It's Complicated

Kim Petras’ VMA Appearance is a Double-Edged Sword for Trans Visibility

To be clear, icon Kim Petras has always wanted to be a pop star. Beginning with a worldwide announcement on international television at age 16, Petras has not been shy about wanting in on the glamour and whimsy of pop stardom. Even the very first musical projects that propelled her into stardom—singles like I Don’t Want It At All and Hillside Boys—ache to capture the picturesque boredom of having it all in Hollywood. 

After her appearance and historical performance at the 2021 MTV Video Music Award, it’s safe to say Petras has her acrylic claws firmly gripped onto the pop music industry. A live rendition of her latest single Future Starts Now at the VMAs pre-awards show seems to prove beyond reasonable doubt the starlet has finally arrived at the impossibly far checkpoint she set so long ago. 

And as she arrived at this historic point in her career, she did so in style, of course. Petras pulled up to the legendary VMAs in a baby-pink convertible with her I Don’t Want It At All music video co-star and B.F.F Paris Hilton. Her sweet sixteen daydream seemingly comes full circle when Petras posed next to Hilton, her childhood idol, in a black vinyl bodysuit and mini-dress combo. That’s hot. 

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The night reached peak queerness after Petras made history as the first out-trans performer to headline a VMA performance. Now dolled up in pink, she hits every note of Future Starts Now. It’s hard not to fall head over heels for the queer pop star who pumps out genuine hits while achieving her dreams.

There is certainly a joy to be found in watching Petras achieve her American pop-star dream with an almost obnoxiously popular discography. But when the light-hearted record stops spinning, all that’s left is the distasteful writing and producing credit dangerously granted to confirmed abuser and alleged rapist Dr. Luke. 

As one of the lone artists —and the most popular one by far —that continue to work with Dr. Luke, Petras has become a very public bystander to the accusations of assault raised by fellow pop star Ke$ha. In lieu of confirming or supporting Ke$ha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke, Petras proceeded to make all of her records while signed by Dr. Luke. 

In 2018 when Troye Sivan announced Petras would be accompanying him on his “Bloom” tour, the blonde Icy singer received heavy backlash for her statements of a “positive experience” with Dr. Luke. She apologized on Twitter and accordingly acknowledged survivors of sexual assault; but still, her actions failed to align with the well-intentioned sentiments of her poorly-done notes app apology. 

When asked why she continued to work with Dr. Luke, Petras flat out told Genius in June of 2019, “Yes, he signed me. It’s like that.” Mere months later in August, the Sun asked Petras again about Dr. Luke’s producing credits and with a response that further stirred the controversy, she claimed, “It’s a complicated situation between the two of them. I just don’t want to include myself in that.” Now, Petras has made trans history while performing Future Starts Now: a song accredited to Dr. Luke.

The historical feat of Kim Petras’s performance can’t be canceled out by her affiliation with Dr. Luke, but what her willingness to publicly perform his music does do is make her stance on the issue glaringly apparent. As of now, she is just another complicit star with a contract. When searching for a reasonable answer behind Petras’s unbelievable allegiance to Dr. Luke, disillusioned fans may refer to the atrocities of the “fame monster.” 

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