Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
When Sophie was asked "do you believe in god" during a 2018 interview with Paper Magazine, the avant-garde pop musician responded simply: “Yes. God is trans.”The quote was heavily shared on social media throughout the weekend, as countless fans mourned the sudden loss of the 34 year-old transgender pop producer. Sophie’s tragic death was felt especially hard by the trans community, which the once-mysterious pop star had embraced since coming out of self-imposed obscurity with the 2018 release of The Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.
For many trans people, the producer’s unexpected loss was personal and palpable. It’s easy to see why. Working behind the scenes with big names like Madonna and Charli XCX, Sophie was one of the rare artists that achieved mainstream appeal despite producing music that is challenging, bizarre, and above all, unapologetically trans. Tracks like “Faceshopping” embrace body modification and plastic surgery as a form of self-determination—an undeniably trans narrative. It’s a celebration of radical bodily autonomy, and a full-throated rejection of the naturalist and biological determinist attitudes that often color the arguments of anti-trans bigots. For me, the message of the song was clear: Your body and gender are yours to enhance and evolve, and anyone who dismisses this transcendence as “artificial” or “fake” can go fuck themselves.
It was through Sophie’s music that I began to see my own transness as a kind of beautiful cyborg divinity. I listened to “Faceshopping” constantly in the weeks, days, and hours before finally having Facial Feminization Surgery in late September. The message reassured me as I agonized over the insane implications of what I was doing—literally paying a surgeon to reshape part of my skull so that my physical body could better resemble the feminine self-image I saw in my own head. Like many trans people, I did this after spending years navigating a labyrinthine and hostile medical system that historically views such gender-affirming procedures as “cosmetic” and “not medically necessary.”
In the time I was waiting to go under the knife, the same questions repeated in my head: Did I really “need” this? Was this urge to change my body merely a well-narrativized form of vanity? Was my surgery a surrender to conformity—an attempt to better fit misogynistic and cis-normative standards of beauty?Sophie’s tragically-short oeuvre renders these questions irrelevant and obsolete. Songs like “Immaterial” speak to the bizarre, alien, and unknowable nature of the self—the body merely a vessel that we can shape and re-create to our liking. We don't owe anyone a sufficiently convincing backstory. In the world Sophie envisions, we can change our bodies because we want to. We can transition because we want to.“Without my legs or my hair; Without my genes or my blood; With no name and with no type of story; Where do I live? Tell me where do I exist?”Sophie headlined one of the last live shows I saw before the pandemic—a late-night DJ set closing out Unsound Festival in November of 2019. I remember leaving early with my then-girlfriend, both of us exhausted and assured that we would get a chance to see the enigmatic pop star perform again. When the news of Sophie’s passing hit our phones, the weight of losing one of the few trans musicians who had ascended to mainstream success crushed us. But within that sadness was a profound gratitude for having been briefly visited by this fey-like being. With music that oscillates between otherworldly ambience, grating noise, and every alien tonality in between, Sophie seemed to speak directly to the messy and inarticulable beauty within ourselves. For myself and countless other trans people who still resonate with that divinity, it’s an encounter we will not soon forget.