Why We Need To Talk About Kim Petras—the First Trans Woman to Win a Grammy
Kim Petras’s historical Grammy win provides inspiration to people everywhere, trans and cis alike.
Of the dozens of Grammys bestowed upon stars this year, the winner who stands out boldly from the rest is Kim Petras, as she became the first openly transgender woman to win the prestigious award. Petras, along with non-binary singer Sam Smith, won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sexy, chart-topping song, “Unholy.”
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From her youth spent in a small town in Germany to come out as trans, to her start in the music industry to her historical Grammys win, here is Kim Petras’s story, and how she brings inspiration to her fans—both cis and trans alike.
Kim Petras’s Music Career, from Performing at Gay Clubs in Germany to Commanding the Stage at the Grammys
Kim Petras was born and raised in Cologne, a city in Germany. She was assigned male at birth, but knew from a young age that she was a girl. In her early teenage years, she appeared on a German documentary which detailed her transition. The documentary was wildly insensitive—and at times, outright offensive—about her identity. Petras says, “became a joke as a 12-year-old on TV.” She was harassed by strangers and bullied by her peers. She became suicidal and spent her days hidden in her room, turning to pop music for solace.
Inspired by the likes of Madonna, the Spice Girls, Cher and Britney Spears, Petras dedicated her days to songwriting and singing. At 14, Petras began performing in gay clubs, the only place she said she could be herself. At 19, she moved to Los Angeles to break into the music industry. She released her debut single, “I Don’t Want It at All,” in 2017.
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Early in Petras’s career, Sam Smith reached out via Instagram DM, expressing they wanted to collab with her. Years later in 2022, the duo released “Unholy.” The song became so popular it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making Petras and Smith the first trans woman and non-binary person, respectively, to top the charts.
On Sunday, Petras and Smith accepted their Grammy award. Smith graciously gave Petras the stage for the acceptance speech. In the speech, Petras thanked “the incredible transgender legends performing who kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight,” and Sophie, a trans woman and musician whom Petras had collaborated with who passed away two years ago. She honored Madonna, for “fighting for LGBTQ rights.” She praised her “Unholy” co-singer, Smith, for their unwavering support. And she honored her mother, who she said, “believed me that I was a girl and I wouldn’t be here without her and her support.”
How Kim Petras Inspires Both Her Trans and Cis Fans Alike
The significance of Petras winning this prestigious award cannot be overstated. Petras’s success is an inspiration to trans and queer people everywhere, proving that transgender people can shine, even in a hostile world.
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Petras is conscious of her trans identity, and while she wants to be a light to the trans community, she also wants to showcase who she is outside of gender. In an interview with Billboard, she says, “Do I talk about being transgender in interviews and stuff like that, or then does everything become about me being transgender? Does the trans community not feel like I’m talking about it enough? Things like that are difficult, but we’re figuring it out. I just always want to make people feel good about themselves with my music.”
With her rise in popularity, it’s clear that Petras is doing just that—making everyone, both cis and trans, feel good through her musical talent and unapologetic personality. And she’s only getting started.
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