It’s a story that Petras has heard and told for most of her life, and one that she still struggles with. When she left Germany to pursue her pop music dreams in Los Angeles at 19, Petras wanted to become known for her music, not her gender identity. But she also knew that she had a responsibility to speak up and represent for the trans community, since there were so few openly trans people in the public eye.
Even today, that push-and-pull still torments her. “When I started performing ... people would say, ‘She doesn't want to represent for the trans community.’ But then when I do [speak up], people will say I'm using being trans to get ahead in my career,” she says, sighing. “It's been extremely difficult and extremely disheartening sometimes, because I really do care so much, and I want to inspire trans people … but I also don't want my transness overshadow or label me.”
Public pressure was only further exascerbated when fans noticed that the young star had been working with controversial producer Lucasz Gottwald (known as Dr. Luke) despite allegations of sexual assault from pop star Kesha. While Petras still works with Gottwald, she offered in a statement last year that her experience with the producer does not "negate of dismiss the experiences of others, or suggest that multiple perspectives cannot exist at once."
But for all of the negative comments she receives, Petras receives twice as many comments from young trans people thanking her for being an example of love and success. That’s why Petras is more than happy to play multiple Pride festivals throughout the world, including WorldPride in New York City. “There's probably a bunch of transgender kids in that audience watching me who are like, ‘Oh, I can be on that stage, too,’ which is a really big moment for me.”
Now, Petras says she’s in a more confident place than ever before. On her “Era 1” singles, the star says that she chose not to use her face for the cover art because she thought “‘I’m lanky and weird and no one’s going to like me.’”
But now, the star proudly displays her face across all of her new singles and the artwork for Clarity, owning her image and her identity as a burgeoning queen of pop. “I was making these songs that took me out of my reality because I hated my reality,” she says. “Now, I feel like I found confidence in myself. I feel like my fans are a big part of that, because I know that they are people who want to hear what I have to say, and who feel inspired by what I have to say.”