ANOHNI Pens Letter Explaining Her Boycott of the Academy Awards

At the start of this year, the disappointing nominations for the Academy Awards were announced. Bloggers and industry players quickly took note of the lack of diversity among nominees, but one of the rare bright spots was the nomination of ANOHNI (formerly of Antony and the Johnsons) for the song “Manta Ray” from the documentary Racing Extinction. It was the first time a transgender performer had been nominated for an award, and her expected performance was highly anticipated. And then it was announced that she wouldn’t be performing because of “time constraints.” Now, in a letter posted in full at Pitchfork, the singer has announced that she’s boycotting the awards. 

ANOHNI begins the letter acknowledging that she is not the first trans nominee:

I am the only transgendered performer ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award, and for that I thank the artists who nominated me. (There was a trans songwriter nominee named Angela Morley in the early ’70s who did some great work behind the scenes.)

And also that she only heard through the media that she would not be performing at the show:

Eclipsing earlier notices of congratulations, now the papers were naming me as one of two artists to have been “cut” by the Academy due to “time constraints.”

ANOHNI nearly got on the plane to L.A., but decided at the last minute not to, unable to face the inevitable pity of other nominees who wanted to express sympathy at her being cut from the show:

There I was, feeling a sting of shame that reminded me of America’s earliest affirmations of my inadequacy as a transperson. I turned around at the airport and went back home.

She also refuses to allow herself to believe that she was cut simply because she was a transperson, but instead because she was a relative unknown in America:

I want to be clear — I know that I wasn’t excluded from the performance directly because I am transgendered. I was not invited to perform because I am relatively unknown in the U.S., singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space.

Later, she goes on to tell the story of her ascent in the music industry, thanks to Lou Reed and other influencers who made a stance regarding her talent and necessity.

Now ten years later, I have sung for millions of people in some of the most beautiful theaters in the world, from the London Opera House to a tiny shed full of Aboriginal women elders in the Western Australian desert. I have accomplished so many of my dreams. I have collaborated with musicians and artists whom I deeply respect.

ANOHNI then goes on to talk about the way her taxed earnings from her singing have been put to use by the U.S. government to commit atrocities, and that the Academy Awards, and the system they represent, are the fronts for the corporations that commit those atrocities.

The whole thing is worth reading. Do so here.