Petras first hit the headlines in 2006 at age 13 when she appeared in a German documentary claiming that she had been born in the wrong body. Back then, Kim was a boy called Tim and wanted a sex change, despite being so young.
Now, at age 16, Petras has completed her gender reassignment and become the world's youngest known transsexual. But that's not the only reason why she's shot to fame. Petras is also an aspiring pop singer. With over a million hits on her MySpace page, the successful release of her single “Fade Away” last year and a contract with Joyce Records, she's set to become a star.
It's not just in her native Germany that Petras's fan base is growing. She's also broken into the British market. Her debut video “Die For You” had its premiere during her first television appearance in the UK in July.
Like other successful artists these days, Petras got her start by posting demos on the Internet.
"I actually posted a few videos of me singing cover songs or my own songs on YouTube and they got so many clicks that a German producer discovered me and that's how I got into music," she says.
The music Kim is producing now is a far cry from the videos she made of herself singing cover songs of artists such as Alicia Keys in 2007. Now she writes, performs and co-produces all of her own music, using her past as an inspiration for the lyrics she writes.
"I get my inspiration for my songs and the lyrics from experiences in my life but I'm also very inspired by the Beatles and Cyndi Lauper as I really like their music," she says.
Fighting for her right to surgery
The music business is notoriously tough to break into, but Petras is used to uphill battles. As a preteen, she began campaigning for her right to have gender reassignment surgery, despite the fact that the legal age limit for the surgery in Germany was 18.
"I went to many psychologists, and many of them agreed that it would be really important for me to have the surgery as soon as possible and not wait until I was 18. And because I had so many psychologists on my side, I got the legal permission I needed," Petras says.
She also campaigned on German television in an attempt to raise awareness about her situation. She says she's convinced that legislators should listen to psychologists when it comes to making decisions of this kind.
Psychologist Bernhard Breuer says the wellbeing of the child or adolescent is the main priority in such cases. It's not always reasonable to expect the patient to wait until he or she is 18, he says. With adequate assessment and treatment prior to surgery, Breuer says the chances of the child regretting the decision are small.
"In Germany we have gender teams, in which child psychiatrists work together with child endocrinologists and child psychotherapists and if they all come to the conclusion that it would be best to provide the child with appropriate treatment, then everything has been done from a diagnostic point of view to ensure that the child will not be given the wrong treatment," Breuer says.
"I finally feel like myself"
Kim Petras has no regrets about her surgery and is adamant that it hasn't really changed her life because she always lived her life as a girl: she dressed as a girl, played with girls' toys and grew her hair long, refusing to have it cut like a boy.
"I don't think anything has changed because of the surgery," she says. "I just feel really self-confident now, much more than before because I finally feel like myself."
Psychologist Breuer adds that the dangers of sex change surgery are general rather than age-specific. In some cases, he says, it can be better to perform the surgery earlier rather than later.
"It is actually relatively advantageous when transgender people are not operated on too late because a younger body overcomes such operations much more quickly and easily and a younger person can cope with it more easily," says Breuer.
Kim says that she's only had positive reactions so far to her sex change. Both her family and her friends have always supported her and accepted her as a girl. Because she started hormone therapy at age 12, her voice never broke. She says people listening to her music have no idea about her past.
"In the music business, everybody was really impressed because I don't have a low voice. So far, I've only had positive feedback and most people are really happy for me that I did it at 16," she says.
Currently, Kim is focusing on her music career and looking forward to recording and releasing her album. But she has other plans for her life.
"I'm in the eleventh grade so I'm doing my A-Level in two years and then I want to study fashion. I really admire Vivienne Westwood, because she's always done her thing and she's eccentric but really great at the same time. Maybe later I could become a designer as well," she says.
With the successful launch of her music career and the extensive media attention that she's attracted so far, Kim has a good chance of making it in the world of fashion, too.
Author: Michelle Martin (dc)
Editor: Rob Turner