Metro Weekly

Kim Petras says US record labels dismissed her as ‘gay club music’

Petras recently made history as the first openly trans performer at the MTV VMAs

Kim Petras
Kim Petras — Photo: Steven Klein

Kim Petras has discussed her rocky road to stardom, from being seen as a “joke” in her home country of Germany to being dismissed as “gay club music” by the U.S. music industry.

Last month, the pop icon became the first-ever trans artist to perform at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade after earning the same distinction at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.

Petras, 29, gained fame after being featured in a documentary 15 years ago about her journey to becoming one of the youngest people ever to medically transition in Germany.

Although the documentary and subsequent TV appearances gave Petras international media coverage, she told BuzzFeed News that she was portrayed as “a spectacle rather than an ambitious teen who wanted to be a musician.”

And so Petras “made the decision to get out of Europe.”

“I’m seen as a joke, and nobody wants to talk about my music, people don’t want to work with me,” she said. “I’m just, like, ‘the tranny on TV’ to people.”

However, when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue music, executives weren’t interested, she recalled.

“A lot of people were like, ‘You write gay club music.’ As if that was a bad thing,” she said, adding, “That’s an honor for me.”

Many American radio stations, she continued, “were weirded out.”

“It was like a lot of them had probably never met a trans person,” she said. “Also it was like, ‘This is, like, loud, and you sing really loud, and it’s not what’s happening right now.’ They were like, ‘Sorry.’”

Yet Petras learned that if she wanted to get discovered, which she wanted “more than anything,” she had to “do it myself” without self-censorship.

“I want to love my life, I want to feel free as an artist, I want to express myself,” Petras, whose latest single “Coconuts” went viral on TikTok, said.

She continued: “I don’t really need a huge hit to feel successful. I’ve been feeling successful since I could tour.

“That’s what’s driven me, my career and this goal of me on a huge stage, with people who sing my songs. That was all I’ve ever dreamt about.”

Read More:

New Jersey lawmakers poised to pass bill locking marriage equality into law

John Waters on Christmas, COVID, and ‘government-recommended’ glory holes

Movie Review: West Side Story is a fresh, invigorating take on a musical classic

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!