade

Photo by: Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Renters often feel a sense of limitation at home, from temporary design choices to confusing tenant rights and negotiations. But don’t panic! Mercury Stardust, The Trans Handy Ma’am, is here to share some relatable repair wisdom so renters can learn how to fix clogs, caulking and drywall, plus learn to paint, hang pictures and more, all while making the whole process less hindering — and dare we say — down-right empowering. We asked Mercury 10 need-to-know questions about her hardest home repairs, the TikTok post that made her internet famous and her new book, Safe and Sound: A Renter's Guide to Home Repair.

$22.49
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Don’t panic — Mercury Stardust, AKA The Trans Handy Ma’am is here to help! For too many people, the simple act of contacting a plumber or repair person can feel like a game of chance. As a transwoman and a professional maintenance technician, Mercury Stardust has discovered (the hard way) that we live in a world with much to fear. If you've ever felt panicked about opening your home to strangers in order to fix a maintenance issue, this book is for you.

1. Mercury, what draws you to handy work and home repairs?

“As long as I’ve been able to remember, I’ve always been drawn to how things work. Growing up as a kid, I always related to the Island of Misfit Toys. I didn’t feel like I belonged, and in some ways, I felt like I was broken. Seeing things being thrown away or disregarded because it was broken or didn’t fit with what someone was looking for always broke my heart. I could always see how something could be repaired or be useful when others could not — fixing the unfixable always gave me a greater sense of purpose. And it does to this very day.”

2. Tell us about the TikTok post that went viral.

“[April 5, 2021] was the day. Earlier that day I had been working on a toilet and things had gone awry. Needless to say, I wasn't smelling too good by the time that I saw a video of a young lady crying but not knowing how to use a ratchet strap. The vast majority of the responses to her video were poking fun at her. And the majority of the comments were in fact making her feel lesser than just because she didn't know how to do something."

Woman Talks to Camera While Repairing Hole in Drywall

Mercury Stardust: The Trans Handy Ma'am

Mercury Stardust is an author, educator, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and compassionate DIY expert with 15 years of professional maintenance technician experience. Read about her TikTok post that lead to fame, learn tips on landlord negotiations and pre-order her new book "Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair."

From: HGTV Handmade

Photo by: Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Hillary Schave Azena Photography

"That resonated with me deeply, so I grabbed my ratchet strap from my glove box and then started making what would become my very first Trans Handy Ma’am video. I explained how to use a ratchet strap in a step-by-step way that made sense to a lot of people. And that video, by the end of the night, was seen by 600,000 folks. Within three months I had 1 million followers on TikTok all because I answered questions in ways that resonated with people and did something I call 'Compassionate DIY,' all the while reminding people they're worth the time it takes to learn something new.”

3. What’s the most infuriating home issue you see in rentals?

“Long-term neglect from the landlord. Tenants are our eyes and ears in the homes we provide them. In order for the home to be maintained, we need them just as much as they need landlords. It's a symbiotic relationship that is often overlooked in rentals."

4. What's your tip for renter/landlord succcess?

“As a professional maintenance technician, I often find myself in between the needs of the tenants and the desires of the landlord. And often the worst problems I've ever seen in an apartment are a direct result of a tenant not feeling empowered to ask for help. Maybe the tenant felt too scared to ask the landlord ... or maybe the tenant was told they were the problem. Whatever the reason, the breakdown of communication between landlord and tenant is typically the reason why things go south. If that communication is not repaired, then it's irrelevant how good of a technician I am.”

Woman Talks to Camera With Paint Can and Brush In Hand

Mercury Stardust: The Trans Handy Ma'am

Mercury Stardust is an author, educator, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and compassionate DIY expert with 15 years of professional maintenance technician experience. Read about her TikTok post that lead to fame, learn tips on landlord negotiations and pre-order her new book "Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair."

From: HGTV Handmade

Photo by: Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Hillary Schave Azena Photography

5. What's a common tenant negotiation issue that renters may not know?

"Often tenants will not know that they can actually negotiate the move-in and the move-out date. Especially when you're moving out, depending on how long you lived at a location, and how much work they're going to have to do to turn it over for the next tenant to move in. The landlord or property manager may be willing to give you a few more extra days because they don't have a tenant moving in right away ... It never hurts to ask, but make sure you get everything in writing. If you were asking for a different move-in/move-out date, make sure you get that in writing or amended onto your lease agreement. And that goes to my next point: Negotiations may be difficult in any regard with your landlord. But the one thing that will always remain true is to get everything in writing, in other words, document everything."

