Unholy by Kim Petras and Sam Smith is dominating the charts and showing the world that trans people can be talented and celebrated. With the help of TikTok, Kim and Sam made history as the first openly trans and non-binary artists, respectively, to top the Billboard Hot 100.
However, with all of the song’s success, the win for the transgender community this song has brought has often been overlooked. It’s no small thing that both Kim Petras and Sam Smith identify under the transgender umbrella.
The two singer-songwriters have been active advocates for the trans and non-binary community for years now, with Kim having spoken out about her tough school experiences. She is also a vocal advocate in her home country of Germany about her transition and what it was like to receive gender-affirming care as a young person.
Sam famously came out as non-binary in 2019 and announced their use of they/them pronouns. Their work to make the music industry more inclusive of non-binary and trans people has been exponential – including, most recently, encouraging the Brit Awards to be more inclusive of non-binary artists rather than splitting everyone into “male” and “female” categories.
The two artists being open with their transgender identities has meant their latest hit cannot be separated from the theme of bodily autonomy of trans people and trans joy. Being transgender in the modern day can still mean being faced with lot of awkward questions and uncomfortable comments about how we feel about our bodies and our intimate relationships.
Unfortunately, many misconceptions about transgender people are still believed today. This makes it much more difficult for those in the community to feel safe and find a sense of calm in our bodies. As a result, feeling undesirable for being transgender is a common anxiety many trans people struggle with.
Attitudes towards our bodies in our cisnormative society are often shaming of trans people for our decision to be our authentic selves. We are made to feel as if our bodies – which are perfect in any way you choose to live in them, by the way – should not be celebrated or valued.
From personal experience, I have found that sexuality has been a difficult thing to come to terms with. For many years, I denied a lot of my sexuality because of harmful stereotypes surrounding transgender bodies.
Unholy’s huge success, and seeing other transgender people in the media openly express their sexuality and embrace themselves, has really aided me in repairing my damaged relationship with my body.
Unsurprisingly, seeing trans representation in the media helps you feel more able to embrace who you are. Even more so, when those trans people are thriving and being celebrated by so many.
Kim and Sam have created a song which truly embraces the nuances of transgender sexuality. Our bodies are complex and yet are allowed to be beautiful and embraced.
Additionally, seeing two transgender artists be praised and loved for their talents in the media is refreshing. As trans people, we have had to face a constant barrage of hate and misunderstanding towards us for decades in the UK. Finally seeing praise and celebration towards our community is a relief.
Transgender and non-binary people are humans at the end of the day. I’m so grateful to Kim Petras and Sam Smith for bringing us such joyful and carefree trans representation so we can feel seen – and have fun!
Matthias volunteers with Just Like Us, the LGBTQ+ young people’s charity. Want to help improve LGBTQ+ representation in schools? Sign up now to get involved.