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Kim Petras backstage at The Grammys 2023
Kim Petras backstage at The Grammys 2023Courtesy @kimpetras / Twitter

Kim Petras makes trans history at the Grammy’s

The artist won a Grammy for 'Best Pop Duo/ Group' performance with Sam Smith, making her the first trans woman ever to take home the prize

History was made at the Grammy’s last night when Kim Petras and Sam Smith won ‘Best Pop Duo/Group’ performance, making the Petras first trans woman to win this specific prize – and one of the first trans women ever to be awarded at the music industry’s most prestigious event.

The pair won the prize for their collab “Unholy”, beating out other nominees including ABBA, Coldplay and BTS, Post Malone and Doja Cat. While it’s technically Sam Smith’s song (with Petras featuring), they asked her to accept the award, acknowledging that her win is such a significant moment. Pioneering electronic music producer and trans woman Wendy Carlos won a slew of Grammys way back in the 60s, and since then, artists like Arca, SOPHIE and Honey Dijon have all garnered nominations. But outright wins for trans people at the ceremony have been few and far between.

In her speech, Petras thanked “all the incredible transgender legends before [her] who kicked these doors open”. She paid a particularly touching tribute to SOPHIE, the iconic trans producer and artist who died in a tragic accident in 2021. “[I thank] SOPHIE especially, my friend who passed away two years ago, who told me this would happen and always believed in me. Thank you so much for your inspiration, SOPHIE. I adore you and your inspiration will always be in my music.” (A few weeks ago, when Petras teased a clip of a new song, “Brr”, with Meghan Trainor, plenty of people criticised her for ‘ripping off’ SOPHIE’s sound without acknowledging the influence – in light of her genuinely moving speech last night, those criticisms start to look incredibly mean-spirited.) 

She went on to thank Madonna, for “fighting [for] LGBTQ rights” and her own mother:  “I grew up next to a highway in nowhere Germany and my mother believed me that I was a girl and I wouldn’t be here without her and her support,” she said. When several states across the US are introducing legislation targeting trans kids, it’s a powerful statement for a trans woman to get on stage and talk about her early transition in such an affirming way.

Following their win, the duo performed Unholy, with Smith dressed as the devil and Petras singing inside a cage, as an explosion of pyro-technics rained down. Predictably, this has not gone down well among the contingent of people who think that the LGBTQ+ community is literally Satanic, but it looked pretty cool.

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