Woman Underneath Sink Preparing A How-To Demo

Mercury Stardust: The Trans Handy Ma'am

Mercury Stardust is an author, educator, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and compassionate DIY expert with 15 years of professional maintenance technician experience. Read about her TikTok post that lead to fame, learn tips on landlord negotiations and pre-order her new book "Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair."

From: HGTV Handmade

Photo by: Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Hillary Schave Azena Photography

6. Fill in the blank. If you never had to repair another ____ ever again, what would it be and why?

“Without any hesitation, it will be a wax ring on a toilet. There is no job that I did frequently that grossed me out quite like the wax ring underneath the toilet. People are going to ask me immediately what do I think about the silicone rings? I like the idea of them, and I think every technician does. They are way easier to work with in a lot of ways. But wax rings do an amazing job in spite of how gross they become. And for every time I've seen someone mess up a wax ring when they've installed it, I've seen twice as many problems when people incorrectly install the silicone ring."

How to Replace a Toilet

Most plumbing projects are not for the faint of heart. Installing a toilet, though, is deceptively simple and can be accomplished in about an hour. Follow these steps to tackle this DIY project yourself.

7. Share a favorite life hack from your book Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide To Home Repair.

"The Loosey Goosey & Not So Screwy Screw Holes." According to Mercury, you can repair a stripped screw in its hole by simply using a drill, toothpicks, wood glue, scissors and a hammer. First, she advises to remove the screw from the hole, then apply wood glue onto the toothpicks. While the wood is still wet, place toothpicks into the hole until they clump together tightly. Add toothpicks until no more can fit into the hole. Then, use scissors to cut the toothpicks so a flat edge remains. Then, lightly hammer the toothpicks farther into the wall and let it dry for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Once dry, use a small drill bit to create a pilot hole in the desired location.

Woman in Overalls Smiles to Camera with Tools Hanging Behind Her

Mercury Stardust: The Trans Handy Ma'am

Mercury Stardust is an author, educator, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and compassionate DIY expert with 15 years of professional maintenance technician experience. Read about her TikTok post that lead to fame, learn tips on landlord negotiations and pre-order her new book "Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair."

From: HGTV Handmade

Photo by: Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Hillary Schave Azena Photography

How to Remove a Stripped Screw

Keep all your projects moving and say goodbye to stripped screws once and for all with these helpful tips and tricks.

8. What should renters have in their starter toolbox?

"In my book, I focus on the most versatile tools you'll use for the majority of the tasks in your home. They won't always be the perfect tool designed for that specific task, but they'll be the ones that will get the job done most effectively and economically."

9. You beautifully advocate to live your truth boldly. What's something you'd like to share that might inspire someone to break free of gender norms and follow their own journey?

"When it comes to living my life boldly, it's because I don't know any other way to live. I'm not trying to make a statement, I'm not trying to be political, I'm not trying to push an agenda on anybody. I just happen to be trans and just so happen to be really good at home repairs. And because of that, my life has become political in so many ways. But at the end of the day, I don't do it for anybody. I do it because it makes me feel good. It's the same reason why I do home repairs. It makes me feel good, and I like doing it. So get out there, try new things and get a little messy. We are all worth the time it takes to be ourselves."

10. Lastly, if you could choose one HGTV personality to perform in a burlesque show with who would it be?

Woman Smiles to Camera Near Crystal Ball and Clouds Above Desk

Mercury Stardust: The Trans Handy Ma'am

Mercury Stardust is an author, educator, speaker, LGBTQIA+ advocate and compassionate DIY expert with 15 years of professional maintenance technician experience. Read about her TikTok post that lead to fame, learn tips on landlord negotiations and pre-order her new book "Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair."

From: HGTV Handmade

Photo by: Hillary Schave Azena Photography

Hillary Schave Azena Photography

"Hands down, without any doubt, it would be Carmeon Hamilton from Reno My Rental. In Burlesque, we often have to do a lot with very little. Carmeon does a lot with very little when it comes to renters' homes. We also have to understand how to meet people where they're at when it comes to what they're comfortable with. And no one understands that better on HGTV than Carmeon Hamilton. She also dresses immaculate every time you see her, and I absolutely adore her."

Crafts + Cocktails With Carmeon Hamilton

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