Miki Ratsula’s Music Is Radically, Authentically Trans

Photo by Ashely Osborn

Why should queer stories be told through music? “Why not?” asks rising indie pop star Miki Ratsula. The 24-year-old producer, musician and songwriter’s music paints a portrait of trans life through heart-wrenching lyrics and ethereal beats.

“If I have the privilege to and the platform to and I’m safe to do so, why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I talk about my queerness?” Ratsula tells INTO. “I’m just so proud to have found my transness and to have found my queerness that I can’t imagine not talking about it.”

Ratsula recently announced their upcoming sophomore album, i’ll be fine if i want to, releasing October 6. Its first three singles are out now, each pulling back the curtain on an aspect of Ratsula’s life: “blue balloons (feat. Semler),” a story of being misgendered at their own birthday party; “what would the neighbors think?”, a ballad about not receiving familial support when they needed it most; and “jealous of my brother,” a candid expression of the gender envy they feel toward their cisgender brother, and a story Ratsula says their fans have strongly related to.

“I think from what I’ve seen, people responding to it, that it is a fairly universal experience of the gender envy experience that you experience with your cis siblings, and then also the envy of like, ‘Damn, my family looks at us differently, whether they realize that they do or not,’” Ratsula tells INTO. “So I did want to write it for trans people to own and relate to and find empowerment through.”

In the song, Ratsula addresses the broad topic of gender envy through three main pillars, they say: the literal envy they feel toward their brother’s body, jealousy of the way their family treats their brother, and the wish that their family would be more like their brother, who Ratsula says is their “best friend and the world’s greatest ally.” And don’t worry: he absolutely adores the song.

“It’s always everyone’s first question, is, ‘Has your brother heard it?’ And like, of course — he loves it,” Ratsula says. “Without having to explain the song to him, he got it, and that just is literally exactly who he is. So, yeah, I’m very lucky to have him.”

It’s through that degree of specificity that Ratsula touches on the universal. Like all their music, “jealous of my brother” doesn’t pull any punches lyrically, even over its upbeat production. On the chorus, Ratsula sings, “Everybody loves him, ’cause what’s not to adore / He’s not a discussion; just walks right through the door / I don’t want him to wonder the way I have before / ‘Would my family like me more / If I was something like my brother?’” 

Ratsula has been independently releasing music since they were 16 years old, racking up more than 50 million streams in the process. In 2022, they released their debut album, i owe it to myself, and followed it up with the made for them EP, a collection of covers that Ratsula reimagined to have gender-neutral lyrics. (If you’re in the market for a queer take on One Direction, Ratsula’s version of “steal my girl” has got you covered.) Ratsula said that one of the goals of the EP, as with all of their music, was to provide representation for trans and nonbinary folks.

“The representation that I’ve seen growing up, or lack of representation I’ve seen growing up, changed me,” Ratsula says. “I found out what nonbinary was through the internet, from seeing people be open about themselves and their experiences. And it is life-saving. It changes your life when you see other people living that and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s what I was feeling the whole time,’ or, ‘I can be that?’”

Now, Ratsula is that representation for their fans. In their openness about their own relationship to gender, they’re letting listeners discover more about themselves.

“I’ve actually found a lot of people who will come to me and be like, ‘Oh, you’re a nonbinary person who had top surgery, but isn’t on testosterone — I didn’t know that was possible,’” Ratsula recalls. “I want to show that trans people exist, that nonbinary people exist, and we exist in so many different ways. We’re not a monolith.”

The rest of Ratsula’s upcoming album promises to make good on that goal, with as yet unreleased tracks including nostalgic love song “unconditional” and the angry, pop-punk-infused “lied to your therapist.” Any fans in Tennessee can catch them at Nashville Pride on June 24 to experience what Ratsula calls “the greatest gift that [they’ve] been given”: sharing their music with queer audiences around the world.

“When I perform live, the feeling of all these queer, trans people in a room singing certain lyrics together and just healing together is very powerful to me,” Ratsula says. “I think if I can connect with someone on that level with my music, that’s all I want to do.”

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