Anohni, a Mercury Award-winning artist and environmental activist also known as Antony Hegarty, is the second openly transgender person to have ever been nominated for an Academy Award. But unlike three nominees in her category, Best Original Song, she—along with South Korean nominee Sumi Jo—were not invited to perform during the show.
And though she was invited to attend and watch Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, and The Weeknd perform their nominated songs (including that dreadful Bond song, “Writing’s on the Wall”), Anohni has decided to stay home in New York City instead. She explained her decision in a powerful essay published on Pitchfork Thursday afternoon.
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 get on the plane. 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.
Though Anohni writes that she truly believes her exclusion from the performance was not “directly” because she is transgendered, she goes on to say, “if you trace the trail of breadcrumbs, the deeper truth of it is impossible to ignore,” adding:
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. It is a system of social oppression and diminished opportunities for transpeople that has been employed by capitalism in the U.S. to crush our dreams and our collective spirit.
In her closing paragraph, she writes:
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...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.
Anohni could be interpreted as sharing a more succinct version of that sentiment when repeating a lyric at the end of her magnificent new single, “4 Degrees.”
“I wanna burn them,” she sings, over and over again.
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