Kim Petras

February 5, 2009

German flagVery briefly (for now), this morning’s free tabloid newspaper, The Metro, carries a remarkably even-handed report about Kim Petras “who has become the youngest person to have a full sex change”.

A teenager who has wanted to be a girl since the age of two has become the youngest person to have a full sex change.

Kim Petras, 16, had the operation in secret after psychologists confirmed she was “without doubt, a girl in a boy’s body”.

The aspiring pop singer says she cannot wait for summer to try out a new wardrobe of tight-fitting clothes.

“I had to wait until my 16th birthday. But once that was past, I was able legally to have the operation,” the German teenager added.

“Everything has changed because of this operation. I just can’t wait to put on my favourite bathing suit and go swimming like I’ve never done before.”

Kim PetrasKim – born Tim – began calling herself a girl when she was just a toddler.

Usually in Germany, sex change surgery is illegal until the age of 18.

But Kim convinced doctors she was transsexual when she was 12 and began hormone treatment.

“I suppose it took me longer than my wife to accept it but I am very proud of what she has achieved,” said the teenager’s father, Lutz.

“She has managed to get there and sticks to her dreams, no matter how hard and painful they are to follow.”

Kim finally had the operation late last year and has picked up a record deal after a song she wrote became an internet hit.

And last year, she became a model for a hair salon chain.

Kim added: “I was asked if I feel like a woman now but, the truth is, I have ­always felt like a woman – I just ended up in the wrong body.”

There are a couple of things in that report that I may well return to later with my (sparkly pink) tool kit for a little deconstruction. Nothwithstanding that, I send her a very gentle hug, and my best wishes for a long and happy life.

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ETA: Okay, let me just pick up on a couple of things in that report; they’re niggling me a little bit and anyway I’m feeling grumpy today, so…

*picks up sparkly pink hammer for a spot of mild deconstruction*

A teenager who has wanted to be a girl since the age of two…

Interesting. My experience suggests that I always was a girl, just the luck of the draw meant I was born male-bodied. It was never a question of “wanting to be a girl”.

Kim Petras, 16, had the operation in secret…

As BadHairDays points out in the comments at QT, “She talked about it on her blog before and after”. But hey, since when did tabloid journalism ever let facts get in the way of a good story?

But Kim convinced doctors…

This is a really telling comment. It’s a sad fact that the onus is on us to “convince” the medical profession of our gender dissonance: we may tell them how we feel but there is always this demand for some kind of empirical evidence, some incontrovertible proof

If I went to my (non-existent) GP and said I was depressed, there wouldn’t be anything like the same pressure on me to “convince” hir. But try walking in and saying you’re trans and you can pretty much guarantee the answer: “But how do you know you’re trans?”

Me, bitter and twisted? Well, yes, actually, since you ask…

Kim finally had the operation late last year…

Variation on a theme part 94. “And have you had The Surgery?” This fixation on trans people’s genital topography foregrounds the notion that many cissexual people have, that a woman with a penis is somehow less than, or not, a Real Woman™. And when the essentialist theories are foregrounded, then the Really Real Issues™ – the social, legal, cultural and other contexts of being a transsexual person in an overwhelmingly cissexual world – are backgrounded.

I refer the jury to my right honourable friend Queen Emily’s Transphobic Tropes series over at Questioning Transphobia for further, in-depth enlightenment.

Direct links are also in my sidebar.
*Gestures vaguely towards the left hand side of the screen*.

…and has picked up a record deal after a song she wrote became an internet hit.

And last year, she became a model for a hair salon chain…

Do I detect a degree of what Julia Serano (in Whipping Girl) calls hyper-feminization? (“Attempting to highlight the ‘frivolousness’ nature of our femininity, or portraying trans women as having derogatory feminine-associated character traits such as being weak, confused, passive, or mousy”).

Or is it just plain ol’ trans-misogyny? (“When a trans person is ridiculed or dismissed not merely for failing to live up to gender norms, but for their expressions of femaleness or feminity, they become the victims of a specific form of discrimination: trans-misogyny”).

Perhaps it’s simply the old reifying gender trope?

And finally, to demonstrate that media prejudice isn’t the sole preserve of staff writers: when saving the image of Kim Petras from the website, I came across a fine example of cissexism (“the belief that transsexual peoples’ identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those of cissexual people… Common examples include purposeful misuse of pronouns…”)

The image has been given the file name sex_change_boy.

But then, is it unrealistic to expect anything else from a tabloid newspaper which is owned by Associated Newspapers, itself a subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust?

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

10 Responses to “Kim Petras”


  1. […] (Cross-posted at bird of paradox) […]

  2. Anji Says:

    She looks so happy in that picture as well. Congratulations and best wishes to her. :)

  3. Ruth Moss Says:

    Bless her, she looks so cute and happy!

    I think it’s just fab she was able to get the surgery at sixteen instead of having to wait another two years.

  4. Ruth Moss Says:

    “Do I detect a degree of what Julia Serano (in Whipping Girl) calls hyper-feminization?”

    That’s really interesting, I hadn’t thought of that at all, I’d just read it as “isn’t it great this young woman is already so successful” … but of course, it’s the Daily Hate’s little sibling, so of course it couldn’t be that, sadly. :(

  5. queenemily Says:

    Oh, don’t forget the “born [male name]” bit!

    And yeah, definitely on the hyper-feminisation angle, for sure. I don’t think “reifying gender” really applies, that’s a bit too sophisticated. I think there’s “really a boy” lurking behind it, like zomg we can’t tell, oh crap. More the collapse of essentialism than anything else..

  6. queenemily Says:

    That reminds me, I really should do a TT on “the operation” – like there’s only one, like it’s the only significant life change a trans person has, like it’s the cause of all your somatic changes (a lot of people seem to think you walk into the surgeon looking like a boy and walk out a girl or vice versa. Riiight)…

  7. Helen G Says:

    queenemily: Oh, don’t forget the “born [male name]” bit!

    I spotted it just as I hit ‘update post’! Too late, too late…

    But good that you picked it up, thank you!

    I really should do a TT on “the operation”

    Yes. You really should. So hop to it. Hop like a sparklebunny. Your legions of adoring fans are waiting…
    ^_^


  8. Why did you alter my comment, making “she…” to “[s]he…”?

  9. Helen G Says:

    Bad Hair Days Why did you alter my comment, making “she…” to “[s]he…”?

    My mistake, I wasn’t paying attention.

    Fixed now.

    Sincere apologies, I meant nothing bad – totally my error.


  10. Fantastic post–we need more of these.

    The tendency for feminists has been to blame her for, say, the inclusion of the fact about being a hair salon model. We forget that the author of the article is the person who decided that was important to mention, not Kim.

    And I include myself–I often do not notice that stuff until it is pointed out directly.

    How edumacational!–as we say here in the south! Thanks Helen!


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