I was asked to interview Kim Petras a couple weeks ago. Kim is a transgender woman who was one of the youngest people to undergo the “gender confirmation process.” I was also asked to review a concert last Friday in which she opened for Troye Sivan, a Youtube star turned gay icon.
But here’s the sitch. I am a Christian and a devoted to studying and living out the Bible in the best way I can. So how does a Christian journalist handle something like this?
The same way I will handle the Christian concert I’m reviewing this Friday.
Without my biases.
I would say “without my opinion,” but heck, I’m writing concert reviews.
When I review NEEDTOBREATHE this Friday, I’m going to focus on their performance as artists. I’m going to focus on the music. They don’t get special treatment just because we both go to church on Sundays. Yes, I will say that I support them on my blog because this is my personal platform and I’m all for their message, but as a journalist submitting articles to a professional publication, I have to be a journalist and do what journalists are supposed to do.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to compromise on my convictions. One little example of that is that I still bleep out profanity in the interviews I conduct. That doesn’t stop my editor from adding in a cuss word or two when she writes my headlines, but I have no control over that. That’s the editor’s job. (I could expand on that, but that’ll be for another time.)
When I’m reviewing shows, I’m reviewing the performance, not the artists’ relationships with God.
As a journalist, I’ve learned that I have to be able to observe what’s happening from different perspectives and view the world from the perspectives of the people I’m writing about. If I limit myself to my point of view, I will never be able to write objectively or separate my emotions from the facts I’m writing on paper.
For Kim Petra’s interview, I sat in my room after class and got a call from her agency. A nice British man named Peter connected me to the singer, who turned out to be one of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever interviewed.
Kim was lovely. She was clearly passionate about her music and excited to be on tour for the first time. She didn’t even bring up anything about gender or sexuality.
But I did.
I wanted to see things through her eyes.
Whatever my convictions are on gender and sexuality, if I were Kim Petras, what would I feel? How would I think?
She went through surgery when she was 16. She was under heavy media coverage as a young teen, and few young people had gone before her in this crazy life change. Now it’s about 10 years later and she’s chasing a dream of being a pop star.
Kim briefly mentioned doing pride shows with Troye Sivan. Here was my window.
“So, even just the fact that you two are very big pride icons, what- do you feel like you- kind of- want to have that as part of your identity?” I was tripping on my words. There are so many things I could say right now that could be wrong, and I wasn’t sure how to phrase my question. “How much do you want it to define you? Are you- I guess I’m just curious because you guys are both such big icons… are you both like, ‘yeah this is who we are!’ Or is it more like, ‘oh it’s the music first’?”
I’m here to interview Kim Petras the musician, not Kim Petras the transgender icon. So I wondered if that’s how she viewed it as well. I’m more interested in her music since that’s what she’s promoting, but I wondered if she had trouble convincing people to think that same way. To see the music before the sexuality.
“What are your thoughts on that?” I asked.
“Um, I think that sexuality and gender identity say absolutely nothing about a person,” she replied. “I think if somebody’s smart or if somebody’s kind… those are the things that matter to me.”
(For the actual article on our interview, click here!)
We ended our interview with me telling her I was going to come to her first show to cover it.
“I can’t wait to see you there! Thank you so much, have a great day! Cool! Bye!” said Kim before we hung up.
When I went to the Troye Sivan show, it was clear that Petras and Sivan had attracted many people in the LGBTQ community. It was interesting to even watch the crowd and what kind of people came to the show. The people were honestly just as interesting to watch as the show was. When his song “Heaven” came on, the crowd went wild as the back of the stage lit up in a big rainbow. As a Christian, the symbolism and lyrics of the song combined raised some interesting thoughts. But that’s a whole other conversation.
(For the article on the show, click here!)
So I don’t know. I’m still learning about these things and trying to figure out how to objectively report in a world so full of many things I do not understand. Even after I wrote the article on Kim, someone commented on it correcting my use of words when talking about her transition. I don’t know what I’m doing!
But what I love about journalism is how it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to see the world from so many different sets of eyes. I believe this is what Jesus did when he was on earth. He didn’t stay safe, merely mingling with those who thought and acted like him, but he spent time with so many different people- saints, sinners, outcasts, officials. He treated everyone like a person and met them where they were at. I can only hope to have the same kind of wisdom and love that he did as he navigated this world.
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