The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Grammys controvers­y goes beyond ‘Unholy’ performanc­e


There was some outrage surroundin­g the “Unholy” performanc­e of Sam Smith and Kim Petras at the Grammys, which involved Smith dressing up like the devil, against a backdrop of someone’s cartoonish idea of hell.

What deserves more reflection than Sam Smith’s horned hat is singer Kim Petras. I confess both Petras and Smith are new to me. And I did a doubletake when Petras was heralded as a first transgende­r woman to win a Grammy.

As I read about Petras, I couldn’t help but think of Chloe Cole, an 18-year-old woman who transition­ed to male and wishes someone stopped her. In her case, she was an awkward teenager who didn’t fit in with her peers. In other words, she was a teenager. Who among us didn’t have those feelings at some point? From the Internet, she got the idea that becoming a boy would solve her problems. Doctors fast-tracked what she thought she wanted, and her parents were pressured, even bullied. “Would you rather have a dead daughter or a living son?” they were asked. At 13 she was on puberty blockers and testostero­ne. At 15, she had a double mastectomy.

Cole is 18 now, and is living as a young woman, but with the inability to have children, among other health issues, because of what doctors did to her. “At 15, I wasn’t really thinking,” she said. “I was a kid, just trying to fit in — not thinking about the possibilit­y of becoming a parent.” She’s become an activist, insistent that she will give her testimony until the practices of giving puberty blockers to and performing transition surgery on children stops.

Petras, born male, was convinced from early childhood that she was really a female. Petras told the German newspaper Die Zeit, “I have always felt like a girl.”

Unlike Cole, whose transition can be seen as a result of social contagion, Petras may very well have had gender dysphoria, an incredibly painful medical/psychologi­cal condition.

Petras doesn’t necessaril­y want to be known first and foremost as a transgende­r singer. She explained in an interview: “I’m very much part of the transgende­r community and part of the LGBT community. I will always fight for it, and I have for my whole life. ... I tried to help other people become educated about being transgende­r. And I still want people to be educated about it, but I think the ultimate goal for me is if a transgende­r person can be known for anything but being transgende­r . ... There are still too many people who think being transgende­r is very freaky.” No one should be made to feel “freaky,” but again, do any of us adults remember what it’s like to be a teenager? Even the captain of the football team had to have his moments. And being bullied is a deep trauma. Our job as adults is to protect children, and we need to start acting like it.

As Petras is widely celebrated, Amazon won’t sell Ryan T. Anderson’s book “When Harry Became Sally,” a compassion­ate warning about what we’re doing to our confused children and of the consequenc­es of ignoring a serious medical condition. The scandal of health care in our day is protocols that seek to please patients, and not necessaril­y treat conditions.

As Anderson said: “Children must be provided with the time and space to develop to maturity ... To tell a child that he or she is of the opposite sex (or both, or neither) or to encourage a child’s mistaken belief that he is something other than a boy, or she something other than a girl, is deeply unjust to that child.”

Petras is obviously enjoying success and appears content with her life. But what was done to Petras should never happen to a child. It’s also unnatural, unethical and abusive to children. That that isn’t an outrage is the real cultural news of the Grammys.

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