Anohni, the trans performer formerly known as Antony and the Johnsons’ Antony Hegarty, is skipping the Oscars this year, despite being nominated for Best Original Song for “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction.
Traditionally Best Original Song performances are highlights of what can be a long, dry broadcast: Sam Smith will sing “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre, The Weeknd will perform “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey, and Lady Gaga will perform “Till It Happens To You,” from the sexual-violence documentary, The Hunting Grounds.
But Anohni and another nominee, Korean opera singer Sumi Jo, found out they were cut from the ceremony for time.
Meanwhile, Dave Grohl has been announced as a performer, despite not being nominated for anything.
In an open letter on her website, Ahnoni says she doesn’t believes she was excluded for being transgender—but because she’s not commercial enough.
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.
It is not me that is picking the performers for the night, and I know that I don’t have an automatic right to be asked.
Anohni is only the second trans person ever nominated for an Academy Award, after Angela Morley, who was nominated for 1974’s The Little Prince and 1976’s The Slipper and the Rose.
She may not have a “right” to be asked, but in an awards ceremony dogged by a lack of diversity, having her perform would have been a good thing.
Aware that some red-carpet attention would be good for her career, Anohni said she tried to suck it up and go but just couldn’t.
Last night I tried to force myself to get on the plane to fly to L.A. for all the nominee events, but the feelings of embarrassment and anger knocked me back, and I couldn’t…
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.
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.
As if to rub salt into the wound, the next morning the Oscars added that I was transgendered to the trivia page of their website.
Anohni closed her letter with an indictment of the Academy Awards—and of capitalism in general.
So I have decided not to attend the Academy Awards this election year. 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.
They are going to try to convince us that they have our best interests at heart by waving flags for identity politics and fake moral issues. But don’t forget that many of these celebrities are the trophies of billionaire corporations whose only intention it is to manipulate you into giving them your consent and the last of your money.
Listen to “Manta Ray,” by Anohni and composer J. Ralph, below.