Anohni, formerly known as Antony And The Jonhsons, is nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song this year for her collaboration with J. Ralph Manta Ray for the documentary Racing Extinctions, but she has announced she will not attend the ceremony, advocating against a system that she says doesn’t celebrate biodiversity or the “pursuit of human decency”.
Fellow Best Original Song nominees The Weeknd, Sam Smith and Lady Gaga will all perform at the Oscars next week, however, Anohni – who is the first trans person to be nominated for an Academy Award in over 30 years – was never asked to perform due to, “time constraints,” as Variety reported.
In a beautifully honest open letter published on Pitchfork Anohni explained that she felt “embarrassment and anger” at not being asked to perform while a performer like Dave Grohl will take to the stage for a Bowie tribute, despite not being nominated.
“The producers seemed to have decided to stage performances only by the singers who were deemed commercially viable,” she wrote.
Told it would be good for her career to walk down the red carpet anyway, this week Anohni attempted to get on a plane to LA to attend the nominees event, but turned around at the last minute. The next morning, she says, the Oscars added that she was transgendered to the trivia page of its website.
“I imagined how it would feel for me to sit amongst all those Hollywood stars, some of the brave ones approaching me with sad faces and condolences,” she wrote.
“There I was, feeling a sting of shame that reminded me of America’s earliest affirmations of my inadequacy as a transperson.”
Anohni clarified that while she knows the Oscars did not cut her because she is transgendered, her exclusion highlights a more deep-seeded problem.
“Like global warming, it is not one isolated event, but a series of events that occur over years to create a system that has sought to undermine me, at first as a feminine child, and later as an androgynous transwoman,” she wrote.
She recounted taking home the 2005 Mercury Prize for Antony And The Johnsons’ I Am A Bird Now, performing to a room that “lifted me from obscurity and celebrated me”. Since she has performed around the world and has “been afforded a platform to participate in the cultural conversation.”
“I will not be lulled into submission with a few more well manufactured, feel-good ballads and a bit of good old fashioned T. and A,” she wrote on why she will not be attending the awards ceremony.
“America, a country that is no longer contained by physical borders, aspires only for more power and control. I want to maximize my usefulness and advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and the pursuit of human decency within my sphere of influence.”
Perhaps the most poignant line is regarding the preservation of her own artistry. “I was not groomed for stardom and watered down for your enjoyment.”
Anohni was announced this week as the first performer for Sydney’s Vivid Live Festival and will play four shows at the Sydney Opera House. She will be premiering tracks from her forthcoming album Hopelessness produced with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke.
Read the full letter below.